Wealth has always been the greatest (unspoken) Superpower

money-superheroI just saw Doctor Strange in theatres.  It’s a good movie, but this is not a review.  I went into the movie not knowing much about Doctor Strange.  His was not one of the titles I followed in 80s.  But when I saw the movie, I recognized something familiar about his origin story: like most superheroes, he starts rich.

I guess I started to realize something was up with the economic distribution of superheroes when I thought about all the gadgets Iron Man and Batman both had.  Unlimited weaponry, endless supply of toys.  But it was when I was teaching a class on Superheroes, Social Justice, and the Principle of the Common Good (the kind of class you can develop at a Catholic Marianist University like University of Dayton) and as a class we started to see a pattern in the heroes.  While each of them manifested different powers—most of them, most of the famous ones, had something each of us did not.  Most had sources of wealth and positions of elite privilege before they got superpowers.

This is important to think about when we think of Superheroes and Power—that power is often not given to those who have no power before, but is given to those who have always had power.   With a few notable exceptions, becoming a superhero requires money.  This means that the average person doesn’t become a superhero without money—just like they don’t become a lot of things in the real world without money.  And that is an interesting thing to think about when you think about superhero escapist fiction.  We have all these possibilities!  We can choose ANY storyline.  We think it’s about a redistribution of power—that ANYONE can become a superhero–but analyzing origin stories, the results say something different.

The Net Worth of Superheroes

Those who have power in the superhero universe and who have the job of protecting citizens are often unacquainted with most of the 99%, are used to being wealthy and powerful, and are often living far removed from common society in Fortresses of Solitude, atop penthouses, or in private academies on large estates, or in mansions or whole buildings in downtown NYC (there are exceptions—I can hear you already, bursting to say names—but I’m talking about a surprising majority of the major superheroes we have today).

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CBC’s DNTO to air my story on Coming Out to My Church for “Lost Causes”

Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.

I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.

But they remembered my pitch.  And they sought me out.  Which is humbling, and cool.  We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes.  I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told.  I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”.  But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost?  I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change.  We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light.  This splits familes.  My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore.  I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it.  Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people.  Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink.  As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women.  And divorce.  Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore.  Christianity and Faith are not the problem.  Interpretation is.

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Which do you want? Love or Power: Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

I was living with my folks the last time I saw the Ring Cycle on PBS in the US.  I made my parents endure several hours of it before they said, enough!  After all I had hi-jacked the TV for several nights.  And I was in the middle of Siegfried, and well, maybe…..  actually my mother came to me and said, “Are you really enjoying this?” with a hint that she’d probably prefer something else.  And actually, then, without the absence of distraction–I was inside the living room of an active six person house with dog–I don’t remember much of the Ring Cycle at all.  I do remember telling my mom that we could change the channel.

I know, high recommendation eh?  But it was a small tv, on a fuzzy station, in a mad house of six people and dog— it wasn’t the Yukon Arts Centre, with its HD and surround sound.  It’s giant screen.  And it wasn’t hunky Bryn Terfel, the Wotan of this Ring Cycle.  I’m unabashedly crushing on Bryn Terfel.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to going through my first RING CYCLE in its entirety!  As a fully realized, aware, culturally-interested adult (without a dog).  I want the t-shirt that says I got through it.  I may ask Triple J’s to make some!

Anyway, a FREE movie begins the cycle–it’s Wagner’s Dream: the Making of the Ring Cycle at 7pm on Saturday, May 12.

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Because we are offering the Ring Cycle and because I’m kind of the defacto host of these Met Opera’s, I needed to know more about it–so I looked up the story.  It’s freakin’ amazing!

It might sound familiar: A ring forged that will let the wearer rule the world, dwarves fighting for the ring, dragons that guard it, doomed lovers— seems like Wagner’s Ring Cycle might be  The Lord of the Rings with music.  It’s not true.

Though there is a strong case that Wagner and Tolkien both got their source material from the same places–German and Norse mythology and sagas–what they crafted is very different.  And with all proper credit to Tolkien, Wagner’s opera has just as much amazing storytelling as the tale of hobbits and wizards.

Tolkien’s Trilogy of books starts off with a prelude book, The Hobbit, just as Wagner’s trilogy of operas starts off with Das Rheingold.

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Raven Ordering McDonald’s Drive-Thru: the Yukon has Smart Wildlife

Raven ordering McDonald's Drive-thru, photo by Jerome Stueart

Check out this photo taken yesterday, October 21, outside of the Whitehorse McDonald’s.  Ravens are getting so smart they’re ordering through the drive-thru. The Yukon has very smart wildlife. 

Of course, I’m not sure what this says about McDonald’s food considering what ravens eat. 

