Gay Rights, Ice Hockey, and Writing

by K. Trian
 
 If there are any sports fans out there, you’ve probably heard and read of the hubbub concerning the Moscow track-and-field World Championships and the criticism Russia has received concerning their human right trampling laws against homosexuals. This has prompted articles and opinion pieces to pop up all around media, and one of the most interesting ones that I read today was on gay rights, sports and NHL by Jouni Nieminen, a sports reporter. Unfortunately the article is in Finnish, but it made me think of a few things in relation to writing, gay rights and ice hockey.
 
Gay Rights and Ice Hockey
 
1) A male ice hockey player is expected to be heterosexual vs. A female ice hockey player can freely be both, gay or straight.
 
No, it’s not that black-and-white in real life, but you get the picture. This seems hardly fair, and makes me wonder if there really are people out there who honestly believe a gay man can’t be as “masculine” as a straight man, can’t play hockey as well, can’t build big, burly muscles, can’t lose his teeth in a scuffle, can’t drink his mates under the table, etc. How does the sexual orientation in any way affect any of that, the trademark behavior of “a real man”? And what are you afraid of in the locker room? Surprise butt-sex? You, big burly hockey players? That someone checks out your junk? Does that bother you and why? I just can’t wrap my mind around this mindset that a player’s worth is not solely weighed by their skill. Or around the ridiculous homophobia that keeps one from showering at the same time with a gay person.
 
2) As a kid, I thought Russia was cool with gays because of t.A.T.u
 
Do lesbians pull the longer straw once again, or why does it seem that in sports, gay women have it easier than gay men? Let’s face it, sports, especially those that make you sweat, were considered a man’s business for a long time, so perhaps it is still a manly world. Now, the lesbian stereotype seems to be a manly, cross-dressing butch, so perhaps, indeed, being a gay woman doesn’t infringe on or besmirch some holy ground of athletics.
 
As for the t.A.T.u –reference. These girls, while apparently not gay in real life, were huge in the early ‘00s. While many of their gimmicks seemed to be mere eye candy for the male audience, the girls also had real talent and some really good pop songs (and actually, I’m glad I stood my ground and listened to them even though my big brother asked in all seriousness whether I was a lesbian too). So it’s rather surprising they came from Russia who’s received a lot of shit for their nonsensical human right violations.

You know, ’cause in reality a bunch of guys can go and beat up a lesbian, but if the same guys beat up a straight woman, they’ll get their balls sawed off and fed to them.
 
3) Traits irrelevant to skill kill your career – or save it?
 
Jason Collins and Glenn Burke were unfamiliar names to me up until now, but apparently in both cases being openly homosexual can and/or has affected their careers. Jason Collins came out this year. He plays basketball in NBA, but his career is at its dusk, he’s 34. If he gets to renew his contract, will it be renewed so as to shut up gay activists, or because he’s still got something to give to his team? If it’s not renewed, will there be accusations of homophobia? Either way, what saddens me is that there’s potential for dragging his sexual orientation where only his skill should be relevant.
 
Major League Baseball player and possible high-five inventor Glen Burke’s story is sad. He was openly gay through his career in the ‘70s, but his reputation was eventually besmirched, and he was smoked out of the sport he loved.
 
I can understand why people would choose not to be open about their sexual orientation or love life when there’s the danger of jeopardizing their career, and it saddens me that the world has to be this way. I mean, is The Summer Hit 2013 maker, Robin Thicke getting his career shot down for the lyrical atrocity that is Blurred Lines? Yup, advocating non-consensual sex is ok. Sleeping with the same sex is not.
 
Writing
 
The message
 
How is this relevant to a writer, then? I know many writers tend to get a little wary whenever they’re asked if there’s a message in their story for fear of appearing preachy because that’s just not cool if you want to live in the same box with other libertarians. But I think we shouldn’t be afraid of sprinkling messages in our stories. In Solus, the main male hero is gay – and a warrior, serving an organization that doesn’t welcome openly gay men or women. But since that’s what he loves, what fills his life, he does it anyway, and this situation opens several interesting avenues for discussion to us, the writers. The story is not about his struggle as a gay man in a homophobic environment, but it is part of the character, and we can’t dismiss that part. We have also created a multinational society where Western liberalism clashes with non-liberal values, and that also provides us plenty of interesting viewpoints. Yes, our attitudes bleed in, that’s unavoidable, but I’m still excited to have such a story to work with that allows me to discuss matters that are important to me – like the right to love and live. Whether our execution will ultimately work, well, I guess if anyone ever ends up reading the novel, they’ll be the judge of that. 

Breaking Stereotypes
 
But another reason why I think this is relevant when it comes to writing is that whatever characters a writer creates; gay, straight, black, white, men, women, young, old; there can be so much more to that character than the gender/color/orientation/age-tag we glue on them, and I find it important to respect the many layers the creation can and should have. Even if it’s just the tip of the iceberg that makes it to the final manuscript. I also think that, to a degree, a writer who’s serious about their work, should take responsibility and portray the many walks of life with respect – even if they seemed to be the villains. Even though it’s 2013, a gay male hockey player has a different story to tell than a gay interior designer – and note, it might not necessarily mean the former struggles with his sexuality vs. his surroundings more than the latter.
 
