About Me

My photo
AE Stueve is a former contributor to www.brokenfrontier.com and the former writer of THE LEGEND OF ISIS from Bluewater Productions. In May of 2011, his first novel, THE ABCs OF DINKOLOGY, will be released from WSC Press. In addition to writing, he teaches a little high school and college. Follow him on twitter! http://twitter.com/AEStueve

Monday, January 10, 2011

Final Blogger Post

In honor of my 75th post, I'm growing up and moving to greener pastures.  Please follow me to https://aestueve.wordpress.com/ if you would like to continue following this blog.   I would love it if you did!  Thanks!  Also, if anyone is interested, I am now doing professional, more writerly, teacherly tweets, here http://twitter.com/#!/AEStueve.  I hope there has not been too much confusion!  Thanks again for reading.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Resolution

None.

I like who I am.  Could I stand to lose a few pounds?  Sure.  Could I stand to stop drinking so many beers and Captain and Cokes?  Probably.  You know what?  Maybe I will stop drinking as much and start working out more.  I know over the past few months lifting weights has become far more fun for me than I ever thought it would be.  So I've got that going for me.

I feel like I need to write more.  I always do though.  So that's nothing new.  It would be nice if I had a job where I worked less.  That's not really a resolution type idea though, is it?

I'm looking forward to this year.  My first novel is coming out in May.  My 10th anniversary is in June.  I'm amazed it's lasted that long.  No.  That's not the right way to word it . . . .  I'm amazed she has stuck around this long.  I'll raise a glass to tricking her to stay for at least another 10.

Also, 2011 is our last full year living as we do.  According to the way some people interpret the Mayan Calendar anyway.  Not that I buy into any of that.  Though I do have several contingency plans for survival in the face of a zombie apocalypse, any of which could be tweaked for survival in various end-of-the-world scenarios.

But I'm getting away with myself.  I think the one thing I really want to do that A) I don't already do and B) my wife will let me talk about online, is have some kind of format for this blog.  I'm kind of all over the place here.  Is this a teaching blog or a parenting blog or a general blog about my complaints and concerns?  Is it political?  Is it all about writing?  Yes.  No.  I don't know.  I think I need some direction here.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Dying and Other Things

So, my wife's 85-year-old grandpa is dying.  I mean that literally.  He is lying in a hospital bed right now, lost in a haze of narcotic-level pain killers as his body all-too-slowly shuts down.

It makes me want to live forever, or at least, die quickly . . . in my sleep . . . at home.  Or maybe a heart attack?  I don't know--whatever it is, the key is the adverb "quickly" placed in front of it.

But the pragmatist in me says that this is a fact of life and dwelling on death is never a good thing.  So I won't.  I will instead do all the cliche things like understand he is an old man and had a long life producing three children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.  That's respectable.  I will remember the first time I met him when he offered me a PBR (I think--maybe it was an Old Style) and I knew that I would get along with him.  I will "be there" for my wife and children if they need me.  What else can I do, right?

Now, how about Christmas?  It is a celebration of life coming at the end of the year and the Winter Solstice when the days start getting longer.  There are religious connotations too, but for the life of me, I can't remember what they are . . . .  I've heard too that it is the celebration of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus signing the peace treaty that ended a long and horrible war.  Or maybe it is Santa Claus's birthday. But seriously, that might be a good idea for a story . . . a world set in such a future so that people have forgotten their history, their religion, their beliefs, tradition, etc . . . .  I might have to look into that . . . .

I got off track.  What I was going to say: Christmas rocked for me this year.  My kids have had a good time, my wife has had a good time, my extended family and close friends have had a good time.  It's been a great celebration of making it through one more year intact.  Hanging out with one of my oldest friends yesterday took me back to my childhood--any time you can be taken back to your childhood, in a good way, is a good thing.  Is that redundant?  Or does it make sense at all?

Whatever.  I hope everyone else had a good holiday, however you celebrate it, whatever you call it.  I know bad comes with good, I know life comes with death, I know it sucks.  But I'm trying to latch onto the good.  I think it might help me live longer.  Here's hoping for a great 2011 . . . .

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

I don't know how many times I've seen this movie.  I remember when I was a boy there was an urban legend . . . or maybe it was fact . . . I don't know . . . anyway . . . this legend stated that the show was played so many times that people were actually getting sick of it and a law was enacted stating that it could only be played so many times a year from so many distributors from now on.  Yeah, it is a convoluted mess, I know.  So I'm guessing that the trickle down effect kind of messed up the original message somehow--kind of like in economics.

