Amethyst Troll

Paint with all the colors of the wind


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“Balls & Synthetic Cheese” on Amazon Now!!!

b & c cover photo

My book of illustrated short stories, Balls & Synthetic Cheese, is now available in hardcopy and kindle formats on Amazon.com!!!    Please check it out!

“From a depressed cannibal’s search for love to a mocked midget’s journey to stardom, Balls & Synthetic Cheese follows the fringe and the fabulous.   Readers venture beyond the veil of conformity into a surreal realm that stuns and scintillates.  These fun-loving freaks escape black-and-white mentality—not by going over the rainbow, but by finding the rainbow within.”

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Fox & His Backstabbing Hoard of Elitist Frenemies

 

ImageImage from Rosenbaum, Jonathan. “Fox and His Friends (1976 Review).” Monthly Film Bulletin 43.504 (1976): Web.

               The ironic title of Fassbinder’s rags-to-riches, New German Cinema masterpiece, Fox and His Friends (1975), forces viewers to question the very fabric of friendship; After all, Franz’s (aka Fox’s) so-called friends only feign affection in order to swindle from him the entirety of his lottery win which, in retrospect, seems the initiation of loss.  These frenemies bleed the carnie dry financially and emotionally with their incessant accusations of his inferiority and false promises. Fox offers his trust, flesh, and money; all he desires in return is love.  What he gets, however, is a steaming pile of betrayal seasoned with manipulation. Finally, he pays the ultimate price: his life.

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Image from http://www.data.warped.com

               The travel agency scene (an hour & eleven minutes into the film) illustrates the classism and condescension suffered by the film’s tragic hero at the hands of his greedy boyfriend. Noticing his lover’s increased distance, Fox offers to take Eugen on a dream vacation in an effort to revive their dying relationship.  At the agency, Eugen constantly belittles Fox, insulting his intelligence and even referring to him as a girl—an affront used throughout by gays to bash each other. Playing upon his perceived cultured status, Eugen decides that he would like to travel to Morocco. Of course, he makes sure to emphasize his superior skills since he alone can speak the French necessary for their voyage and desired ménage à trois.

 

Never asking Fox for his opinion, Eugen—who gets high off of his own articulation—controls the scene with his egotistical speech.  But when it is Fox and not the cocky cultured gentleman who foots the bill, the secretary glares at Eugen in pure disgust.  The camera lingers on the woman’s face for a noticeable length of time, amplifying her shock. In so doing, the audience at once identifies with Olga, sharing her disapproval.  Cutting to Eugen then back to the travel secretary, the camera silently shows her reprimand him.  Eugen’s maintained eye contact seems to say, “Hold your tongue!  I’ll do as I please.”  Viewers grasp the immorality inherent in Eugen’s abuse of Fox shown in previous scenes depicting lavish purchases and extravagant requests. The camera zooms into Fox while he signs the check.  Highlighting the signature itself, the shot draws attention to the significance of his pricey declarations of love.  The enormity of his sacrifice is visually amplified.  While Fox is consistently treated like blue-collar scum, he—not Eugen or his stodgy family—is the one with money.

ImageImage from http://www.allmovie.com

               Money alone does not determine class or character; rather it is the viciousness embodied by the self-proclaimed “cultured” that places those who are kind beneath those cunning tricksters who resort to cruelty in their quest for cash. Fox’s genuine character as well as his longing for true human connection mark him an outsider. Riches or rags, Fox can never be accepted by the suit-and-tie club.  Even in death, he cannot escape the ruthless nature of pickpockets. In a haunting conclusion, children rob Fox’s corpse.  His “friends” walk past him, treating him like garbage, disposable and worthless. In a world of vice and vanity, sincere romantics are doomed to face a rude awakening.  Nothing is sacred.  Love is merely an exploitable commodity; a currency to be spent. And Fox spent it all.

ImageImage from http://www.thepinksmoke.com

Fox and His Friends. Dir. Rainer W. Fassbinder. Perf. Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Peter Chatel. New

Yorker Films (USA), 1975. Hulu Plus.


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Blades of Glory–Bro for the Gold!

         

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Image Credit: BLADES OF GLORY:  Suzanne Hanover

          Blades of Glory (2007) promotes intimate male friendship while parodying the politics and melodrama of figure skating.  The documentary style form that introduces Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy directly parallels the expository videos which highlight athletes in the Olympics.  If the athlete bios aren’t obvious enough, filmmakers include grand trumpet theme music, joined circle motifs, real champions such as Scott Hamilton and Sasha Cohen, and medal ranking familiar to audiences around the globe to make the comparison crystal clear.

