Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Oregon Chronicles: A PDX Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2018.

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We moved to Oregon on August 25th 2018 and were met by one on the mildest and most beautiful falls I have ever seen. Fall as in the season, not the water that drops over cliffs—although those are quite splendid and abundant in Oregon as well. We moved into a house off 18th and Killingsworth in the NE neighborhood of Portland. The neighborhood is extremely walkable and within a five minute walk we can walk to Hat Yai (Thai Fried Chicken), Pine State Biscuits, Proud Mary (Aussie coffee shop), Podnah’s (bbq), Barista, Handsome Pizza, Salt n’ Straw (ice cream), The Bollywood Café (Indian)—a plethora of bars I will probably never visit based on my current Dad situation—and a dog store called The Filling Station. I think we ate out every night the first week we were there. The eating out couldn’t last forever though, and so we started ordering a few Blue Apron meals every week to lessen the load of cooking w/ child.

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For the first month Portland felt like an extended Airbnb vacay. We didn’t really feel like we “lived” there. But once I started working and Cat started her internship at Randall Children’s Hospital two days a week, a routine began to develop. I had trouble finding work at first and though I am busy now and working more than I’d like to, I have already forgotten that it took me over a month to find a job and have almost forgotten how endless the search once was—a futile time suck of days spent emailing resumes and developing a CV for jobs you may never have a shot with. All the coffee people were confused as to why I was the owner of a coffee roasting company in Utah applying for barista jobs in Portland. I also applied for jobs at Nike and PSU on the whim that they decided to hire a completely unqualified person to do the job. They had no such whims. We’d like to buy a house soon but will probably need to wait until Cat goes back to work as she has the type of jobs that look good to lending companies, my barista job …. not so much.

I finally found work with a coffee shop called Con Leche and Smalltime Roasters—a Mexican-American owned coffee shop in their second year of business that was started initially to raise funds for Dreamers. My main goal has been to help build their wholesale and roasting operation, but I also work barista shifts four days a week at Con Leche—which is a shared space with Frank Wine bar in the South Waterfront district of Portland. I have to work weekends, but this also gives me some flexibility to take Tuesdays off while Cat works at her internship at the hospital.

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However, just last week I accepted a position at Sustainable Harvest, a green coffee importing company. I will be working with a woman named Yimara from Colombia as her quality specialist assistant in the lab as we sample roast, cup, and evaluate coffee from around the world—along with helping with some minor logistics. It really is a dream job come true and sort of the next level for me in the coffee world. In February I plan to get my Q Grader, which is like a sommelier or cicero certificate for coffee. I will still be helping Smalltime out on the side but probably drop my barista shifts. The new job at Sustainable will also be good for me because I think I will finally have to quit smoking…but we’ll see.

The move to Oregon has been a combination of excitement and adjustment. Exploring a new city (more so for Cat, less for me) and starting a new job, living in a new neighborhood, new house, new neighbors, friends, and most importantly, family. Though not new, this is the first time in ten years that Cat and I are living in the same state as family. And while the opportunities are exciting, a new move also brings with it a bunch of SLE’s, or Stressful Life Experiences (as this new book I recently bought at the Portland Book Festival called This is Your Brain on Depression calls them) and I still find myself lapsing into similar vices and frustrations I wish I could have left behind in Utah. But as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

IMG_7650 Cat misses her friends from Utah and is excited to start work again in the summer, but she is cherishing this time with Evangeline so much. Overall, she is adjusting to life in PDX beautifully.

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Evangeline turned six months on November 23rd and now is almost seven months old! Everyday she seems to get more and more active and interactive. She started pulling at our face and nose and glasses and my beard. She pulses her legs, laughs and smiles, and she can practically sit up (though not roll over, not yet). She has been pure joy. Her rosy red cheeks shine bright, and her brown eyes seem to emanate with a purity and light that must be beamed from heaven straight into her little soul. She is 99th percentile in height and whatever is in that formula must be good because she’s growing fast.

On Thursdays my mom drives down to watch Evangeline as both her and my dad now live an hour away in Hood River. Also in Hood River are my sister Alyssa, her husband Eli, and our two little nephews Eero and Bodie (who were born three days before Evangeline). I chose this picture because they both move so fast you can barely capture it!

