Lunch with the Author – EXTENDED!

UPDATE 3-3-18:
Dog Eared Books has graciously allowed me to continue the raffle for another week. So there is still a chance to enter the raffle for a free lunch with yours truly. We can talk about my book, books in general, writing, the weather…endless possibilities!

Have lunch with the author? Why not! I’m holding a raffle at Dog Eared Books, Castro for the next week. Put your name and email address in a cute blue bucket and I’ll draw a name at random next Friday, March 9, and invite that person to lunch. My treat!

Dog Eared Books also has some signed copies of Sin Against the Race for sale as well. Go check it out!

What: Lunch with the Author
When: Raffle runs from Feb. 23 – Mar. 9; winner selected on Mar. 9.
Where: Dog Eared Books, 489 Castro St., San Francisco

 

Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews

Jerry L. Wheeler at Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews has reviewed Sin Against the Race. The site has hundreds of reviews over many years, so I am grateful for the review.

“First novels are tough, especially ones that aim to tell a large story. Big stories usually require big casts, which can be difficult for even the most experienced novelists to manage. That Gar McVey-Russell does it pretty well right out of the box speaks highly of his skills . . .

Sin Against the Race is an extremely promising first novel . . . much here to enjoy . . . its ending satisfies with a vengeance.”
-Jerry L. Wheeler

Check out the entire review here.

Lunar Eclipses Past and Present

Super Blue Blood Moon from Oakland, January 31, 2018.

Karl the Fog stayed away, allowing Bay Area skywatchers a chance to observe the Super Blue Blood Moon total lunar eclipse that occurred in the early hours of January 31. I get up early anyway on weekdays. My current workout regime requires it. But that Wednesday morning, I had an extra incentive.

Low clouds had thwarted my first attempt at seeing a lunar eclipse. I was probably 10 or so. I remember shaking my fist at the air in anger. A few years later, though, we hit the jackpot. My brother Robert packed us into his car—sister Tania, brother JK, and me—and we trekked up the narrow, tortuous road to Mt. Wilson. Home of the Mt. Wilson Observatory and virtually every television and radio transmitter for the LA area, we had the perfect vantage point for viewing the eclipse.

Light pollution hadn’t totally killed the view from Mt. Wilson. Stars aplenty filled the sky. And against this backdrop sat the moon, creeping deeper and deeper into the Earth’s shadow. I thought that it would turn completely dark. But we all geeked out when it turned blood red. Look! It’s Mars! we all exclaimed. And so it appeared, the Red Planet came in for a close up, a cratered planet taking the place of our cratered moon.

A large group had gathered in the chilly air high above LA. Many brought telescopes and happily shared them with those of us that did not. But without a scope, you saw what looked like a 3-D object floating against a sea of stars. It appeared that all one had to do was reach out and grab it like an orange off a tree.

We all talked and talked about what an experience it had been as we descended the mountain and drove home. I remember thinking, as we passed Jack-in-the-Box and McDonald’s on the way home, I could get a job at one of them to earn money to buy a Celestron 8, the king of the telescopes for amateur astronomers. Robert raved about its advanced, Schmidt-Cassegrain design, giving it power in a compact package. We talked about getting a van, one of the classics from the 70s, fitting it with a dome and taking out the Celestron to the high desert. A great fantasy that never came to pass, but always filled our minds with hope.

Early Wednesday morning, before working out, showering, eating breakfast, and going to work, I took out my 4” Newtonian telescope out to the curb to get close up views of the eclipse in progress. There it was, the Super Blue Blood Moon. The giant orange returned, tempting us to pluck it from its celestial tree.

JK and Tania watched from their respective homes in Southern California. As I watched from mine in Oakland, I thought of Robert and that special trip to Mt. Wilson long ago. Soon to be four years gone, on February 11, I felt a part of Robert’s spirit with me as the Moon quietly traversed the Earth’s shadow.

State of the Union: From Obama-nation to Abomination

One does not have to look far beyond the headlines to discern the current state of the union.

GLAAD reports that Americans are becoming less comfortable with LGBTQ people.

