A Few Thoughts On Tolerance

I’ve really been biting my tongue lately. There have been so many stories that have circulated in the last week or so that have done nothing but spawn hate speech toward one group or another. So, instead of going on a rage-induced rant on Facebook or getting into a Twitter war with someone, I decided that I would calmly lay out some things that I believe here in my little corner of the internet.

A couple of weeks ago there was a mass shooting in Orlando, FL. I’m sure you’ve all read the story so I won’t detail it. But, essentially, a man gunned down a whole lot of people in a night club and about 50 of them died. It is one of the most horrible shootings in US history…though all shootings are horrible. There has been speculation that it may be considered a terrorist attack since the shooter identified as being affiliated with ISIS.

The thing that has really gotten to me is that this club was a “gay club”, meaning that most of the people that hung out there were homosexuals. As I read through the posts on Facebook after it happened I noticed something a couple of times that really made my heart sink. There were actually Americans online that were trying to say that the victims had it coming. They were saying that they lived a life of sin and that this was God’s way of punishing them.

I felt sick.

I was raised in central Alabama. The town that I grew up in was very small. When I say that it was very small I mean that you should think of Mayberry and make it smaller. Mayberry, at least, had a diner and movie theater. We had a video store, a small grocery store, and a library. Oh, and churches. There were lots of churches. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a church.

My family was pretty religious so I grew up being taught very conservative points of view. It wasn’t until I grew up and started to actually interact with the world that I realized I had been taught a very “my way or the highway” point of view. Just to give you idea of what I mean…the vast majority of Christian churches in this part of the country look at homosexuality as being a huge sin. They think that it is an abomination and that God has been known to destroy entire cities of people to get rid of it. Some of them go so far as to claim that God has sent diseases to us to destroy the gay population. So, I grew up hearing all of this stuff. I lived a large part of my life believing that if a person was gay that there was something wrong with them. We believed that we should love the person but hate the sin, which translated to mean that if you knew a gay person you were supposed to make sure that you didn’t approve of their lifestyle and try to make them see that what they’re doing is evil.

Looking back on that now, I can’t believe that I ever felt that way. There are so many things wrong with that way of thinking.

First of all, the same bible that they are drawing these conclusions from says that God sees all sin as equal. So, even if homosexuality were a sin, it wouldn’t be any worse than gluttony. So, when you see some extremely overweight person yelling in your face about how homosexuality is an abomination…they’re being a hypocrite.

When the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could get married I was never more embarrassed to be from the state that I’m from. Because every time I turned on the news or I logged onto a news site I would see some lawmaker or judge making waves by standing in the way of implementing the ruling. And guess where they were usually from. You guessed it…Alabama. Roy Moore has been a blight on this state for 20 years. His need to be a martyr for his beliefs has turned him into a joke.
I don’t want to come across as bashing the church. I don’t feel that way at all. I consider myself to be a Christian and I still live by the things that I was taught as a child. But now, as an adult, I find that I can’t just blindly believe in something just because someone tells me to. There are just too many things that don’t make sense.

The argument of whether or not homosexuality is a sin is not one that I’m willing to take on. Mainly because I can’t point my finger at someone and claim that they are sinning when I have a problem with gluttony and anger that can be seen as sins as well. If I had to pick a side I’d say that no, I don’t think you’re sinning just because you love someone. God is love and he wants us to be happy.

That being said, we have to stop this idea that the laws of our land have to fall in line with our religious beliefs. That is just not the case. Just because you believe God says something is wrong does not necessarily mean that it should be against the law or that it should have tons of restrictions placed upon it. The argument comes up so often that the United States is here because our founding fathers wanted to escape religious persecution and that they built the country on their religious beliefs. I’m in disagreement with that. The founding fathers left England because they didn’t want a king telling them what they could and couldn’t do. So they built a country that is now trying to do the same thing to another group of people by telling them who they can and can’t marry.

Anyway, I’m not sure that this came across as coherent as I had originally planned. I hope that it did and I hope that it didn’t offend anyone. It’s just the way that I’ve grown to feel over time I don’t blame my parents for teaching me what they did. They taught what they’d been taught. I just hope that my more tolerant views rub off on my kids and carry them forward into a world with less hatred than what we have now.


Oh, and if I see anyone on my friends list saying that the victims in Orlando deserved what they got…we won’t be friends anymore.