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My favorite part of the day (besides coming home to E of course) is when I bike to work downtown in the morning. The air crisp and cool. The sun slowly penetrating through the clouds. So far it has barely rained this fall and so I can bike most days. I bike from my house in Northeast down Going, a bike greenway, to Vancouver which is a mini-bike highway. I have found one of my favorite things is mobbing down Vancouver in the early morning with a pack of cyclists all commuting into work. Sometimes there are so many bikers there is even bike traffic and I am forced to weave around slower bikers as faster bikers simultaneously pass me. Often, as I cross the Steel Bridge in the morning, the Willamette River will be cloaked in fog and mist and it feels as if I am biking through the clouds. As I don’t have a gym membership yet, to either a climbing gym or regular old gym, and running with a dog and a six-month old in a stroller just doesn’t sound like fun, biking is my only form of exercise these days. It feels like too much to ask Cat to watch E while I hit the gym for an hour after work after already being gone for eight hours and so biking it is. And I need to do it. Biking = Happy Levi. Not biking= Angry and Depressed Levi.

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I write often but have still not had much luck getting anything published on the level I’d like to be at. I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years that is just not working for some reason (my friend Mike says it might be a movie, not a novel, but the idea of spending another few years turning it into a screenplay just sounds exhausting to me). I’ve also been working on various short stories, essays, and perhaps, who knows, a new novel, along with tweaking a memoir-in-the-works. So, lots of projects but right now they’re all iceberg status, as in, lurking large underneath the surface of anywhere public. While my craft is developing, I feel like I still haven’t found my niche, or my voice, or corner, of what to write about. I now know and am doing my best to accept however, that writing is a long journey. I am ten years in so far of seriously pursuing writing and it might be twenty or even thirty years before anything happens with it. I feel as if it’s best to look at writing (for one’s own sanity) not as a career choice or even art form, but as a form of meditation/asceticism/monkish pursuit. On my best days I can view it in this very zen way—as a practice I will work towards regardless of outcome. On my worst days I chainsmoke and drink myself to sleep because the world is a depressing place and rejections and false starts and wasted time in writing is also depressing. So, I am still the same old Levi, for better or worse (even know, I can sense a creeping melancholy in these words in what should be an otherwise happy and cheerful season/letter).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our moves is that our cat, Waffles, has really gained a lot of ground with this move and transformed from a scared, timid cat into a bold and adventurous one. She used to be afraid of everything, but this move has strengthened her resolve and moral character. Now she is the one who spends all day outside exploring and our other cat, Chicken, prefers the dry indoors. Both of them no longer hide when guests come over and are much friendlier than they used to be. Amelie, our dog, requires more attention and though I never thought I would say this, I find myself becoming quite annoyed with her at times as it seems a dog is the last thing I want to think about taking care of at the end of the day. It probably doesn’t help that for the past couple months her paws have been very red and irritable, and I find myself spending a lot of time soaking them in Epsom salt and shampooing them and making trips to pet stores to try and change her diet so we can figure out what’s wrong with them—yeast infection perhaps?

Anyways, it’s been an exciting year. For the first time in some time, I am looking forward immensely to what the New Year brings as we continue to explore the many opportunities Portland offers Cat and I as well as watch Evangeline grow.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season as the New Year approaches.
Hoping that whatever physical or mental demons afflict you will flee into the night like the spell from a Patronus.

Love,
-Levi (And Cat and Evangeline and Amelie and Chicken and Waffles)

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Thoughts, re Church

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I’ve had a couple conversations with folks in the last two weeks that have made me think of something I haven’t thought about in some time. So here goes a couple things I’ve been thinking about re Church. This does not have to do with one specific church or denomination but with many American churches as a whole. For those who don’t I grew up conservative Evangelical and have had a tenuous and messy relationship with it for some time. It becomes exacerbated at times by nationalist politics and a bunch of other crap, but it’s still there, and as much as I’d like to toss it, I can’t.

I probably won’t respond to all your comments so feel free to make a voodoo doll out of me and stick pins it. Or just ignore this post and watch it drift away into the annals of Facebook algorithms.