Anyway, I love the story of a good man having a good life.  Yes, I've heard the feminist argument against the film.  I've heard the capitalist argument against it too.  I've also heard the cliche argument.  And you know what I say to all those arguments?

PPPLLLGGGGTTTHHHPPHTHTHHTHTPPBBLTH!!!

A good man is backed into a corner.  He isn't a moral absolutist.  In one line, when he prays to God after the shit has hit the fan, he says, "I'm not a praying man . . . ."  He also has a certain destructive side that causes serious injury to several inanimate objects throughout the film.  A phrase like, "You're worth more dead than alive," sends him over the edge toward suicide.  He has a yearning for things he will probably never achieve and this yearning always haunts him.  But this reminds me that, as the first sentence in this paragraph says, George Bailey is "a good man," despite the fact that in one scene he bawls out a teacher for no reason.

You tweak this story for our times and it would still stand.  Do you think Four Christmases or Christmas with the Kranks are going to?  I'll go ahead and answer that one for you guys.  No, they aren't.  My first reaction is to examine the film like a writer and come to the conclusion that this movie has stood the test of time for one simple reason: it's real.

George Bailey is one of the best Everyman characters introduced to film.  I like him.  I like what he's done with his life.  I appreciate his sacrifice.  I understand his suicidal whim near the end of the film.  I even empathize with the few hours he spends freaking out, yelling at innocent teachers and his family, and getting completely hammered.  Jesus, if I was facing what he was facing, I might do the same thing, or worse.

I guess what I'm trying to say in this impromptu post, is Merry Christmas or happy holidays, or whatever.  There are a few times in our lives when we should just realize that a child's laughter is worth far more than a child's tears.  For whatever reason, this film reminds me of that simple fact.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eclipse

The eclipse last night was fucking crazy!  The moon turned red!  It turned red!  Did you see it?  It was crazy!  The moon turned red!  Here is a pretty cool website with some photos of it.  And this other guy, who, as best as I can tell, is zealously passionate about . . . stuff . . . got some footage of it here.  It isn't the best footage, kind of wobbly at times, but hey, it's better than the footage I got.  I didn't get any.  So I thank him for his.

But seeing it man, seeing it, makes me think how easy it would be for less advanced societies to think all kinds of crazy shit was happening when something like this went down, especially when something like this went down on the solstice.  You know, I can imagine all kinds of cowering peasants, frightened priests, and noble knights all fearing the end is near when the moon does something crazy like that.

But I have to take it a step further too.  It makes me wonder about all the crazy shit we think now, in what we so arrogantly call "modernity."  Like, is our medicine really as awesome as some people would have us believe?  Are our politics, science, educational systems, religion, governments, technology, etc, etc, etc. really as "advanced" as we think they are.  Is our collective arrogance keeping us tied to old ideas the way former ages were tied to theirs?  God, I hope not.

However, I'm inclined to believe we have just as much to learn as we ever did.  It's evidenced by every senseless death, by every stupid argument, by every religious zealot, and by every close-minded idiotic move, assumption, or "fact" you might hear every day.

In the end, watching the moon makes me think we need some kind of super man, some kind of combination of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, King, Gandhi, and any other great thinker, peace bringer, genius I can't think of right now.  We need that guy now more than ever.  It's time for another huge leap for mankind.

Anybody out there got the tenacity to be that guy . . . or girl?  Hell, I think I'd prefer a girl.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Escape

I’m not a fan of euphemisms, which is odd, since I expect my Creative Writing students to know what euphemisms are and their proper use.  What I mean to say is that you shouldn’t expect anything other than the truth from me.  That being said, understand this: I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.

Those mistakes, at least the majority of them, lasted for a 10-year period when I was between the ages of 15 and 25.  Those mistakes involved drugs, illicit and legal, and alcohol and many of the less than pleasant activities that come from over-usage of them.  And I have no excuse for this sordid past.  I have no diagnosed mental condition that could cause these mistakes.  My parents didn’t beat me.  I felt loved.  Although my family was never rich, we were never destitute either.  “Working Class,” I believe, is the aptly named rung my family clung to on the socio-economic spectrum.

