All In The Family

*(originally posted at boyatlarge.com in 1997)

…I lived about 22 years of my existance never actually meeting any of my family members because I grew up in America and the rest of them, with exception to my direct family, were still in Vietnam. I was much too young to remember what Vietnam was like (I was about 6 months old when my mom, brother, and I left the country in 1975). When I finally got to return to the homeland this past year of 1997, I got to meet practically everyone in my family…a good portion of whom was at the airport the first day I arrived. They had not seen me since 1975 and it was very important that they got to see me when I first entered the country. It was quite a welcome…


annvrsy…that’s me in the center of the pic waving. While in Vietnam, one of my aunts and uncles had a celebration party for their 10 year anniversary. It was quite the party. A lot of my family and their friends were there to congratulate Aunt Hue and Uncle Hoang. It was kind of a weird situation for me because the restaurant that the party was held at also had a wedding reception going on there on the other side of the restaurant — which was
just the other half of the room (there were a few situations where guests ended up sitting on the wrong side of the room and not realizing it until they noticed that they didn’t know any of the people sitting at the table with them). The restaurant was in charge of entertainment and one of the most out of place acts there that night was this sparkling, bikini clad girl spinning, eating, and blowing fire off of these sticks while dancing to some techno music (her dancing assistants added to the crazyness of the whole routine). The whole room enjoyed watching the act and I guess I was the only one that thought it was way queer for this kind of an act to be at an anniversay/wedding reception (I was also embarrassed because I was asked to video tape the anniversary party for my aunt, so, I felt like a real sicko standing there video taping this girl in her shiny underwear all the while this absolutely adorable girl on the other side of the room — whom I was falling for — watched me video taping the whole thing). Oh well, at least the restaurant band played a few recognizable polkas that night…grandma

…that’s my grandmother (a sweet and spunky ol’ gal) and my cousin My. In Vietnam, disposable diapers are nonaccessable. Instead, they pretty much begin potty training the babies when they begin to sit up on their own. My is only a year old. Every morning when she wakes up, my Aunt Tuyen or someone would set her down on this little bowl and start making this hissing sound, “sssssss”. They do this in order to encourage the baby to pee. They would keep doing it until she was finished and then let her be on her way. This would be done about 4 or 5 times a day. Every once in a while, I would help out and sit with My and hiss for her so my aunt could work on her sewing (she makes customized women’s clothing for a living). Everytime I did it though, My would also make poopies. So, my family started making jokes saying I had the power to make babies poop (I also did it for another lady’s baby and the same result happened). I thought about how funny it would be to have this superhero that his main power was to do this. He would be in the middle of a confrontation and then he would start hissing and his foe would poop. Imagine how disoriented his enemies would be (“I will destroy this pathetic mudball of a planet and rule over all of these worthless — oops! Excuse me…”)…

grndpa…my grandfather is a quiet, soft spoken man. At first glance, I was a bit nervous being around him because he rarely smiled and didn’t say much. I was afraid that he was one of those extremely traditional old men who refuses to accept change and that maybe he found some of my mannerisms to be uncouth and unorthodox. But as I got to know him, I found out the reason he was so quiet was because he was content with the situation. He was happy that his family was together again (with exception to Aunt Tu who just came over to America a few years ago and couldn’t afford to make this trip back) and that he finally got to see his second oldest grandson again. I know now that he is just the opposite of his angry physical appearance and, in fact, he’s very kindhearted and sensitive — especially about his family…five

…in Vietnam, you address your family members by a numbering system. For example, this is my Aunt Lan, which I called Di Nam which is roughly translated as “Aunt Five”. I had an “Aunt Ten” and an “Aunt Nine” and an “Uncle Six” and etc…there were a few exceptions for the younger aunts. For example, there was my Aunt Tuyen whom we called Ut U which means “chubby child” — she got the name because in her earlier years, she was quite obese compared to how incredibly thin she is now. Then there was my Aunt Thanh who we called Ut Chi because she was the youngest (Ut Chi is roughly translated as “baby daughter”). It seemed cruel to have these names but they were just nicknames and there was more love to them then there was any intent to hurt. I, on occassion, was called dau dien which means “crazy head”…

nhuong…this is my cousin Nhung (pronounced “yuung”). Out of all my cousins, she was the one I got along the most with. Her mother and some of my other aunts constantly got on to her for being too outgoing and too annoying and trying to be tough all the time but it was these qualities that I think made her and I get along so well. She would come over to the house after school (she was in the 3rd grade) and then head up to my bedroom, where I was usually working on my artwork, and start teasing me for my silly haircut, or bad pronunciation of Vietnamese words and phrases, or how she couldn’t understand me when I spoke English, or what not. In return, I would tease her for being too dark skinned for a Vietnamese girl (she got a bit too tanned from being outside so much), or for being so short, or for not being able to understand me when I spoke English. We would just pick on each other (sometimes she would hide my art supplies while I put tape in her hair or what not. Her best prank was when she put a cricket (which everyone knows I am deathly afraid of) in my pencil box and when I opened it, it jumped out at me and scared me senseless). Anyway, I think one of my favorite moments with her was when my family and I were waiting at the airport for my departing flight to arrive and the whole time, her mother kept telling her to give me a goodbye hug and kiss and she would refuse, as if doing it would kill her, but when it was time for me to go through the gates for the last call, she ran up and hugged me for a long time and gave me two kisses on the cheek. I guess she wasn’t as tough as she wanted everyone to think she was…hanhshrt

…my cousin Hanh. I rarely got to see her because she worked at a clothing store from 8 in the morning to 10 at night. I was usually asleep when she left for work and then she would spend some time with me at night after
she got home from work. She really wants to come to America but her chances of getting to go are very skim and almost next to none because the priority ranking for bringing over family is usually spouses and children first, next parents, then siblings, and possibly cousins later, so, if I were to try and sponsor her over to the States, it would take forever for the paperwork to go through (it took my mother 10 years to finally get my Aunt Tu to America). I jokingly told her I would hook her up with one of my friends from America so she could come over. She joked about it, too, but I think that she actually considered that option. Anyway, I hope that she can finally get to America someday while she is still young…

momboat…before ever meeting any of my family back home, I could go days — months — without ever thinking about them. They were like strangers to me and I just didn’t know who they were, so, out of sight — out of mind was the case. Now, having met them and spending a mere month with them, I can’t stop thinking of them. I miss them all very much and I hope to be able to make as many trips back to see them as possible.