1. The Veneer of Openness
While most churches claim to be open, accepting, and loving, there comes a time when you’ve been in it long enough that you realize this acceptance is superficial. Sure, many of those in power claim that you belong regardless of one’s doubts, sexual orientation, questions, interpretation of theology, etc., but when it comes to really belonging, participating in leadership, etc., many churches expect these people to have it dialed and lined up with church hierarchy/leadership. And while I believe many of those who claim openness exist are doing so honestly, it seems the funnel of belief always trends towards a certain dogma and black and white theology I cannot get behind anymore. I think churches have the right to define their own theology and set up whatever lines and boundaries they want. Just don’t claim to also be accepting of everyone. Often this acceptance is a veneer, acceptance in principle only, but if you believe that person’s lifestyle is wrong or that person’s theology is wrong then how much can you really accept them? One often finds that this openness is a closed system in which things are relegated to binaries–male/female/good/evil/conservative/liberal/pro-life/pro/choice/protestant/catholic.The world I interact with is too complex for such simple reductions (just my phenomenological experience though). This black and white theology or all-or-nothing thinking can also become a cognitive distortion leading to extremist beliefs.

2. Grace Covers All, (Except Your Theology)
This was recently pointed out to me by a friend who I’ve had numerous conversations with over the years who has also left church for the time being but who I think has the precise intellectual ability to put things in terms I’ve never thought about. So, while many evangelical/protestant Christian profess a theology of grace, this grace will cover one’s actions but not one’s doubts and/or “errors” in theology by those in power who claim to have a corner on the capital T truth. So, if you’re a married man who cheats on his wife but you’re also a neo-calvinist who is a an otherwise good guy and one who repents–grace covers you. But if you’re married man who doesn’t cheat on his wife but has a slightly more liberal view of scripture, well, then you’re an apostate. Grace does not cover you. I speak in reductionary terms merely to prove a point (and use neo-calvinist for a reason, because often these are the types of churches that seem “edgy” and cool with a bunch of tattoed dudes getting microbrews after church) but is really nothing more than some patriarchal conservatism. I already see your point coming about how churches have to have some structure and theology to function–whether it’s the Nicene Creed or some other catechism–so point taken, and I agree. But my questions is does grace cover errors in belief as much as errors in action? Because it seems, from a certain vantage point that one is more important than the other. Am I going to hell because I don’t have the “right” beliefs? It sure seems that way when you start bringing things like this up.

Anyways, I don’t read much Christian lit anymore but I guess you could say some of these ideas are inspired by Richard Rohr, Peter Rollins, and other contemporary (primarily women) authors who have existed outside the primarily male zeitgeist for many years. To say nothing of the racial disparity.

I feel dialogues on the internet never go well but if you have any thoughts lmk. As much as I hate the internet/social media if other avenues and venues remain closed to certain POV’s then people are going to take the dialogue elsewhere.

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6/21/2018 0 COMMENTS And Fully Clothed I Float Away ELEGY TO SCOTT HUTCHISON OF FRIGHTENED RABBIT) ​BY LEVI ROGERS

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The Writer’s Hotel Conference Part II

 

 

Thursday and Friday were long full, days. I took the C train from the Kingston-Throop station to Bryant Park each morning, had workshop at the Casablanca Hotel from 8:30-11, quick break for lunch, then went on a tour at the New York Public Library on Thursday, followed by a seminar on Writing Performance, a lecture on Revision, followed by an open mic. Friday I went to a lecture on The Novel in the afternoon and then a reading at the Cornelia Street Café and KGB bar after a quick coffee and sushi stop in the West Village with my new writing friends Tom and Carolyn. After the readings Friday, I attempted to go to a show at the Comedy Cellar, but I had no reservations and didn’t want to waitlist so instead I went to The Grisly Pear, a B comedy club a couple doors down (pretty sure Pete Holmes filmed an episode of his HBO show Crashing here). The comics were still good.

After some two stiff drinks at each place I was feeling pretty toasted and so took the train back to Brooklyn, weaving down the sidewalk as I walked back to the Brownstone I was staying at.

Saturday I slept in till 9. Justine made coffee. I chatted for a bit with her then headed back to the City for lectures from Steven Salpeter from the Curtis Brown Literary Agency and Kevin Larimer, the editor in chief of Poets and Writers Magazine. I finally had an afternoon off so I walked uptown for a quick rest in Central Park, stopping for a late lunch at Rue 67, a French-inspired restaurant. Many people, thousands really, were all strewn on the lawns shirtless and in bikini tops in the middle of the Park, soaking up the Saturday June sun of one of the first hot days of summer. I tried to take a nap but just more or less just closed my eyes for a moment. After a quick stop at the horrendous Central Park public bathrooms, I took the R back downtown to Third Rail Coffee to prepare for my reading. The sun and humidity slowly wrapped me in a blanket of sweat and dizziness.

