Doomsday Clock

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (left) Doomsday Clock (right) Watchmen 2009 Film

It is two and a half minutes to midnight, and the lines between fact and fiction are growing increasingly irrelevant. As the “real news” reports the latest in “alternative facts” our country is overwhelmed with an odd sense of déjà vu, like we’ve been here before but forgot to take notes. All those years preaching those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it and look where it has gotten us:

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Following the virally infamous Kellyanne Conway interview on January 22nd, our country appears condemned to repeat High School English while we’re at it. Sales of George Orwell’s iconic novel “1984” skyrocketed to the top of the charts, with hopes that “It Can’t Happen Here” putting Sinclair Lewis’ satirical tale closely in the running, and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” coming up fast.

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian moral “better never means better for everyone… it always means worse, for some” makes her novel “A Handmaid’s Tale” a favorite of recent protests, particularly the January 21st Women’s March, as the near future of 1985 approaches once more.

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Save us Supergirl!

As citizens across the country discover the lessons of classic literature that they were too wrapped up in teenage angst to appreciate before it was too late, others…

tick-tock. tick. tock. tick…

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Written by Alan Moore
Illustrated by Dave Gibbons colored by John Higgins
You won’t be seeing “Watchmen” on any school reading or viewing lists, but as three stuffy old men from the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences advance a very real doomsday clock, this motif draws chilling parallels.

“Watchmen” is a graphic novel in twelve parts, one for each hour on the clock, ticking one minute closer to midnight with each issue, counting down to global catastrophe in the final chapter.

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“Who Watches the Watchmen?” Not Alan Moore. To him, I do apologize, for I must talk about the film. The graphic novel writer’s name was stricken from the movie credits, and at his own request, his share of the profits went to illustrator Dave Gibbons, who worked closely with the production of the adaptation.

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As the character Dr. Manhattan crafts his clockwork-world on the sands of Mars pondering the nature of reality and the importance of this clock motif… the world of “Watchmen” was made by Alan Moore. A purist with a deep respect for the medium, he scripted his stories to showcase the full range of what comics could do–

if we only see comics in relation to movies then the best that they will ever be is films that do not move

“Watchmen” is told as a collection of character accounts deconstructing the super hero, and similarly, deconstructing the super hero comic. While remarkably true to the source for material considered for many years to be unfilmable… “Watchmen” is a comic about comics as much if not more than it is a comic about super heroes, and a film about comics just doesn’t capture the same effect on that front.

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The graphic novels open with full page prose excerpts from Hollis Mason’s autobiography “Under the Hood” detailing his masked adventures as Night Owl, and the events surrounding the formation of the Minutemen. Under the Hood was adapted as a special feature for the Ultimate Cut of the film, directed by Eric Matthies with a screenplay by Hans Rodionoff

“Tales of the Black Freighter” is a comic within the Watchmen comic universe named in homage to the song “Seeräuber Jenny” from Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” which tells of a ship by that name. Read by a teenage boy at a news-stand, the pirates tale Marooned parallels elements of the “Watchmen” story, serving as foil to the main plot, and to the structural commentary.

Directed by Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith, with a screenplay by Alex Tse and Zack Snyder, Tales of the Black Freighter was adapted as animated segues to preserve the meta-context. These shorts did not make the theatrical cut of the film, but edited in to the Ultimate Cut, their presence ties together a collection of stories, transitioning between the elements with a smooth sailing grace that now feels oddly disjointed in their absence.

One element of frame narrative did remain prominently featured in all versions of the adaptation– Rorschach’s entries to his journal served as voice-over narrations throughout the plot of the film, culminating in the public release of this information when this journal is sent to the press, establishing the journal as a sort of self-insert for the screenplay.

Added material completes the “Ultimate Watchmen” package with a run-time of 215 minutes. Clocking in at 7 minutes longer than Peter Jackson’s Extended Cut for “The Fellowship of the Ring” many viewers argue that vaguely metaphorical cartoon tangents interjected between key plot points pulls them out of a monotony already droning on for far too long…

Yes, of course, the whole idea is utterly inane, but to let its predictable inanities blind you to its truly fabulous and breathtaking aspects is to do both oneself and the genre a disservice.