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The Firegirl and Her Dancers

*(originally posted at boyatlarge.com in 1997)

…at my Aunt Hue and Uncle Hoang’s 10th anniversary party, I saw the most awkward but, yet, interesting bit of entertainment.  At the first of the show, a lovely young lady, who I was a bit smitten to at the time, was on stage singing. After her song, she went offstage and then two very energetic gals in little outfits came on and danced spasticly all over the stage to some Vietnamese techno music. To finish it off, the first girl came back onstage but, this time, with less clothing but more of a — pardon the pun — spark to her act…


dcrs…after the first girl walked off stage (after singing a beautiful Vietnamese song) the speakers blared some fast-paced techno jolts into the room and then two adrenaline-rushed girls came onstage and were literally all over the place. This took the audience by surprise because, after all, it was an anniversary / wedding reception. The audience wasn’t offended by it, though. It actually brought the mood in the room up a few more notches (not that it was a bad mood in the air in the first place — everyone was having a lot of fun — but after this act, everyone’s reservations dropped and people were a lot more energetic and pumped to dance and sing and have a good time). But, this was only the beginning…fg3

…as everyone watched, we all suddenly realized that the two dancers were a cover-up for what was to come next. While the two ladies danced and distracted the audience, the previous singing girl had gone to the backroom to change into a less — ahem — modest outfit. As soon as she was ready, the two dancers ran off stage to make room for a sparkling, bikini-clad fire twirler — and the fires did twirl. She danced to the same music the two girls had danced to but, only now, rythmically waving and throwing the fire batons around her. And to prove she wasn’t just another pretty face, she also put the burning ends of the batons into her mouth, on her tongue, and seductively across her arms and thighs. She even encouraged the men offstage to come on stage with unlit cigarettes which she would light with one of the burning batons in her teeth. This definitely wasn’t the usual fare you see at an anniversary party…it felt more like a bachelor party…fg4

…much to many of my family members’ surprise, I was quite embarrassed to be watching. My aunt and uncle had asked me to videotape the evening for them so they could look back on the night, and, so, I was responsible for recording our risque little show. Normally I wouldn’t have minded but, earlier on in the evening, my girl-radar tuned me in on this lovely little girl in a pink dress and white blouse. It was one of those moments where I knew nothing would ever become of the situation because of the language barrier, the distance of our homes, and mostly,my spineless nerves but I was going to at least try to impress her that night so she could go home and wonder who that keen-o, neat-o guy was at the party. Well, by the time the firegal had started her act and I had begun taping it for my aunt and uncle (I originally planned on leaving it out but my Uncle Hanh, being the joker he was, pushed me into filming it while he teased me as I was filming), I noticed that I was in clear view of the girl I was trying to impress. I was so embarrassed because I had spent the whole night not paying much attention to any of the other girls in the room (although there were many other beautiful girls there) and just looking over at her and smiling when we made eye contact…and now I had my full attention on the next-to-naked girl on stage…and even worse I was videotaping it (if I had my way, I would have followed the cutie gal around the room all night and videotaped her but I think that might have scared her off). Oh, well, I did get to catch her on video later — she was standing in the background when I was taping my Uncle Hoang at the door wishing everyone a goodnight…fg2

…so, what was one to think of a culture that encourages scantily-clad firewomen to dance at anniversary parties? What kind of an image did I get from a bunch of grown, married men running onstage to have cigarettes lit by the human torch and tipping her while doing so? What does one make of a room full of men and women drinking heavily and just being themselves around each other and less reserved as they seem to out in the streets? I think they are all human just like the rest of us. The Asian cultures are usually seen as quiet and very mannerly and and not the types to expect to “have a good time”…and this is almost very true…but they do have a good time. They just do some a bit differently in different situations, as everyone does. My family has the most fun sitting on the floor in the living having dinner with each other and talking and just being with each other. Others like to sit on their porch on a warm day and just watch the children play in the streets and hear the hustleof the marketplace around the corner. I like to sit back and watch life and capture it on film or in my drawings…the important point is everyone is having fun and everyone is happy. So, whether it be fishing or walking in the country or singing karaoke or even twirling fire in your underwear, the people of Vietnam are just like the rest of the world and they’re having fun.

TANGLED vs. FROZEN*

rapunzel*(or “I Liked FROZEN Better When it Was Called TANGLED”)

You would think by now, people would stop talking about FROZEN since the initial “this movie is so progressive for a Disney animated movie” marketing has lost its novelty but thanks to Internet memes, the damned thing keeps rearing its ugly head to remind me of why I was so bored with the movie (and glad to see people finally saying how annoying “Let it Go” is).

Well, since it’s on my mind again, let me reiterate my feelings about FROZEN in a more constructive way than I have in the past. It’s not that I think it’s a horrible movie and I can understand why people liked it but, for me, the things people say they liked about it was pretty much already done (and done better) in a movie called TANGLED. In fact, that was my first reaction when I saw the trailer prior to FROZEN’s release: “Hey, look. Disney is making a new movie that is pretty much TANGLED but with ice.”

To prove my point, let’s take a look at the most common reasons why FRZOEN lovers consider the movie so much better and supposedly more “progressive” than it deserves to be credited for:

1. “Elsa and Anna’s abusive parents”
Really? Abusive? Actually, they were misguided. And can you really blame them? They were at a loss because no one ever prepared them with the idea that one of their children COULD MAKE ICE AT WILL one day. If you have to blame them for anything, they should be called out for making the idiotic decision, when they realized they needed guidance, to go to a bunch of stupid, hairy trolls for advice. Hell, had they not had the dumbass versions of Ewoks giving them bad advice, things may have not turned out the way they did.

Now, this is where TANGLED scores a point (and then some) because the person who Rapunzel thought was her mother WAS A TOTAL BITCH! Cripes, she locked her “daughter” in a tower and would not allow her to see the world in any way and was simply using her as a way to benefit herself. Rapunzel would have been better off had she been born into Elsa’s and Anna’s family. So, like I said, Rapunzel gets one point for this bullet.

2. “Elsa’s self-empowerment”
The problem I have with general reactions to social problems is that when addressed on a general level, people go to extremes. If you are taking a stance against something, instead of the natural growth of a moderate progression to healing and balance, we simply do just the opposite of what we are against. But this is very rarely ever a way to resolve anything. In this instance, Disney wanted to draw in the supporters for a strong independent female character so they made one that was so “strong” that she did not need anyone else. But if you really analyze what she did, that self-empowerment caused even more trouble and hurt many more people than when she was hidden away in her room.

Rapunzel came to the decision that it was time she saw the rest of the world and, in doing so, went against her mother’s wishes and ventured out beyond her tower. But as she did this, she struggled with the guilt of defying her mother, who she loved and believed loved her back in the same way. Then, as she continued on her journey of self-empowerment, she saw that she needed support from others to succeed in this, hence forming strong bonds with those who would be her friends that she did not have before. True self-empowerment is being able to recognize that you have the ability to take charge of your life, which includes the relationships you can have. Elsa’s “self-empowerment” was selfish and self-serving and not what I considered a strong role model for this. Another point for TANGLED.