I read that night at the KGB bar and knocked it out of the park. Then I went out for drinks and food with everyone after. It was a great day. And, also my birthday.

Sunday was a bit more depressing. It was agent day so after a morning of workshop where I got some good feedback on a novel about Utah I was starting, we had a brief orientation on what the afternoon would look like. We’d all line up in a queue in front of a specific agent and then have four minutes to pitch them our book. Then we were told we’d either get a card or email, or simply a polite, “No thank you, this isn’t for me.” I felt nervous, but ready.

I pitched my book:

“It’s More Like Horror is a memoir about youth, faith, and depression,” I said. “It’s about depression in everyday life and follows me on a journey from Denver to Portland to Salt Lake City as the romantic ideals of my zealous evangelical youth are met with the realities of death, suicide, miscarriages, and a loss of faith.” But the first agent merely looked at me blankly and said, “Memoir’s are tough.”

There were ten agents in total and around half were only interested in genres I didn’t write in, so I skipped them completely. Pretty much all of the agents said the same thing: The idea was interesting but memoirs were tough to sell unless I had a crazy platform or insane writing credits. One gave me some good feedback to focus on the story of leaving my faith rather than depression, as depression was a subtext of the story. I thought this was good advice but at the same time, my story wasn’t some salacious tale of leaving a repressed religious community, although, who knows, maybe that would sell if I were to frame it like that. Suffice to say the afternoon was discouraging. Good feedback and learning experience I guess, but no one was all like, “OH my god, send me this book now!” So, now I am left once again to rethink my book, a book I’ve already spent nearly five years on. I may just be too young to write a memoir at this point. That’s how it goes I guess though. As Scott, one of the main faculty of the program told us in a good debriefing/motivational speech/boxing analogy, the next day: “You’ve put the gloves on, you’ve stepped into the ring, now you better expect to get hit. Then you keep punching back.”

 

Monday was our last day. One final workshop and lecture followed by a reading at The Half King, a bar in Chelsea underneath The Highline where we heard a hilarious piece by Rick Moody, some moving poetry by Tim Seibles and some excellent fiction from both Scott and Shanna.

I took the A train back to Brooklyn, packed, passed out on the couch, and woke up next morning to head back to SLC via JFK.

It was all in all, a fantastic trip, though I may need to hibernate for some time in a cave alone so I can sleep, process, and rethink my writing. I also may need a new liver transplant. But hey, it’s all-good, I’m one stop further down the tracks to becoming a professional, published writer. It all takes time.

 

 

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A Coffee Triptych-Revolv Magazine

Words by Levi Rogers

Photos by Chad Kirkland

This is an article I wrote a little over two years ago for the wonderful Revolv Magazine. It no longer exists (for now) but it was great while it lasted and I owe a big thanks to them for letting me work on an article. Enjoy.

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Chapbook Release! A Brief History of Melancholy

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Hello friends,

And by friends I mean the two people who read this blog. I don’t know why I even keep this around, online presence I guess? Though Twitter is probably better. I’ve decided I’m done “blogging,” but still want a website to some degree to share writings so I guess I’ll continue.

Anyways, I have exciting news. Next Saturday I will be releasing a chapbook. What is a chapbook? Well, it’s a short collection of writings (usually inexpensively produced and refers to poetry). Somewhere between a zine and a full on self-published book. It’s like a mix-tape. Like what Drake was going to put out but somehow became a #1 hits album.

As a writer I wanted to produce something you could hold in your hands and not just read online, scrolling down on your phone. I didn’t want to self-publish an entire book per se but I wanted to get something, anything, out there. So, voila. This should hold over my desire to create for a brief minute while I get an actually publishable book in place.

Thank you for reading. I will be doing an awesome release party next Saturday, May 2nd at The Rose Establishment with further readings by Jason Dickerson and music by The Circulars and Bat Manors.

If you are one of those Kindle people or out of state you can get an early release here:

http://www.amazon.com/Brief-History-Melancholy-Vignettes-Feel-Good-Life/dp/0692420568/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429916947&sr=8-1&keywords=a+brief+history+of+melancholy

I think that’s all. Here’s a picture of my dog and run we did up City Creek Canyon the other day.

Also below: an excerpt.

Okay love you bye,

Levi

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Excerpt:

8.

