Is polyamory right for me? An anti-guide to being whoever the fuck you want to be.

Most of you probably know, but some of you may not know, that I am involved in a long-term committed open relationship. I believe that the reason for the relationship being non-monogamous is that both my partner and I desire to be together in a romantic sense, but we both mutually resist the idea that commitment, or even true love, should universally prohibit the flesh from exploring its desires in practically any and every consensual context.  My partner believes in what is termed polyamory, the idea that love is boundless and borderless, and that people have an infinite capacity for love. Perhaps I am too much of a materialist (what if “love” is an illusion?), or perhaps I am too much of a selfish bastard (what if I am incapable of love?), or maybe I’m just allergic to labels, but I prefer to simply refer to myself as non-monogamous (rejecting more specific labels through its generality), despite the purity and beauty that I acknowledge in narratives of free-love or infinite love.

As one might presume, a lot of people have extremely polarized reactions to the idea of polyamory and there is no short supply of men who feel comforted by talking over any defense I may have for my lifestyle choices by repeating, “No, you just can’t love more than one person,” or women who cluck their tongues in pity for their belief that I am giving up my good years to a man who can’t commit, I who paint his insult in flowery language. Not surprisingly, there are reactionaries who, exhausted by the hegemonic onslaught of heteronormativity, decry monogamous couples as the single barrier to a pure victimless utopia. Many “polyamous” folk use vehement vilifying language that falls just short of equating a monogamous relationship with an abusive relationship and make little effort in hiding their disdain when meeting monogamous couples. Oftentimes, it seems very transparent that this reactionary propaganda is really nothing more sophisticated than masked jealousy. June wants in Betty’s pants, so June is going to blame the fact that she can’t have Betty on Betty’s monogamous relationship. Since I am sure that there is no “June” in existence who is attracted to every single person attracted her, she should certainly know better and my advice to several poly-folk who I’ve met over the years is to get over yourselves. Don’t be such a narcissistic brat. Even if Betty were single or otherwise available, that does not automatically mean that she would freak with you. So I personally find it very disgusting to openly talk down on someone’s life choices just because those life choices ostensibly mean you don’t get exactly what you want.

However, there are other poly-folk who decry monogamy because they simply can’t identify with it. There are plenty of poly-folk who will quote “Sex at Dawn” at you until they pass out, not because they want anything from you, other than for you to believe exactly like themselves, because many find it difficult to be friends with people who hold different views from themselves. The same way that many Bible-thumpers damn near faint at the sight of two grown men nuzzling each other in public, many poly-folk get equally riled up about monogamy. It is a blasphemy against the flesh they will say, it is a direct product of patriarchy they will say (though I definitely believe that patriarchal gender roles are more easily reinforced through monogamous narratives). Basically, why do some of the same people who perfectly understand that homosexuality doesn’t affect heterosexual people act completely offended and oppressed by OTHER monogamous people? Believe me, I am just as confused as you are.

However, I must [relent] and admit that monogamous folk are more likely to decry polyamory than the other way around. And as a woman, it is exhausting to go out in the social realm, wanting to be transparent and upfront about who I am because I see no shame in it, when the bulk of the male population can only view a woman’s poly identity as a glorified slut banner, thereby justifying disgusting forward advances that they would never dream of making on their non-taboo counterparts (“Do you want to fuck?”) at which I must be equally upfront (“Sorry, I’m not interested in you that way.”) That’s partly why I find it best to stay away from the labels–because I don’t want to sugar-coat ANY of it. I could call myself polyamorous, but that might imply that I find every single person I’ve ever lusted after loveable (hey, despite my hippie trappings, I’m just a person, too)–the same way that I don’t like to dance around my emotions or other people’s emotions. It’s not “you’re super attractive, but I’ve got my hands full with too many lovers,” it’s definitely “I am not interested in sex with you.” No white lies, no qualifying. If someone is stupid enough to believe that you either freak with one person or everyone, then they get no mercy from me.

So obviously, I don’t believe that monogamy is for everyone, but I certainly don’t believe that non-monogamy is for everyone either. People talk about testosterone and the role it plays in male infidelity–and other gender-centered cultural beliefs–and those claims may have their truths, but I don’t entertain the idea that it’s remotely possible to make cohesive generalizations about sexuality and gender. Sure, there may be patterns in the scientific data, but those patterns aren’t significant enough for people to reference them as often as they do. Obviously that is how women’s lib and feminism got its footing; there was a sizable demographic of women who felt very disserviced by the status quo. So why should we say that women deep down seek monogamy whereas men deep down seek sexual freedom?