3. “Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness and honesty”
Not sure why this one always makes the list. Awkward, clumsiness, and honesty are common traits you can see in lead characters. Maybe not as common with Disney “princesses” but not entirely new (see MULAN, ALICE IN WONDERLAND) and when it comes down to it, Anna’s was to a fault. A fault that nearly killed her and Elsa when she leapt right into an engagement with a man SHE JUST MET. I can’t say I would applaud this character trait if it leads her to making such a huge, selfish mistake (which seems to be the common thread with the lead characters in this film). Her so-called “honesty” caused her to make rash decisions and speak up before she could consider how she should speak up. When people say, “I’m just being honest,” they are often times using this as an excuse to be insulting and condescending instead of understanding and empathetic, which is what Anna (And Elsa) lack in their “honesty”.

Now, Rapunzel was all of this, too, but her actions did not threaten the life of others and it was part of why her growth in being a part of the real world was much more endearing. Also, where with Anna, it was simply a two-dimensional, quirky personality trait, Rapunzel’s clumsy akwardness was incorporated into her actions where, even in one instance, she made a regular kitchen appliance the most sought after weapon of choice in the movie. Rapunzel’s honesty was an awakening and she handled that awakening in a more thought out and strategic approach, which also kept her honest in the fact that she was honest to herself that negotiating with her mother to venture out of the tower would not happen and in doing so, she no longer spoke of it. This is something I think a lot of people in the world could learn from: sometimes, being honest is not the best policy in the general sense of what honesty is. Sometimes keeping it to yourself is a better policy because your honesty may not be required in some instances outside of you merely wanting to be heard, which does not justify everything. Both films technically get a point for this one but because Rapunzel used it better, TANGLED gets the tie-breaker.

4. “Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman”
Kristoff was a pivotal element for this film because he was the one thing that kept this movie from being a blatant, faux-feministic man-bashing piece of propoganda. Pretty much every man in the film was portrayed as manipulative, greedy, war mongering, stupid, and on and on. Kristoff was the only example of a more complicated heterosexual male character in the film so his presence was key to avoid making the movie so biased that it would not have played well for one of the demographics for the film: all the fathers who had to take their kids to the movie and sit through it with their daughters who would have only seen men as the negative list I mentioned above without the presence of Kristoff.

Again, TANGLED already had this in the character of Flynn long before FROZEN claimed to be so progressive. I don’t believe anyone could argue that Rapunzel was not the strongest character in this film, which she should be because it was her movie, but they made Flynn a complex character who, hidden behind his “macho” facade, he was still a child using his behavior to validate himself, but through his relationship with Rapunzel, he learned that putting his desires below those of others was a more genuine way to be strong. Where Kristoff was simply a device to keep the movie from being 100% biased in its protrayal of men, TANGLED gave us a male character who not only led next to a strong woman, he was able to learn from her. TANGLED takes the point.

5. “Oaken’s gay family”
Similar to point #4, this was another plugin character simply inserted to meet a generic check-off list of things to include so as to distract from the obvious agenda of the film and to score points with the progressive crowd but the fact that it became so talked about so quickly, this only supports that Disney needed this charcter device as a tool and not a necessary character to the development of the story. And who came up with this title? Oaken may have been gay and his partner in the sauna may have been gay but there is no indication that the entire family is gay so the phrase “gay family” is a bit ridculous. I do find it surprising, though, that the snowman who displayed homosexual tendencies is less talked about because if I were playing the marketing strategy card, I would push this character as the “gay one” more because he was more beneficial to the story. So, with that, I believe FROZEN has this covered but everyone seems to be focusing on the wrong one.

TANGLED did not blatantly hit us over the head with this messaging like FROZEN’s PR people did but it was there. The scene where Rapunzel and Flynn go to the bar full of “bad” guys, the musical number “I’ve Got a Dream” lets us meet quite a few of the charcters in the bar, some of which displayed character traits that could be related to their sexual orientation. But because it was more subtle and not brandished all over articles and discussions, I think it was more sucessful because it gave the audience a chance to see a room full of men who were interacting together regardless of sexual orientation while showing us that there quite possibly may have been some gay men in the scene but they did not make that the key trait for us to recognize them by (isn’t that the true meaning of equality, seeing everyone as a person and not a character trait?). Another technical tie, but once again, because TANGLED did it better, the point goes to TANGLED.

6. “Arendelle’s unquestioning acceptance of a queen”
The last two points on this list pretty much go to FROZEN by default because they were not plot elements for TANGLED but to stay consistent, I will address them both in relationship to both films. Yes, this is an important theme in that it should be acceptable for a kingdom to easily accept a queen as the ruler over a king without any qualms and FROZEN does address this. But the thing that FROZEN does that marrs this effort is it writes the queen as resentful, selfish, and angry, all traits that you do not want to see in a leader regardless of gender. With that, this is an example of how some advocates for equality are greatly misguided in the idea that they would much rather see one of their own in a position of power even if the candidate is the wrong person for the job as long as the other person doesn’t get it (even though she/he may even be more qualified when you look at ability over physical attributes). (Unrelated but this is the perfect place to interject this: I would love to see a woman in office at the next presidential election but I will not vote for her just because she is a woman, but only because she is the better candidate. So, let’s get the right woman out there and stop talking about Hilary Clinton in 2016)

For TANGLED, again, this is not a plot element but we can raise the point that in TANGLED, the king is not the all powerful symbol of “strength” and is portrayed as sensitive and emotional to the point that every time you see him, it looks like he is about to burst into tears over how much he misses his daughter and the look on his face when he gets Rapunzel back for the first time chokes me up every time. And behind those big sad eyes in nearly every scene, the one who is there to give the king a boost for understanding and hope and to lend a strong hand of support is the queen. And the kingdom that they rule over appears to be a happy one and peaceful and I can only attribute it to the strenth of the queen in a time when the king is not fully there without his daughter. But, to be fair, FROZEN gets this point because it is the only one that addresses this, but TANGLED has a better representation of the idea.