– Alan Moore on suspension of disbelief within comic context

Others counter that these seemingly extraneous details serve as easter-eggs for dedicated fans to decipher and discuss, offering a profound respect for the source material, which is essential in maintaining a pre-existing fandom. Use of motion comic animation went one step further in preserving the source medium, but even still, this is child’s play compared to Alan Moore’s mastery of comic form.

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Chapter V: Fearful Symmetry

The reasons for these eccentricities are obscure, complex, and probably not terribly interesting to anyone not utterly infatuated with comics as a medium

– from the Introduction to the Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore

Your average super hero, the run of the mill picture of perfection fighting for truth, justice and the American way, often comes packaged in a stylish and remarkably durable spandex super jumpsuit. The Klark Kents and Peter Parkers of the comic world may pass as any other mundane photojournalist, but their super-powered alter egos are instantly recognizable by their bright, primary color schemes. DC comic’s iconic Superman sports a blue suit with red cape and gold accents. Marvel comic’s rendition of the demi-god Thor is similarly decked in blue tinted armor, a billowy red cape, and gold blingage.

Villains, on the other hand, are generally associated with secondary colors, green being the most common as we are familiar with classic horror tropes like witches and Frankenstein’s monster. For characters like Spiderman’s notorious villain Green Goblin, this color runs skin deep, and the purple accessories simply make for a complimentary aesthetic. Others, like Batman’s nemesis The Joker, choose their colors for themselves in snazzy purple suit jackets and OG neon green hair gel.

An exception to the standard, super scientist Bruce Banner is heralded as an iconic Marvel hero, but turns a smashing shade of radioactive green when his alter ego the Incredible Hulk takes control. The Hulk’s rapidly expanding size shreds his human-sized clothing with every fit of rage, but his conveniently purple pants never fail, leaving this color association as a manifestation of the Hulk’s destructive nature.

Featuring bold yellow and black titling on its cover, “Watchmen” blends right in with this pattern. In typical Hollywood fashion, the yellow smiley face accented with a splash of blood red, often spotted throughout the comics subtly discarded amidst carefully scripted details… became a merchandising goldmine, featured on movie posters, DVD jackets, and Hot Topic fitted t-shirts. Yellow and black, accented in red, became the primary color scheme of the film.

John Higgins colorized “Watchmen” mainly in secondary colors green, purple, orange, reserving primary colors to highlight key elements.

John leaned very heavily toward, as you say, the secondary palette… it was the same range of colors you’d always been able to use in American comics, but it was colors that hadn’t been widely used before. I think it added a lot to the atmosphere of the comic book…it reads less obviously as superheroes

– Dave Gibbons

These off the beaten scheme colors created a sense of ambiguity in the twisted morality of this dark and gritty take on real world super heroes. Dr. Manhatten floating naked and blue is a poignant contrast to the barren pink surface of Mars, and to the secondary palette back on his Earth, where this dissonance serves to inspire fear in the inferior human race.

In an effort to bring a sense of realism to comic adaptations, Hollywood has a tendency toward muting the colors when adapting iconic costumed heroes for screen. An all powerful naked blue man is believable enough, but apparently, the colorfully costumed Crimebusters was taking it too far.

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Ozymandias, named for the King of Kings from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem, decks himself out in gold plate draped in purple robes with matching cape and boots. Often associated with regality, Adrian Veidt’s purple and gold wardrobe is befitting for the stature of his namesake, his wealth, and his power. Fated by the poem, and parallels to a plethora of purple-clad comic villains, Ozymandias serves as example of the inevitable futility of empire. Modeled as a parody of the 1997 Batsuit, the film’s rubbery black body armor, is super generic, and offers little insight to the character behind the mask, though it does sculpt some godly ab and thigh muscles.