Anyway, part of why I wanted to write this post was because I have a lot of friends who say they just couldn’t do an open-relationship. They say that they don’t know how they would deal with the jealousy or if they could deal. Others hold the misconception that you have to be incapable of jealousy to be fit for the endeavor. I’m not really ever sure what to say to these friends because there are a lot of blogs and books dedicated to polyamory, how to be a good partner in such an arrangement, how to be a bad partner, how to know if it’s even right for you and to be honest I feel that 95% of what’s out there is total bullshit. These writers all make lists of rules as if they were singlehandedly given the authority to write the ten commandments of polyamory. Some of it seems to suggest that it’s okay to guilt your partner if they’re feeling at all jealous. Some of it seems to suggest that all boundaries in a relationship are wrong and a form of possessiveness. Some of it seems to suggest that commitment is a form of possessiveness. Basically, it makes me wonder how half the poly-folk out there maintain any romantic relationships at all and how it’s not just one big casual free-for-all, because after reading some of these blogs, it would seem that polyamory could be equated with an anti-relationship state of mind.

But somehow, despite all this talk-talk-talk, talk against boundaries, talk against monogamy, talk against jealousy, you name it, I know a surprisingly large amount of poly-folk in what appears to be happy, loving long-term relationships. These are people who babysit their partner’s partner’s children (and no, we are not talking about polygamy here), people who help each other with errands and homework, people who cook dinner together, people who do just about all the things for each other a married couple would do, except most of them don’t live together and relative sexual freedom is always part of the equation. And poly-folk get jealous just like the rest of anybody else. They talk to other poly-folk about their mixed feelings, they talk to their partner about their concerns in the relationship, they talk themselves into honoring their partner’s carnal freedoms because they too covet their freedom to love/lust.

So if there is some quiz or checklist out there that claims to determine whether polyamory is right for you, I am very skeptical as to its efficacy. I think that if you desire sexual freedom, then you were probably meant to be some form of non-monogamous. However, your maturity level and the maturity of your partner and many cultural factors are what really determine whether it will work in the long-term or not. If you are a very loving, generous, and understanding person, but your partner is a brat, then you will feel burned by polyamory and potentially end up being one of those who decry non-monogamy and promiscuity in every form. If you are with someone whom you love as a friend, but the sex fizzles and you are fucking everyone BUT your committed partner, then you are the selfish brat that doesn’t know how to compassionately end a relationship, and they will end up feeling burned by polyamory.

My advice is that if you desire more sexual freedom in relationships, keep trying, because it is not wrong to want both freedom and commitment and neither is it impossible. The way that you try is by being the most compassionate, loving, and honest version of yourself as possible. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask them to do the same. It is very human to simultaneously desire freedom for oneself but feel jealous when a loved one exercises their own freedom, but it’s how you reconcile this paradox that matters. Guilting your partner for when they express jealousy or concern over your involvement with another is not only dishonest but alienating because it can send the message that you do not empathize with your partner’s very human emotions. People try to control others because they feel jealous and not the other way around. Very few people specifically WANT to control others. Jealousy happens because people fret about the future–“will s/he eventually leave me for this new person?”–which is completely valid. If you know that you are committed and no one can take you away from your partner, then instead of calling treachery, go out of your way to show them that they are special and loved. Within reason. A partner’s fantasies of possession or monogamy cannot be indulged if you have decided for certain that you yourself are to be non-monogs. After all, you cannot choose the path that others may take–s/he may leave the relationship for monogamy, which is their prerogative–but it is your responsibility to be upfront about who you are and what you want (if you are not ready for a commitment, be strong and don’t string anyone along for the sheer comfort of the familiarity or flattery that comes with a long-term relationship). Basically, many of the same rules that help make monogamous relationships work go a long way in poly/non-monog relationships as well. It’s just that maybe there is more potential for heartbreak because there is more potential for romance, for you and your partner.