With skintight sequenced suits and glitter galore, figure skating is the most theatrical sport of the winter games, a point made all too clear by a fictionalized interviewee who when asked his thoughts regarding the male-male pair responds, “As if figure skating wasn’t gay enough already.”  The two-man team is viewed with initial contempt by Bible-thumpers to hotdog sellers.  After all, pairs skating traditionally involves opposite sex partners whose performance relies on implied romance, the man assuming the dominant role.  Essentially dancing on ice, the male duo is bound to be interpreted in homoerotic terms.

The film does not dance around the homoeroticism of the sport.  On the contrary, the comedy milks each queer moment for maximum laughs.  During tryouts, Chazz and Jimmy execute a number of tricks that mimic sexual positions from sixty-nine to scissoring.  Embracing intimacy, however, is precisely the key to their success.  The duo casts aside their pseudo-machismo in favor of honest, close companionship.  True friends finally, the men achieve victory, winning gold in addition to the hearts of viewers who are fed up with the phoniness of catty couples like Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg who lie and cheat their way to the top.  Viewers also find refreshing the unabashed display of male bonding.

Critics who deem Blades of Glory homophobic need to realize that the film both celebrates and encourages male intimacy in sport and real life.  In fact, heterosexuality is presented grotesquely in the figure of Chazz.  Chazz, a sex addict, buries his repressed insecurity in female flesh, sleeping with most anyone—even considering his friend’s love interest a viable option.  Stranz and Fairchild, brother and sister, French-kiss at the movie’s end, revealing disturbing and disgusting incestuous desire.  Jimmy and Katie’s straight passion meanwhile is shown as juvenile and unexplored.  While the only explicitly gay character, Hector, does possess stalker tendencies, he is also responsible for discovering the loophole allowing Jimmy and Chazz to compete together.  Spawning Jimmy and Chazz’s road to redemption, Hector is the film’s hero who saves them from a destructive path of dead-end jobs, depression, and addiction.

Outside of the screen, males are not permitted to ice dance or figure skate together as partners in the Olympics.  Systematic homophobia in Russia, host of the most recent winter games, as well as worldwide prejudice proves that progress must still be pursued.  If we all shed homophobic ideology, embracing intimacy’s spectrum, we will be winners in the game of life; the prize more priceless than any medal—bronze, silver, or gold.


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Greetings!

In Self, Society, & Cinema, I intend to explore how film critiques, reflects, and shapes social values.  Particular emphasis will be placed on gender and sexuality—qualities especially important when one considers that they are fluid constructs.  As malleable forms, gender and sexuality are in constant flux.  Further, they are unjustly ranked with some expressions deemed righteous to the exclusion of all others.  By engaging with film, we may better understand how identity is crafted.  It is my hope that we foster and create entertainment tolerant of diverse identities through academic engagement with the arts.

Check out my new film blog at amethystfreedom.wordpress.com


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So here I am…Again: Summer Beckons

normal meThe semester is screeching to a stop.  School has dunked me into a tank, propelling the navigation of unexplored depths, its murky waters, of myself.   And now I emerge, cleansed by the baptismal fluid of my truth, ready to challenge a world of muddy labels and empty tables—all in the name of hope.

New essays spanning treatment of the mentally ill to a woman’s acceptance of her gay father have etched themselves upon my heart.  My own writing has improved as I absorb the devices utilized within the pieces I have read.  Gripping tone, irresistible hooks, unique perspective, and strong outside support are techniques I am trying to master.  A writer does not exist in isolation.  She is in dialogue with the world around her as well as with the other selves who, too, have commented upon it.

The technologically-challenged cat lady has learned to successfully post images and text to an accessible blog—a remarkable feat!  In so doing, I am officially inducted into generation z.  I have been pushed outside of my own mind and into those of others who I have interviewed, granting me insight into realms I’ve never before travelled.  I have a better understanding of the “other,” as well as the confidence and tact necessary to approach him.  This bold etiquette can apply to everyday encounters aside from writing as well.

As writers, we are in control of all that we create.  Our topics, diction, attitude toward subject and others reveal a lot about ourselves and our worldviews.  Therefore, it is vital that we are cognizant of the self we are presenting to the world through our writing.  The conveyed “self” should match the self we are or would like to be.  Once a blog or work is published, it is visible to the public.  Work should be polished and ready for eyes before it is released to the world.  We are a conglomeration of the people we’ve met, the work we’ve read and seen, and the experiences we’ve endured.  People are complex, and alike in that fact.  Through our writing, we should strive to stir the humanity present within all readers regardless of political and religious views.