Night Owl trades in a red hood, matching undies, and gold utility belt, for a form-fitted brown leather body suit. Rorschach sports the same black and white mask with a brown trench coat, but his purple scarf and pants are muted beyond recognition. While toning down their color, the film amped up the violence, adding back alley showdowns with gratuitous thugs, and gory bloodbath hatchet jobs. Its dark and gritty, we get it, but when the countdown to catastrophe finally strikes midnight, we’re almost entirely desensitized to the horrors of the disaster that ensues, while the comics remain remarkably void of violence to accentuate its prevalence in the final chapter.

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The Comedian keeps his blue starred red and white striped shoulder pads, but most prominently of all, Silk Spectre stands out in skimpy black and yellow, and Dr Manhattan shines a nearly blinding blue. These primary colors shine bright and bold in the feature film, but the secondary colors remain only as a muted memory of super heroes past. When flashbacks of the Minutemen weren’t seen in black and white or sepia tone, they did provide a glimpse at some of the classic costumes, colors and all.

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There is nothing wrong with your television set

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This scene towards the end of the film references a reference to the in-universe source of the villainous scheme and twist ending, but while the comics openly pay homage to the 1963 episode “The Architects of Fear” with direct mention of the title, The Outer Limits opening sequence would suffice for the film, similarly overheard playing on Ms. Jupiter’s television.

Around issue 10, I came across a guide to cult television. There was an Outer Limits episode called ”The Architects of Fear.” I thought: ”Wow. That’s a bit close to our story.’ In the last issue, we have a TV promoting that Outer Limits episode — a belated nod.

—Alan Moore (Entertainment Weekly, 2009)

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I kept telling him, ‘Be more original, Alan, you’ve got the capability, do something different, not something that’s already been done!’ And he didn’t seem to care enough to do that.

—Len Wein (Wizard, 2004)

Published in 1959, Tales of Suspense #2 leads with an uncredited story “Invasion From Outer Space” that ends with a similarly familiar reveal. Generally attributed to Jack Kirby, as evidenced by his signature usage of ellipses… its hard to say exactly where Alan Moore first conceptualized the idea, but this dispute would be the straw that breaks the editors back for Len Wein, who left the project due to irreconcilable creative differences.

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LaRocca Lush

Daily Prompt: Lush

her lips blushed
a LaRocca Lush
plump, juicy, and sweet
her smile dimpled
pig-nosed wrinkled
eyes twinkled
with pure delight
shied behind
a stray lock of hair
teeth pressed in
a nervous bite

her soul shined
in radiant gold
a Dionysus devotee
grape stomp beauty
draped in ecstasy
and purple toed
her windswept tassels
billowed like a horses mane
braided in grapevines
zinfandel red
cascading the curves
of her divine frame

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PHOTO VIA LAROCCA VINEYARDS
“The Late Harvest Lush Zinfandel was picked in November 24, 2005, allowing the grapes to hang longer on the vine. The grapes were picked at 34.5 brix at our Sutter Buttes Vineyard. Capturing the desirable effects of the Botrytis cinerea, the “noble” rot, this wine is rich, ripe and elegant with an enormous presence of raisin and luscious flavors of chocolate and berries which makes for a delightfully sweet finish. With hints of spice and pepper the wine is not overly powerful and is referred to as an aphrodisiac that only gets better with age. This wine pairs deliciously with a rich chocolate truffle or any desserts.”

LaRocca Vineyards grows on 110 acres in Forest Ranch, California, two miles down the windy mountainside Schott Rd, to the end of the pavement, and then a bit further. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains at 2600 feet, LaRocca vines thrive on the sweet spring waters and rich mineral deposits of Mount Lassen.