I will have more to say on this subject in the future, but I mainly just wanted to make a post about non-monogamy based on recent conversations I’ve had with friends, monog and non-monog friends. I wanted to send out my sentiments that NONE of it is cut-and-dry–whether you’re trying to determine if you could even handle a serious non-monogamous relationship, or whether you’re in the midst of trying to navigate your romantic style or the inner-workings of a current relationship. I also wanted to say that you shouldn’t allow anyone to define who you are and what is right for you. Just because you desire a relative amount of sexual freedom, it does not mean that you view your sex life as a free-for-all and shun commitment. Just because you love one person, it does not mean that you are not strong enough to simultaneously love another. If you want to be with only one person, do not allow your queer radical buddies to bully you into opening a relationship that you are already satisfied in. Just because you consider yourself polyamorous, it does not mean that you are not allowed to prioritize certain relationships or set healthy boundaries. It also does not mean that you have to prioritize certain relationships. My partner does not ask that I prioritize my relationship with him, but I do ask that he prioritizes our relationship and we have found ways to make it work for both of us because we both want to be together.

I think that there are always very ethical and loving ways to be the person that you were meant to be, even if that person is considered taboo by the status quo, and I strongly believe that we were not all born with identical needs. It may take time and lots of heartbreak to find your soulmate(s) and sometimes the most beautiful romances are meant to be short and sweet, but be honest, compassionate, and buoyant and your rewards will be great.

The media is an invaluable two-edged sword.

It sometimes seems that we live in a topsy-turvy world where nothing makes sense. In America, unarmed children are being shot by the same people who have sworn an oath to protect the weak, in Iraq, even younger children are being beheaded because the god of their parents has a different name than the god of their persecutors, in Palestine, families are being systematically bombed out of their homes. Even larger still, research by our best mathmeticians is consistently predicting that our planet will be unlivable for everyone by year 2040, due to unsustainable human practices. Although it seems that things are getting worse on the human front, any brief knowledge of history would ascertain that, in fact, things have not changed much. Much like the Middle Ages, where all of Europe, down through the Middle East to Northern Africa was in constant turmoil, the boundaries were always shifting, and raids by foreign invaders were quite the common affair, no one has a guaranteed promise that their home will be theirs tomorrow, and not usurped by their own government or the power of a rising brigade. During the Middle Ages, the men had a lust for revenge and territories, and a hunger to acquire more souls. The only difference today are the technologies that have become so advanced to most assure the annihilation of the human race (in addition to almost every other form of life that we share our mere “resources” with). However, not only has modern technology allowed for unbridled population growth, pollution, and global warming, but it has also stretched world communications to unfathomably remote areas. The media is as strong a weapon as any missile or grenade, and for this reason, being a journalist or hacker are two of the most dangerous jobs out there. The power hungry and corrupt realize that total and global exposure is the only thing that stands in their ways. While technology can be seen as the enemy, it can also be used as a powerful weapon to protect the weak and powerless. We must fight to protect our journalists, hackers, and scientists, because they will save us all.

Roxane Gay’s “Ayiti”


“Everything I know about my family’s history, I know in fragments. We are the keepers of secrets…We try to protect each other from so much sorrow.”

ayitifront1The stories in Ayiti are not joy-filled; they do not end in cloying revelation. Ayiti is not a compilation of stories that meander through clean alleyways, the arborous debris of a fresh New England morning being swept away before our protagonists wake for a hearty breakfast. However, we do still find a prepackaged American dream as a common backdrop for these stories, just not the same easily attainable, easy to leave behind American dystopia that abounds in modern fiction. In Ayiti, Roxane Gay does not write about problems that are neatly tidied up. Rather, Ayiti meanders through the negative space within the Haitian diaspora, the unfulfilled longings, quiet terrors and injustices, and nagging desperation.

Reminding me of Annie Proulx’s short fiction, “Job History”, through its list-structured narrative, “You never knew how the waters ran so cruel so deep” is a logging of items sold and bought during a couple’s passage to the U.S. Within and between the transactions of items varying from expendable to precious, interlaces a journey of the heart; two people give up everything they have from possessions, money, pride, shame, just to make it out of Haiti.

In Ayiti, the human heart is resilient, restless, tormented, hopeful, and loyal.