Sources:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19941102&id=tplQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FRMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5210,373655
http://blogit.hs.fi/nieminen/2013/08/25/sateenkaari-sotshin-jaahallin-ylla/

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Gear Worship

By T. Trian

”Hey, man, I just got a new custom axe! 24 frets, maple fingerboard, hand-wound pick-ups, locking tuners, even a rare-wood body!”

“Dude, check out my new custom 1911, it’s the best pistol ever: bull barrel, lowered ejection port, full-length guide rod, beveled mag well, custom trigger job, adjustable night sights, golf-balled front and back straps, and ivory grips!”

“Seen my knew custom knife yet? It’s made of Damascus steel, it’s got a drop point blade, Micarta scales, convex grind, and it’s full tang… of course; no rat tails for me!” 

If you have any hobby or interest which requires tools, be it playing an instrument, sports, or working with computers, you have probably experienced GAS. Several times. No, I don’t mean flatulence, but a syndrome all too familiar to most people even if they don’t know the term Gear Acquisition Syndrome aka GAS. Many, such as yours truly, suffer of MGAS or Multiple GAS. Presently I’m GASsing for a new guitar head & cab (Blackstar Series One 200 & 2×12 closed cab with V30s), a rifle (VZ-58 since I’m on a budget, a well-tuned AR-10 once I got extra cash), and two fixed blades (a decent kukri and a KA-BAR Eskabar BK14). 

Dishing out hundreds for a blade is cool if you can afford it, but can Damascus really do so much more than 1095 + good heat treatment?

Dishing out hundreds for a blade is cool if you can afford it, but can Damascus really do so much more than 1095 + good heat treatment?

I’m lucky though: I have a gig-worthy amp, albeit a mediocre one, I have a gun, just not a rifle, and I got plenty of knives although not a kukri. That means I can practice all my skills without having to wait until I’ve saved enough money to quench my GAS. Too many people spend too much time mooning over gear porn, fantasizing about their next perfect tool while utterly failing to realize they are just that: tools, not works of art. Yeah, I know, there are guitars and guns out there that could be works of art, but I believe what Miyamoto Musashi said in his Book of Five Rings. Paraphrasing, his message was that you shouldn’t get attached to your sword because it’s just a tool: you should be able to pick up any blade after losing / breaking your last one and perform just as well or almost as well as with your old one.

All too often I’ve witnessed guys who are just utterly lost if they can’t perform on their baby. Okay, that came out wrong, but you get the picture: your favorite, highly customized 1911 craps out on you just before your first stage at an IPSC tournament, and you have to shoot on a borrowed stock Glock. End result: disaster. Or you can’t get your own drum kit to your band’s gig and end up making a mess of the music just because you can’t adapt to another guy’s kit, you’re out of your comfort zone.

Samus Aran relies on this piece, but do you really need one too?

Samus Aran relies on this piece, but do you really need one too?

 That’s just being pampered. When drums were my main instrument, I got to play a gig on my own set… twice. And I played over a hundred gigs in over two dozen bands, which means most of the time I played on someone else’s kit. Usually I brought my own cymbals and snare, but that wasn’t always an option either. I can’t remember the last time I played a gig with my own guitar amp: I just bring my guitar and pedal board and use someone else’s amp which is sometimes an adventure (ever tried setting up quickly on a Mesa Road King when you got no soundcheck and just 5 minutes until it’s time to start the set? Not that they aren’t great amps, but it’s a good idea to know the owner in situations like that and make sure he/she’s not yet too drunk to help). Band competitions always have schedules tighter than a homophobe’s asshole at a gay club, so a couple of times I’ve had to play my wife’s SG when I’ve broken a string mid-song on my Telecaster. It’s a bit nerve-wrecking, but perfectly doable as long as I don’t pay attention to what can’t be done, and focus on what can be done with the backup instrument.

Good enough for Keif, but not good enough for you?

Good enough for Keif, but not good enough for you?

          
Writers are lucky in this respect: we rarely rely on gear to such an extent as musicians or athletes. Some still enjoy working with pen and paper and those living in the current century are usually content with whatever POS comp that has some word editor and internet access. For a long time K and I wrote on one laptop. It was a bit annoying, switching back and forth, especially since most scenes involve both of our characters, but it was all we could afford at the time, so we made do. A friend of ours built a computer for us as a wedding present in 2010 and soon we realized what a good idea it would be to get two mice and two keyboards. Now if only someone figured out how to install a second cursor and pointer on Windows and we’d be set for life! All seriousness aside, two mice and two keyboards are already a dream come true for a team of two writers.

So do writers suffer of gear worship? Well, yes and no. The problem is just less hardware-related and more… “software”-related. And by software, I mean our minds. I have encountered many self-proclaimed “writers” even though they actually never write anything. They just talk a lot about writing, crit other people’s works (usually excessively harshly), and discuss the theoretical aspects of writing, the process of getting published etc. ad nauseam. Yet they too, like our more musical or athletic brothers and sisters, fall into the trap of focusing on anything and everything besides the most important, definitive thing, i.e. writing.