7. “Everyone’s reaction to Anna’s foolish engagement”
This is one that I would like to see thrown out because, frankly, I feel like it was simply tacked on because the person(s) who originally came up with this list knew that no one simply just stops at six items on a list. Seven is more acceptable and they really needed a seventh one so after really, really reaching for one more “valid” example that FROZEN was so progressive, they came up with this throwaway one. But it is what it is so I’m going to address it. For FROZEN, whoopdi-friggin-doo, someone addressed that they did not agree with the decision. It didn’t stop the decision. In fact, it only made Anna more adamant about going through with it. Seriously, is that something we need to celebrate? This one is masked behind the very thinly veiled idea that this is supposed to be Disney poking fun at itself for how many of their films presumably have young women quickly marrying men they just met, when in reality, the real message is you should be able to express your opinion when you oppose something without having to worry about consequences of what your expression may result in. Isn’t that how we live today? Under the philosophy of I should be able to say whatever the hell I want and if anyone is offended by it, it’s not my problem and they can just ignore me. Sound about right? But the hypocrocy that exists in that ideal is that if you lived by that, then you should just keep your opinion to yourself if it is about disagreeing with someone else’s point of view. Had Elsa been more caring, she would have considered how could she have approached Anna about this rash decision in a way that would not drive her more into the arms of this man she is blindly infatuated with. She would have considered a strategic approach rather than just blurting out how she felt right then and there. But that is besides the point because the conceit here is that her expressing that she disagreed is the progressive display here, so with that, yes, FROZEN meets the qualification. But then, since the other Disney movies never show that people did not agree (or agree, for that matter), we can’t really say that this is the first time it has ever happened. It’s simply the first time it was written into the scene where in the past, no one really thought about it otherwise because young lovers will do whatever the hell they want to do no matter if your opposition is vocal or not. I think I can confidently say this is pretty true in reality and so whether or not Elsa expressed it is a moot point and is simply another device used by the author of this list to trick viewers into believing this movie is so ahead of its time in its boldness and daring messages.

Having said that, again, this doesn’t apply to TANGLED because Rapunzel and Flynn did not get married right away and based on Flynn’s telling of it, their marriage did not happen until years later (in which HE chased her). But because I still believe this is a throwaway point and TANGLED did demonstrate a healthy length of time before the two got married, it is a much more progressive approach to the young lovers’ union than any wishy washy Elsa was so honest bullcrap, I’m giving this point to TANGLED for not being so obvious in its handling of this subject.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So where does this leave the final tally? It looks like FROZEN got 1 out of 7 through a technicality and TANGLED got 6 out of 7, so, although this is going to seem like an overstatement, TANGLED wins at being more progressive than FROZEN and, in doing so, making FROZEN an unnecessary product in the social awareness agenda because Disney already did it, not only previously, but better the first time around. Now, I have to make it clear that this is merely an evaluation of an idea that is widely accepted in which I feel like is giving credit to a movie that really doesn’t deserve it. As far as whether it is a bad movie or not, well, that is subjective and although I did not care for it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good for anyone who likes it. Fortunately, for this household, the other day when I asked my son if he wanted to watch FROZEN (since he had already watched TANGLED about a gazillion times and FROZEN only about 1 and a half times), he simply said, “No. I don’t like FROZEN.” From the mouth of babes.

How Matthew McConaughey Failed as an Academy Award Winner

Every year millions of people all over the world celebrate the acts of individuals in the medium of film in the most prestigious of awards shows, The Academy Awards. Or to the laymen out there: The Oscars. For 86 years now, we have gathered around as families, friends, or whomever the hell we can get to sit through four to five hours of Hollywood ass kissing while we place our bets on who will win the coveted gold statue that night.

The night is a night about Hollywood. It is a night about celebrating the act of acting. The theme of the thespian. The drama of, well, um, drama (and comedy, animated shorts, documentary, and a whole slew of other categories we don’t care about as much). Even those who do not believe in the existence of God unwittingly put these stars up on pedestals as gods and worship their every role as if they were watching the unfolding of the great Creative Design in two hour blocks, each time, indulging in the forbidden fruit that is the world of celebrity, wishing we could be a part of it. But, alas, not all of us could realistically pull off surviving in cold space or making intimate love to an operating system or surviving the horrors of human cruelty placed upon your entire race. So we leave it to the “gods” to do that for us and as they succeed, we hand them their idol and then we quote them like Gospel in the forms of badly Photoshopped memes or animated gifs.

Matthew McConaughey / Lupita Nyong’o and their Oscar wins (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Credit: Chris Pizzello/invision/ap)

Matthew McConaughey / Lupita Nyong’o and their Oscar wins (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Credit: Chris Pizzello/invision/ap)

But then, we crucify our gods. We use their wisdom and their power to gain our own self-righteousness and then we quickly turn on them when we start to think that we are just like them. Maybe better. But in the end, those who have a heart, those who can understand that these celebrities are not products of the art form that they indulge themselves in but are the sad products of what we have made them to believe that they are. And then we punish the shit out of them once they reach that level because subconsciously, we are jealous of the success we have given them. Matthew McConaughey recently received the Academy Award for best actor, portraying a man stricken with aids who uses his new found perspective on life to fight to help others suffering from the same disease. His acceptance speech was that of a man who loves what he does, who has been inspired by the power of what Hollywood has afforded those like him, to be able to make a career out of being other people, a man who is humbled by the idea that he is now standing in front of a room full of his peers (and millions of television viewers) being told that they like him. They really, really like him.

For many, these words of humility and inspiration made up “the best speech of the night.” But to others, these were the words of a humble-bragger. A man who obviously thinks he is better than everyone else and is so above the paeans around him that he does not need to even mention the character that he played and the suffering that his character went through. To those who are on this boat, wagon, or whatever high horse you rode on in (talking to you Mr. Daniel D’Addario), piss off mightily, why don’t you?!

D’addario (along with his many brainwashed followers and fans) accused Mr. McConaughey of displaying self-importance and absolute disgrace when his entire speech in reaction to receiving an award given to him by his peers telling him that they were overjoyed with his performance as an actor, did not once use that time to raise some sort of political or social stance on the dangers of aids and the suffering of those inflicted with the disease. Because that is what awards shows have become to some. No longer has the original intent of giving each other a pat on the back for their efforts, it has become a staging ground for pushing your ideals on a captive audience, which apparently is the rule now and if you simply thank people for liking you, you do not deserve the screen time, so get off the stage, Mr. McConaughey.

D’addario supported his opinion by comparing McConaughey’s speech with that of Lupita Nyong’o’s, best supporting actress for her part in “12 Years a Slave” where she called out the suffering of the enslaved people in a heartfelt monologue of the importance of not forgetting what they went through. Her words were genuine and her intentions (as far as I could tell) were true. But does that make McConaughey uncaring for not mentioning the subject matter of the film he won the award for. Hell no. Because he was not on the stage to do that. He was given the privilege of being at that podium to say, “Thank you,” to those who appreciated his performance and he used it in a way which was contextual and, quite honestly, very sincere. He didn’t need to bring extra awareness to the plight of the character in his film because he won the award so that meant people saw it and they already knew what the subject matter was. And no offense to Ms. Nyong’o because, again, I do believe she was as sincere about her feelings about slavery as McConaughey was about how much he owed God for his receiving the award, but I do believe that when most people deter away from his award to call out some political/social commentary, it is just as narcissistic and self-righteous as what D’addario is accusing McConaughey of doing, because the main reason they are doing it is to draw attention to themselves. This is the priority of most vocal protestors of political/social causes: to make sure everyone sees them supporting a self-glorifying cause. And don’t give me any bullshit about how all of the Sean Penns or Bonos or whomevers out there would not care if no one knew that they supported what they supported. If that were the case, many of them wouldn’t bother.