“There is no E in Zombi, Which means there Can Be no You or We”, is a twisted fairy tale in which a desperate young lover zombifies the prodigal and widely desired object of her affections so that she may possess him entirely. Her resolve is chilling: “His cold body filled her with a sadness she could hardly bear…Micheline thought about the second silk sachet…the sachet with a power to make Lionel the man he once was–tall, vibrant, the greatest son of L’Ouverture, a man who filled the air with the bass of a deep drum when he walked. She made herself forget about that power…she pressed her hand against the sharpness of Lionel’s cheekbone. She said, “Love me.”‘ This story, despite its fantastical context, was more rich in concrete imagery than any other story I had read in a while. The writing is neat, almost rushing the narrative along, fast-paced and chiseled like our antagonist, Lionel, the symbol of Haiti’s patriarchal esteem and pride.

Ayiti’s power lies in its messiness, the messiness of its characters’ lives. In these narratives, joy is found in spurts and spasms, in the place where fleeting passion eddies with the dull gnawing of physical hunger and painful memories, memories that hitchhike on and stalk the survivor. Gay ends the compilation with “A Cool, Dry Place,” a story of Gabrielle and Yves, two young lovers in Port-au-Prince who, fed-up with their impoverished circumstances despite full-time employment, finally leave Haiti via a covert immigrant ship, for the U.S. The forlorn Gabrielle and Yves escape through their shared sex life, which becomes increasingly violent with each day, “I am tender, but I don’t want Yves to ever stop. With each stroke, he takes me further from the sorrows of home and closer to a cool, dry place.”

In post-post-modern literary times, it seems the contemporary trend is to revert back to more traditional and conservative modes of story telling, but Gay’s 2011 compilation is refreshingly experimental and palimpsest-like. Gay claims that the stories are a mixture of fiction and true-to-life, but there is never an indication or aside made as to what details are fact and which are fiction. For me, the effect was of being pulled into a world that was more mysterious and concrete than if I had understood it all to be imaginary. I speculate; there must be a woman living in New York who is ceaselessly suffused with the smell of blood. Or, the zombi story is so strange and so sad, that it cannot be fiction.


Finally! A Radiolab Book List.

Finally, the writers of my longtime favorite podcast series have compiled and posted a list of books referenced during podcasts (or relating to podcast subjects). So many times while entranced in the sound-bite bedazzled spiritual exploration of Science that is Radiolab, I have heard intriguing mention of books upon books that could potentially, temporarily satisfy my need for more transgressional transdiscipline musings on science (or, musings on the nature of Being through a vaguely scientific lens). Only to never write down the name of said book. But now, my bookshelf can be even more crowded with books that I intend to one day read.

I would like to now make a tentative list of books that are soon to sit on my bookshelf, untouched, for the next seven years:

David Rothenburg explores concepts of beauty and biologic necessity on the insect level, getting technical about form and function, but also getting deep about the influence of insect sounds on human art.

David Rothenburg explores concepts of beauty and biologic necessity on the insect level, getting technical about form and function, but also getting deep about the influence of insect sounds on human art.

The editors searched thousands of publications to find thee best 60 American flash fiction pieces of all time. Given my undying love for short fiction, this book probably won’t earn its place here on a list of books I’ll wait a lifetime to read, but might actually (gasp) find itself in the list of books I have reviewed.

This one sounds extremely fascinating. Here, Douglas Hofstadter investigates consciousness in its purest state, putting scientific models of thought process to the test, and proposing his own theories on the self-aware "I" that challenge laws of physics and conventions of materialism.

This one sounds extremely fascinating. Here, Douglas Hofstadter investigates consciousness in its purest state, putting scientific models of thought process to the test, and proposing his own theories on the self-aware “I” that challenge laws of physics and conventions of materialism.

This book is a scholarly investigation of the folk music of Central Texas and the close-knit relationship between conversation and music in that region. I usually find it difficult to get immersed in anthropological narratives, but the one review on Amazon said the book was great despite it being scholarly, so hey, why not? I grew up in Texas and personally love the dialect and folk country that is a product of my home state, so why not nerd out about it for 300 pages or so?

This book is a scholarly investigation of the folk music of Central Texas and the close-knit relationship between conversation and music in that region. I usually find it difficult to get immersed in anthropological narratives, but the one review on Amazon said the book was great despite it being scholarly, so hey, why not? I grew up in Texas and personally love the dialect and folk country that is a product of my home state, so why not nerd out about it for 300 pages or so?