49 percent of the non-LGBTQ respondents identified themselves as LGBTQ “allies” in 2017, down from 53 percent in 2016. At the same time, 55 percent of the LGBTQ respondents said they experienced anti-queer discrimination last year, compared to 44 percent in 2016.
-Huffington Post, 1/25/2018

If the courts, stacked with conservative, anti-queer judges, begin chipping away at LGBTQ rights, we run the risk of the population looking at this set back as business as usual, or worse a good thing. It’s not, nor should it ever be thought of that way.

The White House once looked like this. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deportations run rampant, destroying lives and families. ICE deported Jorge Garcia from Michigan after living in the US for 30 years, taking him away from his wife and kids. ICE has detained Lukasz Niec and threatens to send him back to Poland, where he hasn’t lived since he was five years old. Dr. Niec’s sister says he doesn’t even speak Polish. California, Gondor to this administration’s Mordor, braces itself for an onslaught of random raids by ICE, punishment for declaring ourselves a sanctuary state.

Similarly, this administration wants to deport all Dreamers who arrived here as children. The president uses Dreamers as a bargaining chip for his stupid, expensive, and pointless border wall, the one he said throughout his campaign that Mexico would pay for. Bullshit, of course, and he knows it. Former Mexican Presidente Vicente Fox has said on numerous occasions, “We will not pay for your fucking wall.” So now he wants to extort the US into paying for it, using Dreamers as hostages.

We live in a country where supporters of this administration tell Native Americans to go back to where they came from.

The Department of Justice wants to crack down on state legalization of marijuana. Again, California lies in the cross hairs.

Mass shootings continue at an alarming rate. Nazis march in the street. Hate crimes are up. And official statements from the president, in the form of tweets, cause international alarm on a routine basis.

The man himself claims to be the healthiest ever to hold the Oval Office. Despite the report from his doctor, he is clearly dangerously overweight and, by his own admission, does not exercise.

We had a president who embodied good health and whose wife advocated healthy living (and received much shit for doing so by right wing kooks). Now we have one that sits in bed eating junk food while watching garbage television and hate tweeting.

A healthy president.

 

 

A not-so-healthy president

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went from an administration that cared about people to one that cares for no one. One that recognized and celebrated families, to one that parrots empty rhetoric about the importance of family yet engages in policies antithetical to them. We went from generous to cruel.

What’s the state of the union? We aren’t a shithole nation, not yet. But we dance dangerously around the toilet rim. We were an Obama-nation and now we’re an abomination.

Book Review by SF Review of Books for Sin Against the Race

Grady Harp at the San Francisco Review of Books has written a review for Sin Against the Race. I’m quite grateful for and flattered by it:

Gar’s skill as a writer of prose is very close to that of an accomplished poet. His language is beautiful and his ability to create the atmosphere of his story place as well as unveil the minds of his characters, allowing the reader entry into their psyches, is that of a polished professional.

You can read the entire review here.

Defy the shitholes or become one

Alexandria’s library still burns in my heart. If we had not lost the accumulated knowledge of that ancient temple of wisdom, would we have a cure for cancer today? Would we have warp drive? What would our world look like now if we hadn’t taken those sixteen thousand steps backwards—if we haven’t had to retrace them in a sand with faint footprints?

I saw the Taliban blow up the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas and grimaced. A tantrum by intemperate children destroyed beauty. Such wonton destruction and disregard for what was sickens me. I shielded myself from videos of extremist thugs desecrating museums of Syria and Iraq, smashing statues and the like. But I can’t stop looking. I can’t afford to.

A man with a dream tried to build things of beauty with the tools he had available to him. The tools were imperfect, like the man who wielded them. But he worked earnestly, with hopes that those who followed would build upon his foundation, perhaps build additions that may in the end outshine his original construction.

Other forces had different ideas. They shot Dr. King on April 4,1968. 45 years later, one of his constructions, the Voting Rights Act, suffered a major gutting at the hands of the Supreme Court. How ironic. The Court had been seen as a tool of salvation, a ticket to freedom. But things have changed since the days of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Freer minds exist today thanks to the work of the Civil Rights Movement that Dr. King was a part of. This gave rise to the impossible. Thus, in 2008, another man tried to build things of beauty with the tools he had available. He, too, is an imperfect man who used imperfect tools. But he, too, worked earnestly and hoped that others that followed would build upon what he created, or create something even better.