The Academy Awards has always been about celebrating individuals and giving those individuals a chance to be recognized for their performances and efforts. When they get up on that podium and have to quickly say their thank yous before getting played off by the orchestra, they don’t have time to try and please all of the self-righteous do-gooders out there by calling out their favorite in-the-spotlight charity. And they shouldn’t have to. Matthew McConaughey did not win the award because he played a character with aids. He won the award because he acted well. If this were not the case, then the studio could have put Pauley Shore in that role and he would have also won. But we all know that is not the truth so let McConaughey have his moment. And if you really need to call some attention to yourself, go out there and use some cause to get people to look at yourself on your own time. Daniel D’Addario did it, so can you.

Confessions of a Gifted and Talented Student

I can’t remember exactly at what point in my life I started resenting the idea that it seemed wrong to be labeled “gifted and talented” but I do believe it was fairly early on because as far back as I can remember, I didn’t like doing things the way people expected me to do them but instead of it being recognized as a child going against the grain to rebel against the expected social norms, I was applauded for my daring creativity and clever ways of viewing life. And this made me very uncomfortable.

Life as a refugeeMy mother recently explained to me that I somehow, prior to me being nine months old, figured out how to walk on my own. She discovered my ability to walk on accident when she had to put me down momentarily to do something and I pulled myself up and started walking like a wobbly child would walk who had the knowledge of how to do it but not enough practice to have fine-tuned it. We were in a refugee camp when this happened. My mother, older brother, and I had just fled war-torn Vietnam, which had fallen to the Communist North, and for the next year, we only knew life in refugee camps as different groups tried to help the fleeing Vietnamese people relocate and start new lives. The camps were not the greatest accommodations but when you have no country to call your own, you pretty much accepted what you could get. Well, most people would. As for my mother, she has always been a little OCD about cleanliness (probably where I got it from) and even in a dusty old refugee camp, she did not like setting her less than a year old son down on the dirt covered concrete floors, so she pretty much held me the whole time. How I figured out how to walk on my own is still a mystery but, as I said, my mom had just set me down — probably because she had to do something important that required both hands and had to overcome her fussiness about dirt and allow my little diapered butt to touch the ground for once — and I apparently pulled myself up on something and pushed away and started walking. She was shocked but also in awe by the foreshadowing that this incident was showing her.

My earliest recollection of my “gifted” mind was in kindergarten. The class had just come back from a walk through the nearby neighborhood for a field trip and we were assigned the activity of drawing something that we saw on our walk. I had chosen a dog, in which I drew it the way I recalled it looking, using zigzagging of my lines to represent the fur on the dogs legs. My teacher interrupted me to ask how I knew to render fur like that and I remember my answer being something in the vein of, “Because that’s how the dog looks.” I recall her bringing in another teacher to show her the way I was drawing and there was some fuss about it but I don’t remember what had happened after that, simply that I was annoyed that I couldn’t finish my drawing with all of the interruptions.

Later, in the first grade, I was in my reading group, in which the class was broken out into reading groups based on the level of ability. At the time, I did not know that I was in the lowest level group and looking back, I think the reason I was was because there were not that many Vietnamese — or any other foreign ethnic groups — in the area so they assumed my English reading skills must have been low and since I started first grade in a different district than where I went to kindergarten, they must not have had any record that I was already reading simple words when I was attending that school. I remember one day, my group was just beginning to do practice reading and as the teacher was doing the exercises with us to write out the words first (we had already learned to write the alphabet but had not started putting the letters together to form words until a month into the school year) then as she began to show us how to sound out the letters, I was simply saying what the words were before the teacher finished the sounding out exercise. Her eyes grew wide as she asked me to read some of the other words she had written in which I obliged. At that point she asked me why I had not told her that I could read before then and I simply explained that she had not asked prior to that day. I may have appeared to have been fresh off the boat but there was no reason I would have wanted to rock it? Once she confirmed that I was on the same level as the highest reading group in our class, she explained to me that since I was a month behind in the workbook, it would not work for me to be put in the highest reading group yet and instead, during Reading time, I sat alone at my desk and was to complete the Reading/Writing activity workbook on my own and asking her for help when I needed it. Once I had caught up, I would later be put in with the other high reading level kids and then move forward. What my teacher had not realized was that I was a very ambitious child and instead of using the following weeks to catch up, I went ahead and finished the rest of the workbook on my own, ahead of the highest reading group’s pace. Needless to say, Reading time was fairly laid back for me the rest of that school year.

It was this same year when a representative from one of the local banks came into our class to talk about the business of banking. I can’t recall why he was there but I remember that he had a suit and a briefcase and looked very professional. He also brought in with him a model of the new bank that was being built in town. After his presentation, we all had to draw a bank. Where most kids were drawing basically simple square houses with dollar signs on them, I was looking at the model and drawing it the way I saw it. When the bank rep came by to see my drawing, he was taken aback that I was actually rendering perspective and in the end, he asked if he could keep the drawing and apparently it hung somewhere in the new bank. I never got around to visiting that bank, being only in the first grade, but I thought it was funny that the guy from the bank wanted it.

It was at this point in my life when I was introduced to the concept of a “gifted and talented” program at our school. I don’t remember having to take any tests to get in but just that at a certain time of day, one day a week, I was excused from class to join other students in a small room near the cafeteria where we focused on exercises to stimulate thought and creativity. The program was called “REACH”. Funny enough, I never bothered to care to find out what the letters stood for and now I just don’t care.

In REACH, we had a single instructor who would work with us as a group and we would do activities and take field trips to enhance our apparently bigger brains. This included a lot of writing exercises, brainstorming, discussions, and hands on activities such as drawing, sculpting, and what not. I enjoyed my time in REACH and it never occurred to me during those early years how incredibly bad the other students must have felt that this small handful of children got to leave their classes for an hour or so each week to be creative. I was barely understanding racism at that time (which a lot was going on towards my family and the few other Vietnamese families that resided in our small town at the time) so it’s not surprising I did not understand the resentment that could come from non-REACH students towards these deemed “gifted and talented” students.