The writing process involves brainstorming, incorporating individual experiences and opinions along with trustworthy outside data, accessible structure, and passion.  If you don’t care about what you’re writing, then why should anyone else?  Specificity is imperative.  Overgeneralization reduces your topic to cold statistics, extracting the human element of emotion.  At the same time, show how your topic affects others as well.  How does it fit into the larger scheme of things?  Start off strong so readers won’t lose interest before reaching the great parts later on.  The key—a gripping hook involving a unique question and/or provocative fact or scene.  Ideas must evolve organically.  Lengthy tangents and jumping around between thoughts jar the reader, throwing him from the piece.  The goal is for the reader to be entertained as well as informed so that he might act positively according to your proposition/experience.  Know your audience.   Who are you trying to reach and what methods will best allow you to accomplish the connection?  And lastly, forgive yourself.  Writing is a journey.  It’s okay not to get it right the first time.   Get fresh eyes through friends and instructors; then return to it when you’re rested.  Ultimately, writing requires a love of the craft and a commitment to honing your skill.

For me, creativity and academia should not be viewed as polar categories.  They should inspire each other.  We should be intellectually engaged with our environment and know how to artistically translate issues to the page so that we may positively alter people’s modes of thinking by reaching their hearts.  Feelings can influence thoughts which then become manifest in actions which possess the power to change society and, by extension, the world at large.  Academia should not merely be about studying the works and discoveries of others—it should encourage us to contribute new perspectives, creating discourse which adds to the conversation rather than merely mimicking it.  Times change and progress via academic growth which inspires discovery.

The elevator has reached its zenith.

Time to explore a fresh floor.


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“I Am” & “Diversity Dialogues”

I Am and Diversity Dialogues seek to reach their audiences on an intimate level, appealing to their shared humanity.  Each being is a unique self, defined by his relationship to and treatment of others.  By conversing with the other selves of the world, we can better understand our “self.”   Once we understand who we are, we can work on becoming who we’d like to become. 

 

Director Tom Shadyac, best known for his comedies like Ace Ventura, created the documentary I Am following a life-changing experience.  After an unfortunate incident involving his bicycle, Shadyac experienced stressful symptoms such as hypersensitivity to stimuli that produced painful headaches.  Worse still, the symptoms continued well beyond the expected recovery period.   Submerged in a sea of anguish, he decided to reevaluate his way of life.  He discovered that his vast material wealth and worldly success did not fill the hole in his soul.  He was not happy.  By interviewing some of the greatest thinkers of our time, he set out to find the key to happiness.

 

Ironically, he found that his competitive drive—encouraged by the capitalist society in which he was raised—had separated him from his fellow beings, perpetuating feelings of loneliness and anxiety.  The more things we own, the more we are owned.  In nature, animals are compassionate toward their kind.  Shadyac ultimately concluded that compassion is the key to harmony.  We are all connected and part of the same global family.  It is only when we learn to value compassion over competition and caring over consumption that we can find true joy.

 

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Creative Nonfiction, Diversity Dialogues offers a breadth of essays spanning topics from race to health while providing a plethora of narrative techniques from which to draw inspiration.  Each author writes from a specific vantage point, but all appeal to logic and emotion.  Authors convey their personal investment in the topics explored, showing how their “selves” are impacted by the issues in question.

 

Both “The Brown Study” by Richard Rodriguez and “Snapshots in Black and White” by Shara McCallum are enjoyable, thought provoking essays which deal with the complex relationship between race and social identity, examining how the two result in self-conceptualization.

In his essay “The Brown Study,” Rodriguez examines the impact of color on one’s perspective and status.  He is frustrated that the labels of homosexuality and minority confine his work to a specific audience; he longs to reach a diverse populace, but still he cannot deny that his racial identity informs his interaction with and outlook of the world.  He follows “the A, B, Cs” well, hooking the audience with “Or, as a brown man, I think.”  Using historical and scientific data, Rodriquez explores the realm of color and the associations society makes with regard to specific colors, pointing out rampant misconceptions.  Vanilla, for example, traditionally is viewed as bland and white, while in actuality it is brown when extracted in its purest form.  He commands attention and asserts his authority while injecting his own personal concerns as a human being who loves to write.

In “Snapshots in Black and White,” McCallum links racial identification with family unity.  She appears and “passes” for Caucasian although heavily mixed.  In a world plagued by labels, she is stuck in a dangerous limbo of racial ambiguity.  Unsure of the color with which to identify, she is not fully embraced by either the black or white crowd.   To further strengthen her piece, sexuality is examined in addition to race.  Just as McCallum can pass for white, her aunt can “pass” as straight.  Although she is a lesbian, the aunt is reticent to proclaim her sexuality due to her fear that she will be socially reprimanded.  She understands that labeling yourself in social terms is suffocating and involves repercussions.  But without claiming a team, one is alone and, in a sense, homeless.  McCallum informs us that race amounts to more than genes and skin tone; it is how you view yourself and with whom you choose to identify—who you call your family.  In a polarized society with no tolerance for gray, identification impacts one’s status and dictates the treatment he receives from others.  People are multifaceted and appearances can be deceiving.