It just makes my blood boil to hear the "intellecshulls" of my generation talk about evolution as if we're at the apex of it or to think that there's some god-given reason for every aspect of our bodies. So, it might be nice to have some ammo under belt with to teach all those highfalootin straw-chewers who obviously unwittingly believe in intelligent design because they think every problem arising from the human condition can be solved by getting back to our roots and doing it the way things the way our ancestors did it. Because everyone knows that at some arbitrary point in time, we reached the limits of evolution and became perfect. There is absolutely nothing imperfect or contradictory about the human body or mind in its healthiest form. Nope. We won the evolution game.

It just makes my blood boil to hear the “intellecshulls” of my generation talk about evolution as if we’re at the apex of it or to think that there’s some god-given reason for every aspect of our bodies. So, it might be nice to have some ammo under belt with to teach all those highfalootin straw-chewers who obviously unwittingly believe in intelligent design because they think every problem arising from the human condition can be solved by getting back to our roots and doing things the way our ancestors did it. Because everyone knows that at some arbitrary point in time, we reached the limits of evolution and became perfect. There is absolutely nothing imperfect or contradictory about the human body or mind in its healthiest form. Nope. We won the evolution game.


Okay, there are others I’m interested in checking out, but my bed is calling me. Feel free to buy me any of these books because I’m broke as shit.

Book Review: The Ethical Butcher

berlin-reedEthical Butcher Ethical Butcher is a 2013 blog-come-book, which the author, Berlin Reed, deems a food-memoir. My partner, Chris, was following Berlin Reed’s romantic partner’s tumblr when he stumbled upon EB. Chris and I immediately committed to reading EB together because we were both interested in better acquainting ourselves with healthy, sustainable food-attaining practices. For two months, I waited greedily for my local library to receive its first copies.

I think something that initially appealed to me about this book (as opposed to other lit on “how to eat”) was Reed’s background in radical activism and queer identity. Berlin Reed is tattooed with a flamboyant hipster-chic flair to his style. In EB, he flaunts his identity as a food-culture activist with a sordid vegan past. During his youth, he became keenly aware of the dire problems within the U.S. food industry. Because profit margins are the prime target for many meat producers, and because capitalism is king in the Northwest hemisphere, what producers can and will do to livestock to call it “food” is virtually and legally limitless. Reed thought that by avoiding animal products, he could avoid participation in such a corrupt system and lead by example. Reed’s history ran many parallels with my own.

Today, Reed sings by a different tune. He conscientiously shuns the trappings of corporate USDA-approved fare, but does so as an omnivore on a mission. In Part II, Reed encourages people to eat how they like, and admits that some may require more meat in their diets, while others may not require any. However, throughout Part I, the tone titillates on associations with anti-vegetarianism: bringing the reader confidentially close into his spiritual relationship with the slaughter, butchering, preparing and finally serving of an animal. He wants you to feel and taste his “limbic drive” for food, something probably not unlike the atmosphere of kairos Reed attributes to the act of slaughter: “The air is charged with energy, caught somewhere between construction and destruction. Kairos.” It is this tone of ostensible romanticism for killing that lends Reed a masculine “man’s man” type voice in Chapter One.

His confident, unequivocating tone is only matched by his compassion for workers and animals, as well as a complex understanding of gender politics and feminism in the modern era (Reed rants with a fury against Rachel Ray’s anti-food partnership with Kraft and immediately employs equal gusto to assure the reader that he’s not targeting Ray because she’s a woman, but because she’s a joke of a chef, an apology almost long enough to make a reader feel a bit patronized).

Reed takes the reader through his journey to food-nirvana, describing in visceral detail the joy of skinning and butchering goats, pigs, chickens, and cows. He pairs these gory scenes with mouthwatering descriptions of the plates those late husbanded animals served, as if to say, “Don’t forget, don’t pretend, your medium-rare t-bone came from a living being. If that doesn’t completely gross you out, respect the life that was taken. If it does, stop eating meat.” Reed keeps coming back to the ancient Greek notion of kairos, as if through responsible consumption, we can glean wisdom from the land and the animal consumed. Reed’s in-field projects center on presenting locally sourced dishes (events often held on the farm where the meat was slaughtered) that can be prepared on a food stamp budget. He is on a religious mission to teach the average American how to foster a direct connection and relationship to the origins of her food. Reed sees this history of origin with one’s food as the very basic and inalienable foundation of a meaningful and rich life.