In the sixth grade, a new teacher had joined our school. He was very fresh and creative and really had a passion for teaching, specifically in the subject of science. He had a live python and live boa constrictor that he kept in a wooden environment; a talkative parrot that had free-reign in the classroom; tons of glass jars full of cows’ brains and lungs, animal eyeballs, pig fetuses, and all sorts of other things you would see on the set of a mad scientist movie. For the first time, when it came time for REACH, I (and the other REACH students in my class) decided we would go to REACH 30 minutes late each week because we did not want to miss out on the cool stuff our sixth grade teacher was showing us that day. In the end, though, we were not allowed to do this anymore because apparently the teacher who taught Math immediately after our Science teacher’s class thought it was unfair that we would be willing to miss part of REACH for his class but made no effort to miss REACH for her class (I’m Asian. I was good at math. I really did not need her class to help me get any better at it. Sue me for being a stereotype). We had to begin leaving the Science class 30 minutes early for REACH or it was no REACH at all. Why the other two students were okay with missing part of REACH, I will never know. But for me, I actually was losing interest in the program and was getting a little annoyed by being a part of it so missing the first 30 minutes each week to be able to do awesome science experiments was much more fulfilling for me.

I didn’t act on this reservation immediately and because of routine, I stayed in REACH into my middle school years. In middle school, though, REACH did not overlap any other classes and instead it was an enhanced version of English which made it more acceptable for me and did not get the glare from other students as I did back in elementary school since it was treated like a normal class, per se, and we had to go the same number of minutes as anyone else for that period. Although I did my very best in those years, the idea of being in REACH still was not sitting well with me. I really didn’t understand why then but I do remember not feeling super proud of being in it and felt almost annoyed that I was. I think now what was going on was that I felt like the expectations for me was much higher in REACH than it would have been if I were not considered “gifted and talented” and early on in my life, I started resenting being in a position of high expectations and got irritated when people would put me up on a pedestal of any sort.

By the time high school was coming up, I had decided I was through with REACH and the whole idea of being labeled “gifted and talented”. Not because of the pressure but because it became quite clear to me what that label meant to most people: that these students were above the other students and if you were not in the club, you were not gifted and talented. What made me realize this was when the high school REACH administrator came into our class to prepare us for the transition into high school REACH, she began passing out the applications. Although we were all already in the REACH program, we had to go through the whole approval process again to be considered for the high school program. This meant that some of the peers that I had grown up with in REACH may not make it into the high school program and this upset me. But what sealed the deal for me was when the administrator pulled me aside and told me that she had been keeping up with my work and had already decided I would be in but I needed to fill out the application anyway as a formality. This really bothered me and in the end, that evening, instead of handing the application to my parents to sign, I simply threw it away. At the start of the following school year at the high school, the administrator caught me in the hallway and said that there must have been a mishap because she never got my application and that even though I was already registered for classes, she could pull some strings and get my classes switched out once I turned in a new application. I told her at that point that I never turned in the first one. She was speechless at first then asked me why. I remember being irritated that she was not just simply leaving it alone and I had developed a bit of an attitude over the summer so I simply said to her, “The application was too complicated. I couldn’t figure out how to fill it out.” Her face frowned and I saw exasperation in her eyes, followed shortly by submission, which for me was the very thing I wanted. She told me she was disappointed but would not try to push me on it anymore and would respect my decision. And that was that.

For the remainder of my public schooling, I enjoyed being just an “average” student. Yes, I still excelled in things and got a lot of recognition for my skills and talents but they were without pressure and I could easily respond without any ill-will, “Thanks for the accolades but really, it’s not that big of a deal. We all excel in certain things and these things just so happen to be the things I am interested in. Man, you should see how bad my Chemistry grades are.”

Ransom Miles Pucque (an excerpt)

Back in 2007, I started my first full-blown novel. As with most aspiring writers, I had big ideas and high hopes to knock out this novel in a few months, edit it, shop it around for a publisher, then get rich on the royalties from the film rights I would have amassed from the series of Hollywood bastardizations of the novel and its subsequent follow-ups and then probably become a real asshole and blow off all of my friends and use my riches to spiral into a self-loathing state where I ruin my life along with those that I love and eventually end up dead in a fancy hotel, in some weird drug-related sex fantasy act gone wrong, meanwhile amassing hundreds and thousands of more fans who find my work hip and trendy and use it on a daily basis to make themselves appear smarter and cooler than they really are. Well, of course, that didn’t happen (at least not the first part).

But I was no slacker. I had been able to write seven chapters of a fictional piece I had milling around my head for quite some time. That was around 2008. And that was when my overconfidence in the digital revolution came back and bit me in my ass. I had accidentally deleted the only copy I had of the novel on my hard drive and only found bits and pieces of earlier printouts that ended up not being very useful to me at all. I fell into a slump about losing all of the work I had poured into that first draft but upon hearing that I would soon be with child, I got excited to start over in the hopes that I would have something done to one day show my future offspring.

Five years later, I have only been able to rewrite six of the seven chapters but the positive thing about it is that I really love this version of my story much more than the previous draft. I was still pretty green about how to tell a story and was kind of caught up with trying to follow the rules and properly write a fiction novel but since then, I have gotten pretty comfortable with my own voice and have decided to say, “Piss off!” to all of those who have criticized my work (not that there has been that many, but there are some out there) and to do this my own way. If no one likes it, oh, well, I still accomplished something. But if a lot of people like it and they are able to have a better day from reading it, I will be even more ecstatic.

So, here I am today, with only about 65% of my book being done, but, man, what a wild ride this 65% is and I am so anxious to get it done so I can start sharing it with others. But the sad realization is that in my current situation with work and parenting, who knows when I will get that other 35% done? So in doing so, I decided, mostly for those who have asked to get a sample of the story, I am putting out today an excerpt of my little brainchild in which I have titled RANSOM MILES PUCQUE. For those with some time on their hands and would like to sample this work of extraordinary genius, stick around, because this may be the only snippet you’ll ever get to read at the rate I am going (^_^).

To preface you, RANSOM PUCQUE is a hired detective living in the age of the old west, in the 1800’s. The story is told in his point of view and throughout the unfolding of the events in the story, you learn about his friends, enemies, and all other sorts of fun, oddball characters through anecdotes that he shares with the reader. In this particular excerpt, Ransom tells the story of his best friend’s first case as a deputy sheriff, where he was on call to investigate a mysterious fire of a rich entrepreneur and his family’s home where only one survivor lived to tell the tale of what happened. So sit back, grab a mouthful of chewin’ tobacky, and enjoy a little anecdote I like to call “Goodman Meets Martha Childs”.