Magic City Con 2016--In The Books

The plan for this blog is to post a variety of topics. I have a couple of podcasts that tackle different subjects and I have a couple of other things that I have feeling about. So far since I started posting here I’ve talked a bit about my food addiction recovery and a little about bullying. But there will also be movie reviews and general musings of life. Today, I thought it would be a good idea to stick to the site’s title about the geek that my kids have as a dad.

This weekend I went to Magic City Con. I’m sure that even if you’ve never been to a con that you’ve at least heard about them and know what they are. But, if by chance you don’t, I’ll try to explain it. Although, I do believe that to truly understand and appreciate a con you have to experience one.

Of course, “con” is short for convention and it is generally used to compare to Comic Con, which is the biggest one there is…at least as far as I know. Comic Con was originally created to be a comic book convention where people would simply go to a meeting hall at a hotel somewhere and trade comic books, buy some toys, talk about their favorite storylines…that sort of thing. That was back in the days when it wasn’t cool to be a nerd. Now we live in a time when every other big movie that comes out of Hollywood is a comic book property. So, cons have slowly become more than just comic books. They are now a haven for all genres of fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy, anime, video games…all of that stuff in represented at conventions. Comic Con is the biggest because Hollywood studios like to premiere trailers to big films there. And they have panels with the cast of huge movies and TV shows.

Birmingham is not known for its cons. Over the years there have been a couple of small ones that have tried to sprout up but they usually drown because of the ones in larger cities like Atlanta that aren’t far away. A couple of years ago we had the Alabama Phoenix Festival. It was here for two years but for some reason it didn’t happen the third. That’s where United Fandoms came in and filled the gap with Magic City Con.

Last year it was good. It was the first time that I had been to a convention since the Star Trek gathering that I attended in 1993. And one of the senior planner was a friend of mine for way back and she asked me to conduct a Doctor Who panel. I did. Only four people came but I still had a good time doing it. This year she asked me to step up and do a little more since I’ve launched a podcast in the year since the first one. I did and this year was a really great experience.

One thing that made it great was one of my podcasting co-hosts was able to come to town and take part in it as well. If you listen to the show then you’ve heard Rick Tetrault quite a bit. He’s also the host of several shows on the Simply Syndicated podcast network. He hosted the very first podcast that I ever downloaded back in 2009. So getting to meet him in person was great and getting to know him over the weekend was a lot of fun.

Officially, I did three panels which Rick was involved in as well. We co-hosted a panel with a couple of other guys on Friday night. The subject was “On Moffat: A Blessing And Curse For Doctor Who”. I recorded that panel and I’m going to release it as an episode of the podcast in a week or two. On Saturday morning we hosted a game of sci-fi/fantasy Jeopardy which was a lot of fun. We gave away some prizes and met a lot of really nice people. Finally, on Sunday morning we did a presentation on the basics of podcasting. That one was co-hosted by the guys from the Rocket Punch podcast.

In addition to that, we got to meet Joe Crowe who is another podcaster here in the Birmingham area. He invited me to join him on Friday night for his Awesome Superhero Movie panel that was a blast in spite of some technical difficulties. And Rick and I served as judges for his Sci-Fighters bracket game where Star Trek characters were pitted against Star Wars characters in a fight to the death. That one was a lot more involved than you’d think it would be and I think we could have done it all afternoon.

There are a few things that I took away from the weekend. First, the cosplay was on point. These guys and girls had on some phenomenal costumes that you could tell took a lot of time and money to prepare.

 

The management of the con did a great job of getting everything covered especially since this was only the second year it has existed and the first time that it has been at the Wynfrey Hotel.

On Friday night and Saturday morning my wife and my daughter joined me. It’s not exactly their thing but they indulged me. And I think that they had fun in spite of themselves. My daughter, Gracie, even dressed up on Saturday.


The best part of the whole thing was the fact that I was able to relax and have conversations about things that most of the people in my daily life wouldn’t care to talk about. Where else can you sit and have an adult conversation about who would win in a fight between an Ewok and a Tribble. Hint: it was the Ewok but we had to roll a die to decide it.

So, I’m on board for Magic City Con any time in the future. Jamie Phelps and Rita Houston did a fantastic job. If you need anything from me to help make next year even better, just let me know and I’ll do what I can. I’d love to see this thing grow into something that will put Birmingham on the convention map.