By the end of Part One, I was won over by Reed’s passion and thorough understanding of the energy required of what he calls “real food,” as well as a complex knowledge of the corporate food industry, its exploits and impacts. I was also very hungry for some cherry-habanero slathered ribs. In Part Two, Reed dismantles the vegan propaganda that not eating meat is always better for the planet than eating meat, or even more humane. He then moves on from a little finger-wagging at the elitist aspect of vegan culture to coach omnivores on how to buy meat. In my case, he was mostly preaching to the choir, but I found his precisely-put vehemence to finally convince me to stop buying salmon, tuna, and shrimp once and for all.

As unlikely as it may seem given my analytic drive, I found very few problematics with Ethical Butcher. Whereas I expected Reed to tout or promote a particular product or food, or to make sweeping claims for or against particular sectors of the food industry, Reed seems to refuse to make any sort of claim or opinion without basing it in concrete fact. He refuses to promote any particular brand and encourages the reader to meet in person the people who grow her vegetables and raise her meat and to stay aware of that farm’s ethical practices, because many corporate farms started out as ‘mom & pops.’ He even has a few words of caution about the U.S. Organic label, but admits it’s still usually a better bet than “conventional” food. In other words, I was pleasantly shocked by the book’s blunt lack of rose-tinted green-consumerism propaganda or capitalist self-promotion. You can buy neither home-cured bacon nor his own book from Reed’s two blogs, but he does urge you to NOT buy EB at Wal-Mart or Target.

I believe my main concern with Reed’s environmental ethics is what seemed like a dismissive attitude towards eating ruminants relative to eating seafood. Reed states that eating terrestrial meat is far better environmentally than eating seafood, which may be true, but the claim does not justly address core issues of breeding domesticated non-native terrestrial species in ecologically over-used areas. Though Reed romanticizes heritage breeds, he does not address the issue of the encroachment of farms into wilderness territory that house completely acceptable and even delightful game meats, berries, nuts, and grains. What is the point of cutting down any of the forest and keeping around any colonial heritage breed when everything you need is in the forest? Of course, I believe that there are benefits to our modern husbandry and homesteading, but I believe that a real and thorough food revolution will be based in an interdependence with the land in its least cultivated and least manipulated state. If we have to cut down 20 acres of forest to raise 15 cattle, we’re trying too hard and hurting ourselves in the long run. Any discussion of sustainable food-sourcing that does not involve permaculture gardening, gathering, and hunting are not sufficient discussions. Berlin Reed, I challenge you to learn to butcher some locally caught game and present that on a plate to a table of 40.

I could attempt to recapitulate some of the valuable information Reed has to impart about the corporate food industry and how to work outside of that, but I think it makes more sense if I just point you to his work-of-art blogs:

One more thing added to the world.

Then the revelation occurred: Marino saw the rose as Adam might have seen it in Paradise, and thought that the rose was to be found in its own eternity and not in his words; and that we may mention or allude to a thing, but not express it; and that the tall, proud volumes casting a golden shadow in a corner were not–as his vanity had dreamed–a mirror of the world, but rather one more thing added to the world.

Jorge Luis Borges

Book Review: Land of Bears and Honey: A Natural History of East Texas by Joe C. Truett and Daniel W. Lay

Truett, J. C. 1984. Land of Bears and Honey: A Natural History of East Texas.  Austin: University of Texas Press.

Truett, J. C. 1984. Land of Bears and Honey: A Natural History of East Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press.

“Only after hunting decimated the turkeys and deer did squirrels become interesting enough for people to write about.” – Joe C. Truett

When I met Truett (in his written form, that is), I was leery and kept a distanced stance. He was an older generation East Texaner with a penchant for anthropomorphism who seemed, in the first couple chapters, to hold an indefatigable romanticism for settler era homesteading–things for which I found it difficult to muster equal enthusiasm.

Like many accurate natural histories told through the lens of modernity, Land of Bears and Honey is a story of nature’s diminishing–diminishing not only in abundance but in biodiversity. Land of Bears and Honey can also be considered a history of ethnobiology–how, with new peoples and cultures moving in and out of East Texas, cultural attitudes toward the land have also shifted. Truett explores how changing relationships to the land have changed the ecology and how this ‘diminishment’ by our grandfathers’ attitudes is slowly changing current ideas about how the land must be treated. So, despite the generational gap between the author and I, the more I read, the more I found we had in common.