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     Goodman had just joined the Lupus County sheriff’s regiment when the Childs’ mansion burned down. Being the only deputy in Lupus County who had attended college (and also being the only deputy who could even spell “college”) made him Sheriff Fenrir’s 2nd hand man on all of his major investigations. Goodman had an eye for detail and Fenrir knew this. And even though Goodman had only been on staff for two hours when he received word that the only survivor of the Childs’ mansion fire was young Martha Childs, Sheriff Fenrir had no doubt Goodman would come in handy on this case.
     At 9:00 pm, on Thursday, October 8, 1807, a series of explosions within the Childs’ kitchen caused a chain reaction of mini-fires throughout the mansion with the precision of a master chef caramelizing his one millionth Crème Brûlée. No sooner than one could say, “Bon appeitit” did that glorious structure fall to the ground leaving nothing but char and ash. That and a single large steel Safeway® safe that was once hidden behind the east wall of the family den, its 5 ¾” thick walls kept the confidential documents inside safe from the destruction that had befallen on the rest of the Childs’ home.  It also kept the fifteen year old Martha Childs protected from the fire, but lack of oxygen had nearly killed her.
     When Fenrir and Goodman appeared at the scene, a local blacksmith by the name of Ferral S. Nescius was able to pry open the safe door and pull out a nearly unconscious Martha Childs. Goodman immediately questioned the blacksmith to see what he knew about the happenings that night at the Childs’ mansion.
     “What happened here, Nescius?” Goodman looked over at Martha who was sitting on the ground with a horse’s blanket wrapped around her. Nescius had just placed the large steel door of the Safeway® against a pile of charred wooden beams next to the safe. “How did you get here so fast?”
     Nescius was an honest blacksmith and had no need to be afraid of the law but, alas, he wasn’t as good a blacksmith as he was honest and had been known to miss important details when performing his blacksmithing duties. Apparently, he had the same problem when he was performing rescuing duties. “What’s that, Goodman? How’d who get where?”
     “You, man. How’d YOU get here so fast?
     “Oh, yes, right. I’d come a running when I heard the explosions. I had just finished off shoeing the Villegeoff’s youngest mare when the explosions started. I knew it weren’t normal for rich folks to be exploding and stuff. Not this time of night.”
     “Well, what’d you see when you got here.”
     “Just that the Childs’ entire home was quickly being reduced to rubbish. I tried to get inside but fire was just too hot to penetrate so I wasn’t much use until the building was down to the level it’s at right now.”
     “How’d you come about knowing Martha was in the safe back there?”
     “She was a pounding on the inside of it. I heard the pounding once the fire died down on this end. I knew it wasn’t normal for a safe to be pounding so I ran back to my work shed and got the tools I needed to remove the door. This one isn’t like any safe I had ever worked on, though. I think it’s a Safeway®. I’d heard of ‘em but never had seen one in my life. It was a tough safe to crack, so to speak.”
     “How do you s’pose Martha ended up inside that there safe, do you think, Nescius?” Only Goodman knows whether or not he had his own hypothesis at that point and time but it wouldn’t surprise me none if it turned out that he was interrogating Nescius further simply to stall for time as he was allowing his own brain juices to stew. “Huh, Nescius? You’re the safe expert here. Tell me how a young child like Martha could have gotten herself stuck inside a safe a mere few minutes before her family’s whole house went up in flames.”
     “Shucks, Goodman, that there is a darn good question. Like I said, I ain’t too much familiar with the Safeway® line but if’n Safeway’s® are like any other safes – which I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be – then I would say she simply opened up the safe and climbed inside herself.” I wasn’t there when Nescius provided Goodman with this answer but I think I could rightly say that I am sure Nescius was uncomfortable with Goodman’s line of questioning and was pretty bad at hiding it. Needless to say, I’ll tell you folks right now that Nescius had nothing to do with the fire and for the rest of his life stayed on the straight and narrow that he had the reputation for. He may have been a bit dumb but he was not an arsonist and/or murderer.
     “That’ll do, Nescius. Why don’t you do me a favor and stick around while I get a closer look at the rubbish here.”
     “Sure thing, Goodman. Shall I help the other deputies with the cleanup?”
     “Not necessary, Nescius, thank you. You just make yourself comfortable over yonder and if’n I need to ask you any other questions, I’ll be sure to holler at you, okay?”
     Nescius nodded awkwardly and made his way over to the north end of the Childs’ property line. Goodman jotted down a few notes in his little brown leather notebook and then made his way to Martha who was staring down at the ground.
     “Hate to bother you, Miss Childs, at a time like this but I’m sure you understand the importance of me asking you a few questions now, while the events are still fresh on your mind, do you?” Martha didn’t say a word and simply nodded approvingly to Goodman, her eyes still fixated on the patch of charred ash in front of her. “Now, Miss Childs, it is my understanding that while your family’s house was burning down, you were locked inside that there safe.” Goodman paused for a moment, then continued. “Judging by your silence, I would assume that statement is true, right?” Another pause. “I understand this is hard for you, Miss Childs, but if’n I’m going to be able to help you in any way, I really need to understand all the details of what happened here tonight. If’n you need another minute or two, I can come back but I really need to question you tonigh–“
     “It was dark in the house and I had gone down to my Papaw’s den to get myself a drink. He kept the good stuff in his den.”
     “A drink? What sort of drink are you referring to, Miss Childs?”
     “Whisky. I know what you’re thinking but it really isn’t unusual for a girl my age to have a drink every now and then. My Papaw was a sophisticated man and he treated Juliet and…” Martha’s voice trailed off as she spoke her sister’s name. Goodman knew better than to push her at that moment so he patiently waited for Martha to swallow twice and then take a short breath, in which she started back into her testimony. “Juliet and I were often allowed to have drinks at the dinner table because we weren’t no mamby pamby kids like others our age. We was mature and Papaw treated us that way.”
     “I understand, Miss Childs. I’ve always known you and your sister to be mature ones. That was the reputation you had.”
     “Well, it’s true but we was still kids and we still needed to stay young. Sometimes Papaw didn’t understand that and was too quick to help us ‘grow up’. No matter. He’s not here to push me to grow up no more.” Martha wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead and swallowed again. “I have a hard time sleeping at night. Sometimes my night terrors keep me up and I find that whisky helps me to sleep better.”
     “And your father kept the whisky in his den, in that there safe?”
     “No, not in the safe. He trusted us with the drinks in the house. He didn’t lock it up none because he trusted us.”
     “So, that still doesn’t answer how you ended up inside the safe.”
     “If you would allow me to catch up on my thoughts, I can give you the details you’re looking for. You just got to give me a few minutes here, Deputy. A girl needs time to pull herself together after she has lost her entire family, don’t you think?”
     “Yes, indeed. I don’t mean to rush you none. It’s just that –“
     “It’s just that you’re doing your duty. I can respect that, Deputy, um…what did you say your name was?” Martha looked up for the first time and her eyes met Goodman’s, who couldn’t help notice that although the look Martha had was intense, there was no sign of any crying to have been had.
     “I didn’t ma’am. My apologies. I’m James Goodman. I’m a new deputy under Sheriff Fenrir.”
     “Glad to meet you, Deputy Goodman. I won’t hold you up much longer.”
     “You take your time. I just need to fully understand what happened here so that I can do my report and make sure we get this matter taken care of.”
     “Well, deputy, as I said, I went down to my Papaw’s den to get a drink to help me sleep. That was when I realized a fire had broken out in the dining room next door. I tried to get out but the entryway was already blocked by flames and there was no getting through the bars on the windows. That’s when I realized that I would be protected from the fire inside my Papaw’s safe.”
     “So the safe was left open? Doesn’t seem right for someone to have such a fancy safe like the one your family has here and not use it. From what I understand, Safeway® safes cost more than most folks in town can make in a lifetime. Why wouldn’t it be locked?”
     “I never said it wasn’t locked, Deputy Goodman. I simply said I used the safe to protect myself from the fire.”
     “Well, if it weren’t locked, how’d you come to get inside it, Martha.”
     “The same way anyone would get inside a safe if the situation was desperate enough for them to need to do so…I opened it.”
     “And am I to believe that your father trusted you with the combination like he trusted you with alcohol?”
     “My Papaw may have been a trusting man toward us when it came to the drink, deputy, but he was no idiot. Of course he didn’t share the combination with me. But I knew what it was. My Papaw and I were close and I knew him better’n anyone else. Even better than Mama knew him.” Martha turned her eyes away from Goodman at that point and returned her gaze back to the spot on the ground that had previously garnered her attention. “The combination was the amount of ingredients he used in his secret marinating sauce. I figured that out the day he chose to share all of his secret recipes with me and not with Juliet.”
     Goodman felt exasperation at that point. The questioning had not been going as smoothly as he would have liked and he wasn’t comfortable with Martha’s obvious aggression towards Goodman’s line of questioning. Which made it ever so much harder to ask Martha the next question. “Martha — if I may — did you have anything to do with the fire that burned down your family’s home?”
     Martha stood up at that point and dropped the horse’s blanket she was covered under to the ground. Her eyes, for the first time that night, were fire red. “Firstly, you may not, Deputy Goodman. Secondly, I do not like what you are insinuating there, Deputy. I know you may fancy yourself a good detective of sorts but I do believe your greenness is keeping you right ignorant in your analysis of my situation.”
     “Now, Miss Childs, I’m sorry to upset you but I just don’t understand why you would try to escape a near-death situation by putting yourself in another near-death situation. You know you would not have lasted long in that there safe. Heck, if’n Nescius there hadn’t come along, you’d be dead right now. I just don’t think you would’ve chosen to put yourself in that there situation unless you’d a known that you could’ve gotten out of it on your own.”
     “Deputy Goodman! Have you ever been in a situation where you had nowhere to go and that your life was pretty much going to be over with if you didn’t do something right then and there?”
     “Well, ma’am, I just started my duties with Sheriff Fenrir a mere few hours before we got word of your family’s home burning down so I can’t say I have been in that situation yet in my life but I am sure I can under—“
     “Can you? How could you?! Like I said, you are ignorant, Deputy Goodman. You do not know enough about me and my family to be judging me like you are doing. I was in a death-or-death situation and I chose the less painful of the two. Maybe it doesn’t make much sense to you but at the time, it was all the sense I could make.”
     “Ma’am, my apologies. I don’t mean to offend but you understand it is my duty to make sure I cover all possibilities. What you say does make sense and I can see how your actions were taken in an act of desperation to survive and can be seen as purely instinctual. You say that you had nothing to do with the fire, I will record your statement as such and bother you no more today.” Goodman wrote down a few more notes then tipped his hat farewell to Martha. Martha glared at Goodman as he turned away and motioned for Nescius to rejoin him for some additional questioning. His voice was low and completely inaudible to Martha, who then reached down and picked up the ash-stained horse blanket she had dropped and then looked up again at Goodman and Nescius who were now joined by Sheriff Fenrir.
     “I didn’t kill my family, Deputy Goodman! You get that in your head and you get it in there good, you ignorant simpleton! Folks like me and my family, we don’t kill! We’ve no reason to kill because we are so much better than you regular folk! No matter what you think! I know what happened and I won’t forget what you accused me of, you hear, Goodman?! You hear me?!” Goodman, Fenrir and Nescius all looked up at Martha in silence. Then Goodman turned and nodded to Fenrir then walked on ahead back into town while Fenrir gave directions to the others to wrap up their work for the morning. In the end, the Childs’ home was reported to have been burned down due to a faulty prototype gas stove that Emil had installed in his fancy kitchen. And even though Emil paid top dollar to have this exclusive new cooking hardware installed into his home, seems even the rich can’t always get what they pay for – no matter how much they pay for it — and in this case, Emil and his wife and one of his children got burned on this deal.