Meeting Ricky Dillon...Whoever That Is

When you have kids you start to hear a lot of names that you probably wouldn’t hear otherwise. What I mean by that is that you get exposure to celebrities that a lot of people your age have never heard of. I’m pretty well versed in popular culture. I know who Jay-Z is. I’ve heard the latest Justin Bieber, and I can name all the guys from One Direction…Harry, Niall, Louis, and Liam (Zayn left last year).

But we now live in an age where the word “celebrity” encompasses a lot more than it used to. I’m used to it referring to actors and actresses on TV and in film. It also referred to musicians and famous athletes. But now a “celebrity” can be a politician, a news anchor, or the woman that plays Flo on the Progressive commercials.

YouTube has created a lot of celebrities. People that used to be regular Joes picked up their phone and made a couple of videos and now are international celebrities. There are a few “YouTubers” that I watch. But there are tons of them out there that are teenagers or young adults making videos to entertain kids. As a parent I have to squash a few of them when they make it into my house because of the kinds of things they talk about, but most of them are innocent.

I tease my daughter for watching a lot of these things. Mainly because she likes to watch videos of guys with hair that stands straight up in front like a wave. They’re usually really thin and look like a stiff wind would blow them away.

If you know me well then you know that I’m not one that has a problem with anyone’s sexuality and I believe that everyone should be allowed to live their life the way they choose. After all, we only get to do this one time. But when I see that most of the boys in the videos that my daughter watches sound like little girls when they talk, I feel the need to tease her that I don’t think she has a shot with them. It’s all in good fun. No hatred or malice is intended.

Well, last week she comes to me and tells me that Ricky Dillon wrote a book and that he’s having a book signing in Birmingham. She wanted to know if I would please…please…PLEASE take her to get a wristband and then take her back the next day to meet him. I groaned because it’s not exactly my cup of tea. But, I knew that this week was going to be kind of rough for my family. We buried my mother on Tuesday afternoon. I thought that this might be a welcome distraction. So, Tuesday morning we drove down to the bookstore and purchased the book.

If you don’t know who Ricky Dillon is…I can’t help you a whole lot. I know that he has a YouTube channel, he’s a singer with a few music videos, and he has something like three million Twitter followers. Yesterday afternoon my wife and I took my daughter back to the store to attend the book signing.

I worked at Books-A-Million when I was younger and I had to help with book signings. We used to have celebrities like Charlton Heston, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Dan Quayle come in to meet fans. They usually had a table set up in the back of the store. This was different. They had a stage set up outside the store in the courtyard of the mall. Another stage had a live band. And when we arrived I realized that not only was I the only dad standing in line, I was surrounded by a billion teenage girls.

I continued teasing my daughter by telling her that she needed to let Ricky know how much she loved him and asking her if she needed me to run to the jewelry store to pick out a ring. She’s a good sport and laughed because she knows her dad is playful and that none of it is out of spite.

But inside I was groaning. This was not what I wanted to be doing with my evening. I’d worked all day and wanted nothing more than to be sitting on my couch watching Netflix. I tried to enjoy the atmosphere, but I was stuck in an issue of Tiger Beat Magazine. Even the live band was a “chick” band.

When we got closer to the front I stepped out of line so that I could try to get a picture of the big moment. As I stood there a girl of about fifteen screamed out to Ricky Dillon…

Girl: “I love you, Ricky!”
Ricky: “I love you, too.”
Girl: “I’m two years clean because of you!”

What? Did I hear that right?

Gracie finally got her turn to meet him. He hugged her and complimented her outfit. She gave him an envelope of drawings that she’d made for him and they had their picture taken together. When she came off of the stage she was in tears. She was so happy. I was glad that she was able to have a happy memory to go along with the bad ones from this week.



On the way out to the car I told my daughter what the girl had said and asked her what she meant. She said that the girl meant that she used to be a cutter. If you don’t know what a “cutter” is, it means that they have an anxiety issue in which they literally cut themselves as self punishment to help relieve their stress. Kids have been doing it more and more the last few years. It’s terrible and causes a lot of physical and mental scars and can even lead to death.

That’s when I realized how big of a jerk I am.

I grew up in an environment that was full of racism and bigotry of all kinds. If you were different then you were not accepted. I myself was not accepted most of the time, which is why my feelings lean toward being more tolerant now. But I realized in that moment that even though I don’t have a problem with someone’s lifestyle, I was still discounting how important these people were to my kids. Just because to me Ricky Dillon is a boy that makes some silly videos on YouTube…he’s obviously much more than that to other people. To my daughter he was important enough that meeting him drove her to tears. To another girl he was important enough to inspire her not to hurt herself anymore.