I don’t know what it is about writing that seems to draw such people. Maybe it’s the artsy-fartsy tag “writer” they’re after even though they lack the fire and passion of actual writers. Kind of like MMA aficionados who have seen every UFC bout and then some, yet have never gone to a single MMA (or any martial arts) class. Why? Because MMA, like any other sport, art, or craft, is fucking hard work. Becoming good takes a shitload of effort, time, and dedication, often great sacrifices as well, but, then again, if you truly are a crafts(wo)man, that doesn’t matter. Hell, many of us enjoy the hard work on some masochistic level; getting our asses kicked at the gym, practicing guitar licks we can’t play until our fingers ache and sting, writing and rewriting our WIPs until we dream about the characters only to have our betas / forum critics bash it and tear us a new one. Well, our wonderful betas have been gracious enough to at least wear silk gloves while doing the tearing, but you get the picture: it’s not always fun and games. Nothing is if you do it enough to become good at it.

I believe it’s just that, the amount of discomfort and hardship, which drives many of us to dream of better gear, thinking (usually mistakenly) it would somehow help us suck less. Well, unless your guitar is an utter piece of excrement that barely deserves the name, doesn’t stay in tune longer than a few seconds (like my first electric guitar: didn’t stay in tune through even one song, but it taught me to tune by ear since I couldn’t be arsed to always use a tuner), can’t be set up for correct intonation etc. a more expensive guitar won’t make you sound any better. You’ll just look stupid sucking onstage, being outplayed by the virtuoso with a stock $500 axe he bought used from his neighbor. Just like you’ll look ridiculous missing your target with your custom race gun when competing against some guy with a Glock who spent a fraction of the money on his gun and the rest on ammo and actually practiced, got good.

The same goes for us writers: we should focus less on extra-curricular activities, like debating word choices, finding the best character data sheet template, asking ‘is this plot twist good?’ and pay more attention to the craft itself. It’s pointless to wonder whether you should e-publish, self-publish, or go traditional if you haven’t even finished the first draft of your MS. Or, rather, if you haven’t finished the 100th draft, because every single first draft ever produced is crap. Don’t kid yourself and pretend your shit doesn’t stink; it does, just like mine, his, and hers. And their dog’s.

I got a proposal for you: take one day a week, every week for one year when you do nothing else writing-related but write your story. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first or 100th draft. It doesn’t matter if you’re editing a specific part or rewriting the whole shebang. What matters is putting words on paper (or screen). Get that word count up, four digits or more. If you are a writer, you should write. That’s what we do. If you don’t write even this much… well, let’s put it this way: nobody likes the guy who never trains martial arts but wears TapOut and constantly talks about the latest UFC event. Don’t be that guy. Instead, be the Musashi of writing: focus on your skills, focus on improving them, and not through hardwire updates either. Write on your computer, write on your cell phone while on the bus to work / school, write on a napkin at lunch, doesn’t matter : just write.
 
Peace out,

T. Trian
 
PS. Also, what rock have you been living under if you think gun / knife / guitar porn means porn involving any of said items (yes, such people actually do exist)? To all the cave dwellers out there: it means pictures of those items, usually expensive, well-made ones you drool at in magazines or at trade shows. Now go and clean your dirty fucking mind already, scrub, rinse, repeat, and then learn to use fucking Google when you encounter an unfamiliar expression.

New Autumn’s Resolutions

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By K. Trian

I’ve always found making resolutions at New Year somewhat difficult and forced while I’m way better at resolutions in the autumn. That’s when a new academic year starts, I usually end up doing or looking for a new job or several, start new hobbies or continue old ones, and all in all become more productive than during summer.

My resolutions for this autumn:

1.
The resolution: I will start my Master’s Thesis, and even though my future profession will most likely be an English/French teacher, I was planning to write the thesis about a literature subject instead of an educational one (well, it can be educational too, but you get the point). So my first resolution is to be sharp right from the start, get and keep my shit together, and really try to make a good thesis out of it.
The outcome: I get my “priorities” straight and start to slack off mid-term and my thesis turns out mediocre because everyone says it doesn’t really matter as long as I get my diploma and my ass out of university.

2.
The resolution: I will substitute in local schools as much as I can to gain invaluable work-experience.
The outcome: I will work hard and with a crazy schedule up until Christmas, then I’ll suffer a burn-out and spend the spring slacking off.

3.
The resolution: I will save money for a trip to the US for summer 2014.
The outcome: Our car will break down approximately 3-5 times over the course of winter and eats all the savings.

4.
The resolution: I will continue a previously neglected hobby and practice at least twice a week.
The outcome: I get swamped once again with work and school that I barely have the energy to practice my old hobbies.

5.
The resolution: T and I will finish editing Solus.
The outcome: Possibly the only one of the resolutions that will actually stick.

How about you, guys? Any autumn resolutions you’d like to share? 🙂

P.S. Here’s a picture taken this morning. I was heading to my summer job and saw the rainbow(s) hinting that’s where I can find my pot of gold. Well, my salary begs to differ…

Well, this is ironic!

Well, this is ironic!