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So, there you have it. Again, this is a work in progress and a lot more stuff happens but I am keeping the juicy bits a secret until I have this baby completed. In the meantime, if you would like, I would greatly appreciate any feedback anyone has on this excerpt. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Would you want to read more? What didn’t work for you? What did? Any constructive criticism is welcome. Well, let me elaborate: any constructive feedback that is meant to enhance and improve my work without being a chance to simply parade around ones own self-righteous views about writing that they mindlessly picked up from a pretentious writing class is welcome. Have a good day, y’all, and thank you for visiting.

How To Make Your Newborn Preemie Useful

Imogen was born at a healthy weight of 6.1 pounds, FIVE WEEKS EARLY. That’s right, in the tradition of the Ha family, our little Imogen Cordelia was surprisingly healthy for a prematurely born baby. With exception to a nearly two-week long battle with jaundice, everything else has checked out all thumbs up for her.

With the knowledge of how healthy she is, I decided it was a good time to start teaching her to become a useful part of society by giving her chores and helping her to execute them to the fullest potential. Yes, yes, I know, she still has three weeks before she is technically “full term” but the Asian side of her family is anxious to get her started so that she can already be ahead of all of the other preemies her age.

Here is just a sampling of some of the ways she has become very useful to our family:

PAPERWEIGHT
Imogen is a paperweight

DOORSTOP
Imogen is a doorstop

BOOKEND
Imogen is a bookend

HOT POT PAD
Imogen is a hot pot pad

REFRIGERATOR ODOR DEODORIZER*
Imogen is a fridge odor absorber*You know? Like Arm & Hammer baking soda. But using Johnson & Johnson baby powder instead? Get it?

That’s all, folks.