So, from now on, as long as they’re not talking about something explicit, my kids can like what they like without criticism from dear old dad. I have no way of knowing if one of those celebrities they like is actually helping them in ways that I can’t, I don’t want to unwittingly take that away from them by making a flippant comment.

And, I need to work on slowing down myself. I almost missed a beautiful moment last night because of how much I wanted to veg out in front of Netflix.

The New Age of Fat Shaming

Let me ask you something. Would you walk up to a person that you don’t know and comment on the way they look? Would you criticize the way they dress or the way they fixed their hair that day? Would you go a step further and tell them that they are unattractive or that they have an ugly face?

We’re doing that every single day. Every time we go on Facebook or Twitter and see one of those memes that has a picture of someone that looks like a hot mess and we share it. Every time we click like on a post that’s making fun of the big girl at the gym or the extremely overweight guy running around the track. It’s called fat shaming or body shaming. But for some reason we think its okay as long as we aren’t saying it to that person.

Many of us know the pain of hearing off-hand remarks about our weight. Many times they are not meant to hurt, but how could they not. I know what it’s like to have a boss jokingly refer to you as the “fat guy” in the office. I felt the pain of having a grandfather pat your belly and say that it looks like I’m putting on a few pounds. I’ve fallen off my diet and had coworkers comment on every crumb of food that goes in my mouth as if it’s the funniest thing they’ve seen. They do this for a lot of reasons. First of all, they don’t really understand how much it hurts. Second of all, it makes them feel better about the areas of their life that aren’t quite up to snuff.

It hurts. But you don’t say anything about it because you don’t want to be seen as a sensitive guy that can’t take a joke. But inside you feel like that 9 year old kid that just had someone call you fat or you found a comment about your weight written on a scrap piece of paper being passed around the class or written on the chalkboard.

But as much as that hurts, at least these things are being said to your face. What if you were cruising through Facebook one day and you came across a picture of yourself that was posted by someone you didn’t know. What if the picture was a meme that had something like “Fit to Flab” written on it?  I’m seeing this kind of thing all the time. I see memes of overweight people riding a scooter through Wal-Mart like it’s something for them to be ashamed of. I see videos of some big guy at the gym trying to work out and not realized he’s being filmed on someone’s phone for the world to laugh at.

In the beginning I actually laughed at a couple of these. Now I’m ashamed to admit that. There’s nothing funny about that. I’m living a life of obesity and food addiction. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I just didn’t want to face another minute of living in my body. I’ve felt the pain of having people judge you based on what they could see on the outside. What’s funny about it?

Look at that guy over there…trying to run his fat a** around that track! Isn’t that hilarious?
That guy is trying to get his life back. What is hilarious about that?

Look at that cow on the scooter! She’s so fat she can’t even walk around the store!
Or she may have a condition that affects her mobility which has led to depression and then weight gain.

What I’m trying to say is that judging people based on what you see is wrong. But then I suppose everyone bothering to read this far into this blog already knows that. I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much damage it actually does. Imagine the thing that you hate about yourself the most and then imagine people making jokes about it.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to see a meme of you.

Wentworth Miller is an actor. He stared on Prison Break back in the day. Currently he stars as Captain Cold on CW’s The Flash. After Prison Break was cancelled he went into a sort of retirement. Today I learned something new about him on a post he put out a few days ago on social media.

In 2010, at the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food. It could have been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. But eating became the one thing I could look forward to. Count on to get me through. There were stretches when the highlight of my week was a favorite meal and a new episode of TOP CHEF. Sometimes that was enough. Had to be.

In the day and age of watching celebrities like Charlie Sheen have meltdowns that involve drugs and alcohol, it’s very rare to see someone actually talk about food as if it were something that you can have a real addiction to.

But Miller fell victim to fat shaming after he put on some weight and a paparazzi got a picture of him. It turned into a meme online that has been spread across the web.

In 2010, fighting for my mental health, it was the last thing I needed.
Long story short, I survived.
So do those pictures.
I'm glad.
Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without.
Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.

So, now I have someone new to look up to.  I haven’t always been a fan of his acting, but I am now a true fan of his spirit and of his courage. Fat shaming exists. It is a thing and it will continue to be a thing no matter what words I put on this blog. My hope is that one person sees this and realizes just how unfunny and hurtful those memes really are.
And I will leave you with more words from Wentworth Miller…

With everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.

Of myself and others.

41 Movies For 41 Years: 1998

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