And again, other forces had different ideas. No preplanned, concerted effort brought the current president to office, per se. That is to say, he was not selected out of a crowd, anointed as “the one” and then fed, nurtured, and primped for the role. No. He just appeared. But having grown up fed with racist ideology, he fit the bill just fine. His father wore the robes of the Klan, taught his son not to trust dark-skinned people. Don’t rent to them. Don’t hire them to handle your money. They’re thieves. And the son learned his lessons well.

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

Now he is in the house that was once Obama’s and is smashing it to bits, just as the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas, just as the Islamic State destroyed the ancient sites of Palmyra. Our punishment for having elected a black man is to watch all that he did get decimated by a man who lacks Obama’s intelligence, education, thoughtfulness, grace, and wisdom.

Alexandria burns again. Its scrolls turn to ash, its tablets into rubble. Its knowledge vanishes for another thousand years. Except we don’t have a thousand years. We may not have 50. We have a world hurdling towards oblivion due to anthropic climate change. We have millions threatened with homelessness and disease because of draconian policies planned by the current regime.

We also have the power to stop it, if we want. We can beat back the flames, reclaim the scrolls, restore beauty. We can defy the shitholes.

We can. We should. We must. But will we? If we don’t, then we are the shitholes. And our descendants will look at us as such.

New Year, New Day, New Books – A reading event

Happy New Year!

I’ll be reading with the perfectly fabulous Perfectly Queer again, this time in San Francisco. The theme: New Year, New Day, New Books. I’m on the bill with two other recently published authors: Lewis DeSimone and Randall Mann.

The store will have copies of my novel Sin Against the Race available for sale. We’ll read, answer questions, sign books, mug for the camera. All that. There will also be door prizes, champaign, and goodies to munch. Please come!

 

Book Giveaway! – Sin Against the Race

Start the New Year with a New Book! Beginning today, Wednesday, December 20, and running for a month, I’ll be hosting a giveaway of my novel Sin Against the Race over at Good Reads. Ten lucky winners, drawn randomly, will receive a personally signed copy. What do you have to do? Simple! Go to Good Reads and sign up. Winners will be announced soon after the end date of January 20, 2018.

Sign up today for a chance to win!

Their greed will kill us

Because of the greed of a few, we will all suffer. Republicans, punch drunk on hubris, will gore the  middle class and exterminate the poor to feed the rich. Muffy will get her fourth yacht. Buffy will get his third Swiss villa. The middle class will get crumbs. The poor will get nothing.

Throughout the Obama years, we heard Republicans scream DEFICIT, DEFICIT, DEFICIT. Again and again, they decried that the DEFICIT was too high. It will lead to ruin. Our children will be burdened for decades. Wah-wah-wah.

The tax (scam) bill poised to pass this coming week will increase the size of the deficit in ways hitherto unimaginable. And Paul Ryan, Speaker and Ghoul of the House, has already called for major cuts to “entitlements.”

Social Security, Medicare, they’re all doomed. We have money to pay for Buffy’s villas and Muffy’s yachts, but not for healthcare. And by the way, they are not entitlements. They are not handouts. People pay into Social Security and Medicare. That’s how they were designed. Calling them entitlements is bullshit. The Ghouls do that to feed their false narrative that the undeserving are getting something on the backs of the rich. It’s the other way around, folks. Always has been.

Companies with billions in the bank will suddenly have billions more at their disposal. In theory, they will use this new money to create new jobs, which in turn will stimulate the economy.

Bullshit. It will do nothing of the kind. George H.W. Bush called it voodoo economics when he ran for president in 1980. He changed his tune when he signed up as vice president to the Voodoo-in-chief, but he had it right the first time. I’ll believe the trickle-down treacle when the CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations take 50-75% pay cuts and increase wages for their employees proportionally. Companies make money hand over fists, but the workers see little or nothing for these accomplishments.

Kansas tried trickle down. It failed. Greed only benefits the greedy. It does not benefit society at large.

I’m not a Christian. So I feel a little silly preaching to the supposed Christians in Congress, but here goes: greed is wrong. It’s evil. It hurts people. People will die because of the greed of the rich.