 

In her essay “Gone in Translation,” Kate Small concentrates on a small group of social misfits in an isolated environment.  Within one setting, Small is able to explore a variety of personalities with fluid dialogue and pacing which propels the story forward.  She makes her characters human and relatable despite (or because) of their socially-labeled flaws and failures.

Kate Small immediately reels readers into “Gone in Translation” with her bleak description of the image of a family plagued by the Dust Bowl:

“The house strains against too many occupants and a hot, hard wind…A white girl whose knees are black with grime—I have her neck” (92).

The author identifies with the impoverished farming family, realizing that she could be in their unfortunate position.  The image establishes the theme for the piece, setting a somber tone.  Amidst poverty, economic decay, and social instability, people rely on family and friends to transcend their struggles.  Small explores the relationship between poverty and family by examining images, and revealing the tightly woven familial friendship among her fellow restaurant patrons.

Floyd Skloot’s “A Measure of Acceptance” is an impactful essay written by a virally brain-damaged man over a period of eleven months, detailing the humiliating tests he endured to keep his disability payments and prove his ailment is authentic.  As in “Gone in Translation,” the mainstream of successful and/or healthy people stigmatize and discriminate against those less fortunate then themselves, thinking them freeloaders and freaks.

 

Terry Williams opens with an emotionally wrenching description of gassed prairie dogs in “Prayer Dogs.”  Depicting panic and pain immediately earns reader sympathy for the afflicted creatures.  She inserts plenty of dialogue, interacts with others—both pro and anti-animal rights, prairie dogs themselves, while using a plethora of data to support her case.

By evoking emotional responses which give readers hope that through struggle positive change is possible, the authors of I Am and Diversity Dialogues provide the intimacy needed to inspire self-reflection.  In this way, they encourage us to take responsibility for the selves we have created.  But, more importantly, they encourage us to compose better, more accepting and compassionate selves. 


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Amethyst was here . . .

Amethyst was here.

Ripe with inspiration, she entered a realm fresh with possibility.  Trembling with the yearning only creation can satisfy, she decided to brave the marshes of mystery so that she could share with you, dear reader, the secrets whispered to her by the cool moon’s crescent shadow.

“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  

The words of Roald Dahl reverberated throughout her being like a game of Marco Polo.  She drank the stars, allowing their purple sea to intoxicate her.  The celestial libation filled her spirit, informing her mind.  She realized that magic is not the hocus pocus hoopla pitched by the mainstream moguls as they try to market mood mugs and contortionist I-pads.   Magic is the spinal cord which links the body of mankind.  It is the humanity that connects us all regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religious affiliation.  Each human being is an essential component, a vital organ, of one body.  When one organ is damaged, the rest of the body suffers as well.  We should strive to strengthen our community.   In so doing, we better ourselves.  The antidote to hate and hardship, the key to salvation, and the medicine to heal our sick bodies is and always has been LOVE.  It is only when we are able to love “the other,” that we can work with and strive to help him.

She broke through the thick membrane of the marsh, inviting the dense night air into her aching lungs.  Love.  She must learn to love those who frighten her and teach others to do the same.  She must open herself to the foreign forests, and learn to navigate their wooded paths.  Love.  But how to love?   Learning.  We must tread upon new ground, break in our boots, and learn about areas still uncovered.   As we learn, we come to understand, to appreciate.  How can we criticize and prevent negative behavior when we don’t even realize what motivates it?

Any fool can know.  The point is to understand.

–Albert Einstein

We know the world is troubled.  But we must understand from where this trouble stems if we seek to heal our planet and ourselves.  Intolerance and fear are the vices that poison us all.

She dried herself with the sleek coat of her panther companions.  Together they will cast light upon darkness, expose critters as they scurry back to solitude.  They will help the lost find, the weary rest, and the sad smile.  The Holy Grail:  A rainbow of hope.

 Two bubbles found they had rainbows on their curves. They flickered out saying:  “It was worth being a bubble, just to have held that rainbow for thirty seconds.” 

–Carl Sandburg

           Amethyst thinks that life is short, but love for a diverse world and the many different people who inhabit it, is what makes it worthwhile.

 She desires an age of Aquarius:

Harmony and understanding

Sympathy and trust abounding

No more falsehoods or derisions

Golden living dreams of visions

Mystic crystal revelations and the mind’s true liberation

–Aquarius, Hair

 

This is our home.  Not only mine.  Not only yours.   Ours.  Together, we must break bread at the same table and learn to paint with all the colors of the wind.

You think you own whatever land you land on

The earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.

***

You can own the earth and still

All you’ll own is earth until

You can paint with all the colors of the wind

 

Colors of the Wind, Pocahontas

 

I am Amethyst.  I am here.  And so are you.