Nostalgia had a tendency to ruin his life. He’d get caught up in thinking that this certain time or that certain time in his life was better than it probably, in all reality, was. He’d think about some moment in his childhood—the warm mug of hot chocolate after a day of sledding, the smoke of woodstoves in October from the year’s first cold day. The lips of the first girl he kissed, lips softer than satin. He’d think about these moments of his childhood and he’d think that it was better. Better or simpler in some way.

Or he’d think about college. The girls he dated. The afternoons spent snowboarding with friends when there was nothing to do afterwards but watch snowboard movies and eat pizza. Or he’d think about other eras. How much nicer it would be to be living as a cowboy or an Indian. A pirate or Viking. To live in a world without cars that sped everything up and computers that always tempted you with nude women. There were times when he would think he was not born for the era he lived in. That God messed up somehow and should have placed him in an earlier time. A time where you could shit in the woods and it wasn’t called camping. We’re too selfish now, he thought. Too easily overcome by the petty dissonance of modernity.

But he knew all this nostalgia got him nowhere. It was escapism. After all, he did not have many fond memories of elementary school. Or middle school, or high school, for that matter. He was confused and insecure the entire time. Riddled with pimples in the mirror and boners in math class. There was all the independence in college, which he now looked at with fondness, when in reality it was pure loneliness. He probably prayed late at night for a wife and kids to take him out of his misery. And now he prayed for just the opposite. He even had nostalgia for the future, if there was such a thing. Thinking of how much better things would be in the future. When he was in shape and famous and throwing dollar bills around like he was 2 Chainz. It was the present that sucked. The present had no rearview mirror. No distance. It was right there. No blurry future. No whitewashed past. No narrative structure. It just stared you in the face like a cold January day.

It was sort of like that saying, “The grass is always greener.” Whoever came up with that little phrase was a fucking genius. I wonder, did it happen as it sounds? As in two people (neighbors probably) leaning over each other’s fences and talking to one another. Did one say to the other, “Hey, how’d you get your grass so green? I wish mine was as green as yours!” And did the other say something like, “You’re kidding me! Your grass is way greener than mine!” (and really meaning it, too). Until one of them (the wiser one) said something like, “Welp, I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.” Or, did the saying come about from shepherds? Maybe watering their sheep one day and looking over at the other side of the stream to think, “Hey! The grass over there seems greener.” And so they move their entire herd over across the river only to realize that the grass on this side is, in fact, not greener. And then they look back across to where they came from and think “Never mind, the grass on the side we were on is way greener.” And so on and so forth until someone finally said, “The grass is always greener.”

Who knows. Regardless, trying to find green grass ruined him. He ended up in the looney bin one day, no joke. Always going on about how much better things were in the 1400s. And one day, whilst talking to another patient inside the loony bin, a patient who wished he was normal and on the outside and in the real world, he said to the patient that very thing, “I guess the grass is always greener.” And he laughed so hard he pissed himself.

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NPR

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In the mornings I like to listen to NPR. I drag my half-dead self out of bed (never as early as I want to, thinking foolishly that somehow I’ll have the energy to write or run before work) and stumble my way through making a Chemex. Coffee being one of the few things that has the ability to rouse me from the covers. My thoughts switching from: Who am I? What am I? Is there meaning to any of this? To: I would like some coffee. I then collect few Tupperware’s full of food from the fridge and throw it in my bag. I get in the car and turn on the radio.

Good morning. It’s 8:45. Today is Monday, October 27th. The temperature is a high of 75 with lows in the 40’s. Currently it’s 60 degrees in Salt Lake City. You’re listening to KUER. You’re listening to morning edition. You’re listening to NPR.

I like the sound, the comforting, though generally dismal topics of conversation. The radio grounds one in the present space-time continuum.

Ah, I think. It’s October. It’s Monday. I am in Salt Lake City. The weather still happens. And I’m not dead yet. It’s almost meditative. To stop the spinning in my head, the daily chores ahead of me, and the existential/theological thought experiments I torture myself with.

I drive to work and I think. How do people do it? Work more than eight hours in a day? Keep getting up and doing their jobs day in and day out? And if you do work eight hours a day, where do you get the energy for exercise, for art, for social activities?

I work a conservative fifty hours a week now. Some of that has to do with running a business. Some of it is just normal work stuff. And in America, I am the lazy one. We have many gods in America. One is work or specifically, the power and money work brings. We have other gods. Family and Sex. Which funny enough, are on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

Anyways, there’s a moment each morning when I’m sipping coffee and taking a bite out of an asiago bagel that I’m no longer thinking. I no longer worry. I am listening.