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Vintner Phil LaRocca does organic with a passion, the fruits of his labor grow chemical free, and his wines age to perfection with no sulfites added. Sulfites may occur naturally in some wines as a byproduct of fermentation, but the United States Organic Wine Standard strictly prohibits use of sulfur dioxide, synthetic additives and preservatives.ccof+usdaAll LaRocca vintages are tested for sulfite levels, if the readings are completely sulfite-free bottles are labeled with “no sulfites detected” to distinguish these hypo-allergenic products for consumers. Roughly 1 in 100 Americans have sulfite sensitivity, which can present as shortness of breath, hives, or anaphylactic shock in extreme cases.

When my big brother Bisbee was in high school experimenting with alcohol, he played a game of slap-bag with some friends of his, passing around cheap Moscato wine… until he passed out on the sidewalk at the Boys and Girls Club where our mother would pick me up after school. Bisbee was taken to Enloe, suffered a brutal hangover, and learned about sulfite sensitivity.

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Dad — Pinot Noir Harvest 2015

Sulfite sensitivity runs in our Dad’s side of the family, but we would never have guessed that he was allergic to wine, because both our parents drank LaRocca wines regularly when they were working at the vineyard. The LaRocca family has been growing grapes to stomp their wine since 1984, and under them my family has been working from vine to bottle to tasting room off and on for roughly 30 years.

Dad laid out irrigation, harvested the crops and stomped in the vats. They always joked about the hazard of vat death, apparently common in this profession, but I still remember the day Dad chopped the tip of his finger off with the pruning shears. The flap of skin was hanging by a thread, but we stopped for popsicles at The Store on the way down the mountain to the hospital, orange creamsicle was always my favorite. In the photo below, roughly 20 years later, I am cutting myself with those same shears. Turns out, the grape doesn’t fall far from the vine, but sadly, the popsicle selection at The Store just isn’t what it used to be.

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Me — Pinot Noir Harvest 2015

Mom worked at the vineyard in racking, bottling and labeling, and later behind the counter at the Tasting Room when the original location opened in Forest Ranch. At the time, town consisted of The Store, The Diner, The Video Rental, and The Tasting Room. Over the years, several businesses have briefly occupied Forest Ranch storefronts, but the remote little mountain town provides a rather limited customer base, and rent for these locations is notoriously overpriced given the circumstances.

The new LaRocca Tasting Room is a classy joint in the heart of Chico, next door to the El Rey Theater. An intimate setting with limited capacity, the wine bar is a refreshing escape from the rowdy college scene that dominates Chico nightlife, but with special performers and trendy paint nights LaRocca is a tasteful alternative social hotspot.

LaRocca Vineyards Organic Wine Tasting Room
222 W. 2nd Street
Downtown Chico, California
Open Weds – Fridays 1:30-8pm
Saturdays 12 noon – 8pm
Sundays 1:30-6pm

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PHOTO VIA PHAEDRA LAROCCA

Even Bisbee got to pitch in with the LaRocca crew back in the day, as a tall and lanky child he was just small enough to drop into the vats for cleaning and just tall enough to climb his way back out again. For payment, being the little devil he was, my brother asked Phil for a Dallas Cowboys jersey. The 49ers haven’t won a Superbowl since he got that accursed jersey, but it is still packed away in the family home with baby keepsake clothes and old hippie hand-mades.

When my brother Wilder and I found our way home to Forest Ranch, Phaedra LaRocca had taken over business operations, with winemaker Phil doing what he does best. While we settled back in town, I started working for Phaedra around the vineyard, and fit right in like my mother never left. One by one familiar faces walked in, said hello to my mother… and one by one they did a double-take, wondering how she had managed to age backwards.

Dad, Wilder and I joined the limited friends and family crew when they came up shorthanded for the Pinot Noir crop that year. Another generation of Allens beside another generation of LaRoccas, another vintage, another snapshot, another generation of Forest Ranch memories. Phil prepared an organic feast that couldn’t be beat, with pineapple glazed ham, pasta salad, fresh fruits and veggies, and of course, LaRocca wine.

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PINOT NOIR HARVEST 2015 — PHOTOS VIA LAROCCA VINEYARDS
From right: Dad, Me, Wilder, Phil and Crew

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Semantics

a picture is worth 1000 words …but which words, exactly?