Perhaps I was partly skeptical about Truett’s paradigm because the book begins by presenting the pre-colonial natural history of East Texas through historical fiction; getting into the minds of what history conceives as the typical Caddoan Indian and much anthropomorphizing (something which he continues to use on endangered and vanished animals throughout the book). In Chapter 2, “Grass”, Truett prefaces the story of the buffalo’s fall with seven pages of two interweaving stories: that of a young buffalo calf and that of a young Indian boy on his first buffalo hunt. Both stories end when finally the two characters meet face to face; the young calf is the young hunter’s first kill. This kill represents the boy’s initiation into adulthood.

In the next passage, Truett introduces the European game hunters to the Texas buffalo. As if to keep pace with the rapidity at which the white conquistadors and settlers decimated the buffalo, it is only seven paragraphs after the seven page buffalo hunt that Truett writes, “By 1885 the final slaughter was over in Texas; the last wild buffalo was gone.” From then on, it is cattle, “the white man’s buffalo,” that dominate the hooven fauna of East Texas.

The narratorial voice shape-shifts between historical figures, the last black bear, hypothetical lumberjacks, and pileated woodpeckers, as if it is through ‘becoming’ these other animals that Joe understands the land. But it is the final voice, that of a generically named “John,”–an old hunter in the modern age who has an epiphany–that carries the most intimate tone. As John ponders the natural history of Texas and muses to a companion about the fault of people like themselves for Texas’s decline in biodiversity and their generation’s responsibility to make an eleventh hour turn, I had the feeling that this generic old Texan “John” was Joe C. Truett himself making both an apology to younger generations and proposing a standard for future Texan land paradigms.

Settler romanticism was no mere romanticism; Truett paints an overarching melody of this idea that a person’s quality and richness of life is innately and inextricably tied to the quality of the land–a thesis that as the biodiversity of a forest landscape decreases, so decrease the possibilities for the people who live on the land.

There are moments of poetry:

“The river itself, ever restless, ate at its channeled banks and wandered back and forth across its floodplain as the years passed, leaving terraces and trenches in the flatness of the bottomland. Water was the sculptor, ever at work on the face of the land.”

“The quality of the land itself, a more subtle life stream than spilled blood, dribbles away.”



Originally posted on Earth First! Newswire:

by Christopher Torchia / the Star Tribune

JOHANNESBURG – A South African court sentenced a Nigerian to 24 years in prison on Tuesday after finding him guilty of masterminding twin car bombings in Nigeria.

Henry Okah was found guilty in January for the October 2010 bombing in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, that killed at least 12 people and wounded three dozen during a celebration to mark the country’s 50 years of independence.

The South African Press Association reported that Judge Neels Claassen of the High Court in Johannesburg announced Okah’s jail sentence, which includes 12 years in prison for each bombing and 13 years for threats made to the South African government after his October 2010 arrest. The 13 years will be served concurrently with the 24 years.

Okah was a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, which claimed responsibility for the blasts.


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Music and baking.

Cooking up one of my favorite gluten free biscuits and gravy recipes ( if you’re interested), listening to a playlist comprised of The Xx, The Knife, Crystal Castles, and Lykke Li. It’s a very nice, serene day because I just quit a job that was making me miserable and now I get to hide in from the brutal early Spring cold wind and wet snow and enjoy a very rich and comforting home cooked meal before I preplan this season’s garden and read a story written by a pessimistic old man so that I can feel righteous in my decision to quit a job when I actually could have used the extra money.

There’s some invigorating feeling that comes with discovering a new wonderful musician, recipe, or writer. It’s like stepping off the plane into a new country where they are driving on the opposite side of the road and use different symbols on their road signs. There’s a period of both excitement and readjustment, culture shock. The new writer has a different lens on the world than the other writers that you have come to love and feel you share a special bond with as you have so many times imagined yourself picking their brain, engaging in a scintillating dialogue as you underline your favorite passages and push the novel you just finished reading onto all your friends. But the new writer, she writes well, she has drawn you in with a character you can identify with in a situation only slightly more extreme than situations you have found yourself in, but where is she going with all this? Will the story end with moralizing exposition, or perhaps a vapid deconstruction the sexes–that men will be men and a woman is a woman–leaving you feel robbed of your time and your intelligence as a reader disrespected. But then, finally, after beginning so many books recommended by your friends and never finishing half of them because they didn’t quite fulfill some hidden deep-set need, you read something strange and beautiful and new.