Greed is a sickness, a type of hoarding with many innocent victims. Hoarders live in squalor, to the detriment of their own health. The greedy keep money out of circulation, to the detriment of everyone. They do not create jobs. They do not stimulate the economy. And their greed is voracious. Nothing is ever enough.

My mother always used to say, Who has all the money? The city, county, state, and federal governments always talk about the money they don’t have. So who has it?

Koch Brother ghouls. Murdoch ghouls. Walton ghouls. All those who feed the likes of McConnell, Ryan, et al., they have all the money, and they want to keep it that way. We can send their kids to private schools, so why should they pay for public ones? We can get around in style on private jets, so why pay for the upkeep of roadways? We can zip to anywhere in the world for the best medicine money can by, so why pay for healthcare for others? Fuck others.

That attitude will destroy this country. If we all long to become money hoarders, hoping to win the lottery and get so well off that we can say “fuck you” to everyone else, then we cease to function as a society. Society only works when it funds itself. We fund ourselves through taxes. We tax those with money. This isn’t hard to figure out. The only ones that benefit from tax cuts are the ones with the most money. Sure, some folks might see a short-term bump in their paychecks. But then shit will start costing more, from healthcare to food, and the bump in pay will become a distant memory. Furthermore, the tax “cuts” for the middle class expire in a couple of years.

Meanwhile, schools could close and healthcare and housing could skyrocket out of reach. All so Muffy and Buffy can have more money to play with.

This is not the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where people care about each other and where a government reflects that basic human value. Enough with the ghouls. They have to go.

Do we have a functioning democracy?

Do we still have a functioning democracy in this country? Sadly, the evidence points to no.

I submit the following as Exhibit A to support this answer:

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders posted this photo on Facebook. With his post, he added the following:

This page is from the tax bill Senate Republicans rewrote and passed in the middle of the night—a 429-page bill that we received just hours before the vote and which had zero public hearings. Can you even tell what it says? Leave your guesses in the comments.

Despite its length and complexity, no one got a chance to read it before voting on it late last night, where it passed on a largely party-line vote of 51 to 49. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is the only Republican to vote against it.

I tweeted my first thought about the bill Saturday morning:

I’m not a Christian and learned this verse from an episode of Miss Marple (the Joan Hickson version, of course). But even without subscribing to the Christian faith, one can easily grasp the larger truth this verse conveys. It accurately captures what happened in the Senate, in the middle of the night.

I’ve been thinking all day about this verse, the Bible, and how so many Senators who voted for the tax bill call themselves Christians. Many religious leaders from many faiths have declared that no person of faith could possibly support the tax bill, an obvious giveaway to the greedy at a cost of the needy. And really, at a cost to society at large.

Society only works when you fund it. Firefighters, police, maintenance, healthcare, education, all of these things make up a society. We gather together to set up these institutions to help us, the people, live out lives. When we fund these things, we do well. When we don’t fund these things, we suffer. The Bible warns against avarice, greed, and gluttony. Yet, these sins are commonplace, even celebrated.

Republicans proved, again, that they stand for nothing but money. They use the Bible when it suits them. Otherwise, they easily disregard it. It suits them to control others, so they use the Bible to bash LGBTQ folks. However, their attachment to money allows them to ignore passages about the evils of greed. They cannot see how much they hurt others, or they simply don’t care.

So great is their hypocrisy, that they can now put stuff like the above up for a vote and get it passed. I mean look at it. What a mess. If I had turned in a paper like that to my 9th grade research writing teacher, he’d still be kicking my ass all these years later. Nothing like that should have appeared on the Senate floor, much less voted on. That’s a travesty.

We have not arrived at this point by accident. Many roads of good intention paved the way to our current hell. Ronald Reagan sang the gospel of greed and many listened, took heed. Thus, 28 years after he left office, we now have an elite class of citizens who own enormous wealth. We now view this as normal, as part of a thriving capitalist society, a job well done. We don’t view such obscene wealth as we should: a sickness. Why covet what you cannot possibly use?

So no, we do not currently have a functioning democracy. A majority of the country opposes the tax bill, yet it passed. Makes sense, really. Those who passed it do not care about the Bible’s admonitions against greed, despite calling themselves Christians. Why should they care about the will of the people, even if they call themselves defenders of democracy?