Before you squawk semanticist–
Give me 1000 words for this picture, compare it to the next contributor’s 1000 words, comment back what their words mean in your own words, take and/or draw a picture based on their words, compare and contrast.
If easier, start with 100 words, or even just 10.


set the scene–
primarily pink
a touch of green
flecks of red
a golden gleam
indecent exposure
liquid strangers
photo sin thesis
festive pranksters
sun spot blinders
de-arranger
black & white
graffiti gray
prismacolor
acid rain
tapestry woven
in tense disdain
fornication
in obscene name
a curse, a swear
profane love
a witty dare
screamed in passion
uttered in fear
flung for fashion
a viscous sneer
focus, focus
hocus pocus
a gentle bow
in falling dew
a fuzzy fwip
a curtsied skew
spin and dip–
the leads on you
hand in hand
shoe on shoe
word for word
view for view


With 10 words, I have a catchy hook.
With 100 words, I can spin a verse of visual imagery, motivational complexity, and a tease of linguistic philosophy.
With 1000 words, I can bore you with semantics.

In the words of Savage Garden– “a thousand words will give the reason why I don’t need you any more.” By today’s standards, a quick and sassy Sweet Brown meme says just as much, right?

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Errybody complaining that nobody gets it but “ain’t nobody got time” to speak out exactly what it is they want people to get.

A snowball effect of colloquialisms, presumptive universalities, and logical fallacies establishes it as an unspoken statement of the obvious, and thus, explanation is in itself an admission of obliviousness, in which case, if one does not get it by simple reference, then it is a concept that can not be gotten within the context of language as they know it.

Any attempt to communicate across such a divide is labelled as semantics, met with exasperation, and widely considered to be obnoxiously exorbitant… illustrator Jeff Mallett knows what I’m talking about–

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Modern technology has made communication with audiences of any size at any distance as simple as the touch of a button… but with simplification of our means of communication, came simplification of content.

Ratings for this type of content are off the charts– given our rising population and the increased availability of internet connectivity, this is not so much a sign of superiority as it is a statistical inevitability.

With the dawning of the age of Aquarius came a technological boom that would come to define the Millennial generation. Marked by the coming of the new millennium, the invention of memes, and the hands of the doomsday clock ticking ever closer to midnight… this global culture-shock forged a divide that has fundamentally changed our understanding of language.

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They say that to assume makes an ass of u and me but we go on assuming that such assumptions apply only to the assumed target of the phrase, while the assumer is exonerated by… perception of moral superiority?

When I say that is a contradiction, I am arguing semantics.
But it isn’t just semantics, being a particular word choice, it is the very semantics of logic itself… a concept that is defined below in British context, whilst poignantly absent in the American understanding of the word.

You may question if it is really necessary to cite not one, not two, but three dictionaries just to make this here point about semantics…

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If these 1000 words are not adequate enough to stress the necessity of expressly establishing common terminology within the context of a conversation for the purpose of mutual understanding across language barriers, perhaps that meme will suffice.


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semantics

 [si-man-tiks]

noun

(used with a singular verb)



1.
Linguistics.

  1. the study of meaning.
  2. the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form.
2. Also called significs. the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote.

3. the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc: “let’s not argue about semantics.”

British Dictionary definitions for semantics

semantics

/sɪˈmæntɪks/

noun (functioning as sing)

1. the branch of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning, changes in meaning, and the principles that govern the relationship between sentences or words and their meanings
2. the study of the relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent

3. (logic)

  1. the study of interpretations of a formal theory
  2. the study of the relationship between the structure of a theory and its subject matter
  3. (of a formal theory) the principles that determine the truth or falsehood of sentences within the theory, and the references of its terms
Derived Forms
semanticist, noun

Word Origin and History for semantics

n. “science of meaning in language,” 1893, from French sémantique (1883); see semantic (also see -ics ). Replaced semasiology (1847), from German Semasiologie (1829), from Greek semasia “signification, meaning.”