For five minutes, I just am.

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Untrusting Neighbors: Dawn of the Planet of The Apes and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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In the near future, two neighboring groups struggle to co-exist in the land around them. Mistrust, betrayal, resentment, and fear plague both sides as certain members of the group try to find a way to co-existence and peace and others work to disrupt. One side has lived under the oppression of another. One side is all-too-aware of its previous frailty. Is this the plot to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Or the current conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces? It’s both. And yet, not really. It is striking though how particularly resonant the plot of Dawn is to one of the worst modern day conflicts in our world.
Dawn picks up some years where Rise of the Planet of The Apes left off. A virus has spread across the globe killing off nearly every human civilization imaginable. A small remnant still exists in the city of San Francisco led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman). They are nearly out of power though and so a group of scientists and engineers treks across the Golden Gate Bridge to try and restore hydroelectricity to an abandoned dam. The group is led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and a few others. A surprise run in with a talking ape in the Sequoias of Muir Woods however leaves the humans speechless and one ape dead. The apes, led by the terrific Cesar (Andy Serkis), warn the humans to never come back. Both sides retreat and the talk turns to what action each side should take. Some say war. Other co-existence. Cesar wants to exist with the humans, as does Malcolm with the apes. Is such a thing possible?
Cesar has experienced the kindness of humans while most of the other Apes, like the ferocious and gashed Koba, have only experienced torture and experimentation at the hands of humans. Likewise Malcolm sees the apes not only as a threat or as animal brutes, but as equally intelligent allies. Some of the other humans however take a less than favorable view of the apes, mocking them or wishing for their annihilation. Is there a path through such conflict? I won’t ruin it for you here but you could probably guess the answer.
Dawn is perfect in the way it pairs tense action sequences with an exploration of complicated (and close to home) relational themes of co-existence between species or groups. It is terrific science fiction with a plot that mirrors an array of relational and territorial disputes that have occurred in our homo sapien history. You could change out apes and humans with any number of former conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian is undeniably the closest though and the movie portrays what is perhaps the biggest barrier to peace in any situation, forgiveness and an eventual willingness to let go of the past. As Cesar remarks towards the end of the film, “Apes start war. And humans will never forgive.”

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Are the Readers of Christian Books (or Books in General) Naturally Assumed to be White, Middle Class?

The other day I found myself reading one of the many Christian books I occasionally find myself flipping through (I italicize Christian not to imply that the books themselves are Christian, but to emphasize the genre of book that I was reading) when I noticed some language that made me a bit uncomfortable. Nothing theologically heinous or sexist or racist or even political, rather it was an assumption inherent in the text.

The assumption was that whoever was reading this was from an upper-middle class background, probably white. The examples, lingo, and ways of communication were clearly directed at someone who was educated, wealthy, and had time to spare reading. Then I realized that it wasn’t this specific book as much as it was the majority of books I had read about the Christian life or Christian experience (or was it just plain old “books” in general?) I’m not blaming the books or even the authors. I merely find it interesting that there is perhaps a much more specific target audience in mind that I had never thought of because I am, surprise, middle class. More lower middle class, like still-shop-generics-middle class and going-out-to-eat-is-going-to-a-taco-cart-middle class, but still middle class enough that I had never paused to think about it.

Examples: In many books I’ve read it says something along the lines of, “Think about those who are poorer than you,” or a question like, “How much do you trust in your job, education, or the money you make, more than God?”

These are not bad questions or assumptions. The author could be implying that since this book is written in English there’s a good chance you are part of the Western world, specifically America, and therefore really are wealthier than three-quarters of the world. But if not, there seems to be a subtle, although perhaps staggering assumption, that the person reading this is doing so in the comfort of their nice home and not on the “other” side of town where the poor people are. You’re obviously well educated, and make decent money at your job, more decent than most that you fall into the temptation of putting too much emphasis on your career and/or money. The questions, examples, and lingo aren’t exactly targeted towards working class, blue-collar folk, from certain regions of town. Even books that make a plea for social justice, simple living, and as hippie as you can get, are still assuming that you are not some anarchist living in a house with ten people and chickens in the back.