What I see now, what I saw eight years ago when I finally wised up and realized what I was doing, is that I was escaping reality.  I wasn’t escaping reality because mine was bad, but it was, as I saw it, dull.  This needs little explaining.  All teenagers everywhere, and several adults, think their lives are boring.  Narcotics helped ease that boredom some.  For me though, it was more than just boredom.

I feared, with every fiber of my being, growing up.  I think this was in part because my father’s job sucked.  He worked at a steel mill for most of my childhood, putting in 50+ hour weeks on a regular basis.  He hated it, but did it for his family.  Though I found the sacrifice fascinating, comforting, humbling, and passionate, I also found myself fearing it.  Through the mixed social messages of television, music, books, and movies, I found myself, as I aged, veering away from my father’s path and using drugs and alcohol to strike my own, quite opposite of my father’s.  I was escaping into a pseudo-adulthood that left me free of most of the responsibilities many people my age had.

I had several moments in my journey that made me re-think my thinking—one moment in particular, when a friend downed two hits of acid and did a few lines of coke before blowing his head off in his little brother’s bedroom closet comes to mind as I type this.  Another striking moment happened when I was arguing against the benefits of meth to one of my “friends” at a party in the shadiest trailer park I had ever sat foot in . . . and I had sat foot in several at that point for several reasons I don’t feel like explaining.

But nothing woke me up to the fact that I was using these outside elements to escape the fact that I was bored and afraid.  Even into adulthood, even into long-term relationships, college, and married life.  Ultimately, it was the birth of my son, Quintin, who had a congenital heart defect requiring open-heart surgery when he was five days old, that got me to see the light.

I remember the moment clearly.  Quintin had been in surgery for somewhere near seven hours.  I left the waiting room because I couldn’t stand being around my family anymore and all their fake happiness that was a horrible mask for their grief (I know they were, by and large, just acting saccharine positive for my wife and me and I thank them for it, but at the time I didn’t want it).  I went to an adjoining waiting room, sat down, covered up, and cried.  When my wife came in a few minutes later, she joined me.

When that wasn’t enough, when all I wanted was something to dull the pain of this event, to forget that it was happening, that’s when I realized I was walking down a path I didn’t want to finish.

So I stopped . . . for the most part.  I straightened up . . . for the most part.  I became a teacher, I became a published writer.  Life is good.

Am I saying escape is a bad thing?  No.  Escape can be good.  In fact, sometimes, I just need to escape after a hard day’s work.  I still go a little too far every now and then.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The problems arise when you do not realize why you are doing whatever it is you are doing.  The problems arise when you don’t know when to say that all too cliche phrase, “Enough is enough!” 

If you understand yourself, your motivations, then you can understand your behaviors and be the master of them.  It took me 25 years to realize that, which is at least 10 years too long.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Zombies

This time of year always reminds me of zombies.  Their popularity is rising with every episode of The Walking Dead.  If you don't believe me, check out what my buddy, the mad genius, Drewsus has to say about it here.  But then there are also the comic books that the television show is based on, there is Max Brooks' amazing novel, World War Z, there are the numerous movies, some good, some not so good.  In short, zombies are everywhere.

Shouldn't I be reminded of elves and Santa Clause and Jesus right now though?  I mean, zombies?  Seriously?  How fucked up am I, really?

Let me tell you a story.

I'm scared of zombies.  It's odd, because I am also fascinated by them.  I think it has something to do with what they represent--this total lack of control--this monster that isn't exactly evil but could nonetheless destroy mankind.  They aren't like vampires, who keep some aspect of their humanity in that they can communicate, hate, love?, etc.  They aren't like werewolves who are really only monstrous one day a month (and seriously, how hard could it possibly be for someone to just find a lion pit or something at a zoo to stay at once a month so you don't hurt anybody?).  I could go on and on with this comparison thing, but that might be showing you guys a little too much of the inner workings of my brain.

I remember having horrible nightmares when I was a boy after watching a couple of stupid zombie movies--not even scary really.  Nonetheless, they literally scared the piss out of me.  I shoved this fear to the back of my mind for quite some time, tried to avoid zombies in general in fact, then in 2004, Zack Snyder remade George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  I avoided it for as long as I could, until late one December night, like really late, my sister and I watched it while drinking and my mind was suddenly flooded with memories from my childhood, the fears that came with the entire concept of zombies.  My brain has held onto it ever since.

And that, dear friends, is why this time of year always reminds me of zombies.