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semantics


Definition of semantics

  1. the study of meanings
    a: the historical and psychological study and the classification of changes in the signification of words or forms viewed as factors in linguistic development
    b (1):semiotics (2): a branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they refer to and including theories of denotation, extension, naming, and truth

  2. general semantics

  3. a: the meaning or relationship of meanings of a sign or set of signs; especially:connotative meaning
    b: the language used (as in advertising or political propaganda ) to achieve a desired effect on an audience especially through the use of words with novel or dual meanings

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semantics

plural noun


1 [usually treated as singular] The branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.
1.1 The meaning of a word, phrase, or text

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Silence

Via "Hush" -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4 Episode 10

can’t even shout
can’t even cry
the Gentlemen are coming by
looking in windows
knocking on doors
they need to take seven
and they might take yours
can’t call to mom
can’t say a word
you’re gonna die screaming
but you won’t be heard

It was a feeling I learned in my slumber long before I came to live it, as if my subconscious was preparing me for the trials I would soon face.

In my youth I ran barefooted, swam bare bottomed, sure as can be, a wild soul free of all fear. And in my dreams I swam through the skies, and breathed in the deep blue seas.

But as I grew, I would call out– and no sound would come.
I shouted and screamed and hollered, but I floated like a ghost through my own dreams, unheard, and ceasing to be seen, as consciousness pulled me back to reality.

By day the sensations were overwhelming, head ringing wired to explode, blood in my nose, vertigo, the lights were deafening… and by night, REM sleep would taunt me, my elusive prey, just out of reach.

This is a feeling that would become all too familiar as autoantibodies block nicotinic acetylcholine transmissions in my neuro-muscular system, severing the link between my mind and body, but at the time, I knew it only as silence.

Silence is not a fleeting moment, a fad, a fashion statement you wear for a night on the town. “Fools, said I, you do not know, silence like a cancer grows.”

In third grade, my school recommended speech therapy sessions. I was fine with pronunciation, but they felt I lacked volume control, and feared I could develop the nasty habit of speaking my mind.

I took a vow of silence in protest, didn’t speak a word for 3 days. They put me in the speech sessions anyway, and I spent most of my adolescent years being constantly reprimanded for speaking too loudly, and just all around speaking too much.

Since I was diagnosed with Myastenia Gravis, nobody has told me I’m too loud, or I speak too much. Now they tell me I’m too quiet, or that it couldn’t hurt to smile… and every time, I remind myself that MG is invisible, they cannot know the pain they are not aware of.

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June is Myastenia Gravis Awareness Month

More often than not now, when I do manage to stutter out a few of the words trapped in my racing mind, nobody stops to listen, so I save my smiles for something worth the effort.

In my first year, as my condition rapidly deteriorated, and my friends and even my family could no longer recognize me… I fell into another bout of silence, and barely spoke a word for months.

I fantasized my way through childhood, read through grade school, and wrote through puberty. All the thoughts left unspoken and all my words left unheard, I found them there. Now once again, I have found my words– write where I left them.

This I owe in large part to George R.R. Martin for “A Song of Ice and Fire” and the world of wonders he has spun for me, the likes of which I have not known since I first discovered Joss Whedon with Firefly, Dollhouse, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Before high school and college taught me that there are bad books in this world, I fell in love with Cornelia Funke’s “Inkheart” trilogy, sailed away with Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Earthsea” trilogy, pondered mind and body and essence of being with Patricia K. McKillip’s “Riddle Master” trilogy, and smuggled off to infinity and beyond with my towel and “The Increasingly Misnamed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy” by Douglas Adams.

Now I find myself caught between fact and fiction, in a world where the lines between the two are becoming increasingly irrelevant. In my passion for both logic and fantasy, I have found my words, in a plentiful bounty.

But the thing about silence– only the silent can hear it.
To utter its name, is to shatter its effect.

A peace spoken, is a silence broken.
…and thus concludes this moment of silence.

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