Review: the Unwritten, Volume 3 (Dead Man’s Knock)

I’m writing from one of my favorite coffee shops in Denver, Hooked on Colfax. It’s been almost a year since I’ve visited this place. With All-in-a-Dream, The Bluebird Theatre, City Park, Hooked on Colfax, Tattered Cover, and the Denver Film Society, the lower-east section of Colfax is one of my favorite parts of town, and yet it is one of the most difficult to get to on a bike. Today, I felt like I was adventuring to a little pocketed treasure, slowly making my way by side-streets and sidewalk on my lube-in-want hybrid loaner.Dead Man's Knock

In Mike Carey’s, the Unwritten, it is [mostly] not guns and muscle that do the battling, but the ephemeral world of narrative. In Volume 3, “Dead Man’s Knock”, we pick up after Tom Taylor, the in vivo avatar boy for his father’s cryptic story machine, is framed for a mass murdering of mystery and horror authors at the Villa Diodati (the mansion in Switzerland where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein). Tom is imprisoned, but rescued by the enigmatic Lizzie Hexam, who is secretly in communication with the seemingly Machiavellian Wilson Taylor.

Though Tom Taylor’s public identify, as the real-life version of the Harry Potter-esque Tommy Taylor, continues to exponentially grow and furl in rumor, legend, and controversy throughout Volume 3–with the buildup to the final Tommy Taylor novel–his personal narrative takes a backseat to an exploration of Lizzie Hexam’s enigmatic history and agendas. We find that Lizzie was a common girl who lived with her father in 19th Century London. Learning this by traveling back in time, the shock sends Lizzie into a coma-like trance, at which point, the comic turns into a choose-your-own-adventure whereby the reader decides Lizzie’s history and fate; does the young beached time-farer end up languishing in a mental institution, or does she land in the guardianship of Wilson, as his pawn and protegee, ultimately trained to aide and protect Tom at any cost? That was the most exciting point of the narrative for me–working my way through the choose-your-own-adventure and then returning to the beginning to reveal the alternatives worlds–made me feel seven years old again and I believe it also revealed much of the author’s agenda, a secret message if you will. It didn’t matter whether you chose Wilson to be evil or benign, the result was the same. Using Wilson’s stories and story-map, Wilson’s creations derail from his meta-narrative to claim independence in their own way. Together, Tom and Savoy rouse Lizzie from her trance and move on their journey to save the planet and to reclaim their identities in the real world.

At some point in the volume, Savoy is supposedly turned vampire by the prison guard-come-master-vampire, Count Ambrosio. But then Count Ambrosio is supposedly killed, leading us to wonder whether this has broken the spell for Savoy or not, but so far, he seems back to normal. I think this question will resurface in later issues.

There was a point in “Dead Man’s Knock” in which Tom has a vision that a crowd of Tommy Taylor fans waiting in anticipation for the final book release is transformed into a single monster shaped like a dialogue bubble. A Captain-Ahab-looking dude exclaims, “You see Behemoth! You see Leviathan!” This seemed strikingly reminiscent of the Mnemoth from the first issue of Hellblazer in which the Mnemoth appears as a hoard of locusts.

The blood thirsty Pullman is foreshadowed to get more play in future episodes, which thereby foreshadows more bloodshed. Who will it be? Who will Pullman decapitate this time? 

I love this novel, comic, whatever you so call it, because it makes me think. I love Vertigo comics like the Sandman and Hellblazer because they completely weird me out in a ‘this existence is so wonderfully mysterious’ sort of way. ::imagine me looking just like Keanu Reeves saying “whoa…” every time I read a Vertigo:: But the Unwritten makes me think. It makes me think about this idea that stories have lives of their own and that the realm of stories, no matter how accurately or inaccurately they represent reality, shape reality through the validity that human consciousness breathes into them. That the guilt or innocence of a person matters infinitely less than the story that unfurls around their persona–that is the biggest thing that determines the reality a person lives in.