The question I have is if this is the natural, yet targeted conversation of non-fiction books in general, or if it relates specifically to “Christian” books? If it is more specific in a religious sense I find this very disturbing.
Of course “books” are targeted to a more educated crowd of people who also like “books,” and written by people who also presumably read other “books.” Yet, I can’t help but feel rubbed the wrong way when a book tends to explicitly assume your background.
This was brought to my intention while going through such a Christian book when a woman in our house church, who came from a Cambodian/El Salvadorian family, remarked that she couldn’t really understand any of the examples the author of a certain book used to illustrate her/her points. Some example about how the author learned to “trust in God” and “have patience” after spending lots of money on her kids birthday to only have the cake decorations ruined. It was something trivial, obviously a hyperbolic example, but undoubtedly an example of a certain demographic. This woman in our house church wasn’t angry or anything but she said she really just couldn’t relate to any point the author tried to put across.

Am I splitting hairs? Is this a waste of your time? Probably. Still I haven’t seen a book that references poverty without it being the assumption that since you are reading this book you are not poor. All books on poverty are about helping “those” people. Even if the book does remind you that you are no different, you are still the one reading the book. Is this to be expected?
Now, there’s an obvious reason for this and one that puts all unnecessary logic and thinking to shame, which is the simple fact that educated people tend to read more than un-educated people. I’m not trying to be classist, but I think data would back me up. People who have an education and are not a working single mom with two kids tend to have more time and energy to read books about their own self-improvement, spiritual or otherwise. Am I contradicting myself by getting mad at people who assume we’re all rich when I am in fact claiming that only educated people read? Probably.
Perhaps we could say that most non-fiction books of a certain caliber are created for people of an educated demographic. I would just find it troubling if so called “Christian” books made the assumption and marketed accordingly, especially since the Christian faith should supposedly (supposedly) be one of the places in the world where grace and love trump class and race and we are all sisters and brothers. For it seems that we can care about the “poor” through physical needs and yet assume they would not read the same books as us? Because they are poor? Or because we are self-righteous? Or is it another example of the divide of class and race that plagues not only Christians but all of America? I just found it disturbing to be reading a book and have the author assume that because they were from a certain background I was too.

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A Tale of Beer and Small Interactions

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Director Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies is perhaps his most palatable and commercial film to be released in a while. You may never have heard of Swanberg, unless of course you’re an avid indie movie viewer, but he has directed and produced such titles as Kissing on the Mouth, LOL, and Hannah Takes the Stairs. His films are marked by improvisation, a lower-budget, lesser-known actors, and hails (if such a genre term still exists) from the “mumblecore” scene with the likes of Jay and Mark Duplass. Drinking Buddies has all the same elements of previous films but transcends the bounds of low-fi-indie-world-cinema to a greater commercial success largely in part to its casting of more prominent actors.

Drinking Buddies features co-workers Luke (Jake Johnson from New Girl, Safety Not Guranteed) and Kate (Olivia Wilde from House, Rush) who work together at a brewery. They both have significant others but have an undeniable chemistry at work. The two often hang out outside of work and have a friendship that borders on the inappropriate for two people who are also dating other people. On a double date to a cabin however, we begin to see that their significant others Chris (a much missed Ron Livingston, Office Space) and Jill (the adorable Anna Kendrick) may have just as much chemistry between the two of them as Luke and Kate. I know.

From this point I thought I could see the entire trajectory of the story. Luke would break up with Jill and get together with Kate and Kate would break up with Chris to date Luke. Things looked so predictable I was about to yawn. Not so, however. While these tensions do exist and a reality beyond this time frame may prove these events to be occur, we never see the end result. Mostly we see small interactions. Glances and hand touching and conversations with underlying subtexts. It’s funny, but slow and winding. Real enough to hold our interest but not so real that it becomes boring.

Luke really does love Jill and they’ve even talked about getting married. It’s hard to know if he’s merely being naïve in his relationship with Kate or if he doesn’t want to explore what he knows is there to break the status quo. Kate’s not exactly sure what she wants. Chris is the only one who seems confident, he’s older, more experienced with relationships and life. All actors turn out funny and terrific, albeit subtle performances.

Drinking Buddies defies rom-com or even it’s own name. If a movie called Drinking Buddies was to come out of mainstream Hollywood you know it would include lots of binge drinking and frat parties with a heavy emphasis on the drinking. Do people in here drink? Sure. Do they drink a lot? Yeah. But that’s not the point.

I thought I knew for sure where this movie was going at first but it never went there. It offers a look in time at the overlapping of relationships between two couples. What happens beyond this point of time, it’s hard to say.

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