Check out this guy’s expression as he realizes what the raven is doing…

The Truth and the Narrative in Beauty: Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s “The Golden Mean”

To the slow, pounding, pulsing kettledrum, its waves of sound hitting the audience, the two sheen-fabric wrapped shapes on the stage slowly writhe and discard their stiff shimmering sheaths.  So begins Marie Chouinard’s The Golden Mean, restaged for another amazing tour.  I would have a hard time describing what happens.  It’s modern dance, but the performers are all wearing golden wigs, masks, and tassles that run down their legs, at first.  They resemble fauns.  But this isn’t Prelude to “the Afternoon of a Faun”—the music sounds a bit like a science fiction chorale, voices, drums, chorus, building, sustaining, crashing, wincing and dodging, always aching with long-note beauty.

There are maybe twelve dances in the 80 minutes, and each one provides a chance for the viewer, the audience, to participate by bringing their own meaning to the dance.  Perhaps this was intentional; perhaps not.

The dancers, part ballet-part something deeply, bodily organic–they tiptoe, launch, lurch across the stage, always flowing in rhythm to the music.  They are all lovely to watch.  For the first few numbers we feel as if we’re seeing the birth of a civilization, a whole society; toddlers walk across the stage, learn to laugh and cry together, have first few sleeps; ensemble pieces involving the whole company break up the solo, duo and trio dances.  I was most captivated by the two dancers who seemed to be acting out a first relationship—a man who dates the pliable woman, the one he fits into any shape he wants; he is aggressive, demanding, sexual, and she is passive, not quite even awake in the dance.  He discovers how wonderful it is to slide her hand down his face, his chest, his groin; and she starts to fight him, pushing away, and they twist each other back and forth, as she starts finding her own inner aggressor.  They have tortuous sex, or the dance version of it, always moving, stretching, twisting and flexing those dancers’ bodies.  I was captivated too by the narrative I was creating out of the dance–the story I gave that dance, that I’m even giving that dance now in this essay.

We can’t help it.  Human beings, when we see two or more humans interacting with another, we come up with a narrative, a voice over, maybe, but at least a set of actions, reactions, motivations, based on the expressions, the movements that we see in front of us.   Try it at your local mall.  Watch people for any length of time and you give them a narrative.  You can’t help it.

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Is there no Sincerity in a Marketing Director?

Do you trust this man?

I was lucky enough to get a dream job: being a marketing director for the Yukon Arts Centre.  The Arts Centre is a venue for a lot of non-local acts (and does host lots of local acts and artists as well) that come through Whitehorse, and into the communities.  It encompasses not only the actual Arts Centre, up on the hill, but the Old Fire Hall, the Yukon Arts Gallery (adjacent to the mainstage), and various venues for workshops and talks around town.

Before I got the job I was a Waterfront Trolley interpreter, a guide for the Beringia Centre (our ice age/mammoth museum), and a vaudevillian.  I told you about some of these jobs.  Mostly, I talk about writing, and I talk about the cool things that happen in Whitehorse.  I always have.  Most of those arts centered events happened at the Yukon Arts Centre.  And I raved about them because I thought they were good.  I wanted to share what I’d found.

As it happens, I now get paid to promote the Arts Centre.  Does that change my sincerity?  Not in the least.  If you got paid for what you love to do would it change the way I view what you say or do?  No.  I just happen to love what I do.

For the purposes of this blog, my thoughts are still my thoughts.  I intend to still tell you about all the cool things that I find, and I don’t think that should stop suddenly because I get paid to promote one organization.   I’ll critique movies, talk about writing.  I’ll still promote good local plays, from local playwrights.  And I’ll still find great things from the Yukon Arts Centre too.  I probably won’t be negative about a Yukon Arts Centre event, but you would expect that.  I’m not really into being negative anyway.  There’s too many good things happening here–I want you to see them.

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The Observer Observed: Kelly Richardson’s Twilight Avenger

I got a sneak peek at the opening of the Yukon Arts Gallery show today.   I wanted to see what was happening…the ad my predecessor had put together for the show was intriguing.  It had a green stag in the forest looking at you.  It’s Kelly Richardson’s installation.  I went into the room where the seven minute video plays, where the stag moves onto the screen, and keeps looking up at the viewer.  It’s magical.  It had a little Harry Potter feel to it–it glows green with a green fire and smoke coming off it.  Check out this Vimeo 50 second excerpt.  Imagine it across a full wall.

I once had an encounter with a deer in the forest.  I was in New Mexico.  I’d just had a very disturbing moment with friends–it doesn’t matter what.  I was emotionally upset, and I ran out of the hotel we were all staying in.  And I ran right into this deer.  The deer just turned to me and looked at me.  Just being looked at by something wild, as it takes you in, is mesmerizing.  I remember that the whole encounter probably took only five minutes, but it felt like an eternity.  It felt like the deer knew me–or could see something in me that I couldn’t see myself.  It calmed me down.  I know that much.

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