One Faith, Many Paths: Vincent Deroucher

vincent

This week, I interview autistic puppeteer Vincent Deroucher!

1. How did you become a Christian?

How did I become  a Christian? That is indeed a very good question. I grew up in a household that was strongly divided by both a strong Pentecostal faith on my mother’s side and a very secular intellectual influence on my father’s. So it was sort of a tug of war on me. I stopped going to church when I was quite young, I would say probably around 9 but I don’t think it was, I didn’t believe there was a God. Sunday in my house was a very uncomfortable thing, you had to wear a suit which I always hated. It was itchy and uncomfortable, then the church I went to was a large church, so when it let out there were too many people and it was always too loud by the end of everything I was drained. So I stopped going. Then one day when I was 16 years old, I was going through a rough time socially. I was somewhat a target of a lot of abuse those days and I was quite an angry teenager, and I was tired of it all, life I mean, and I just had enough. As I was walking to school that day, I stopped and remembering every Sunday School lesson I was taught, I cried out to God for peace, I cried out to God for salvation. And at the end of that day, I went up to my room, laid on my bed and recited the salvation prayer. That Sunday, I attended church with my mom and never looked back.

2. What was your childhood like?

My childhood is something I don’t really like to dwell on too much, mainly because it wasn’t the happiest time of my life. I was usually bullied and/or pitied, with few of this, it led to a very rich fantasy life, where I would write stories and draw comics, build things that were exactly to blueprint–anything just tinkered, come to think of it. I don’t really recall any kid of happiness of sorts until I tool up puppetry. Home life was constantly pulling of one’s faith and beliefs. My parents were always arguing, and my mother always seemed upset. I just could never figure out whether it was with me or someone else.

3. How did you decide you wanted to be a puppeteer?

This is a very common question I am asked. I didn’t take up puppetry until I was in my 30’s. Up until that time my main objective was to become a professional animator, in which I severely stunk at. I was floundering to which path I should take professionally. When my aunts talked me into the puppets for Sunday School, I reluctantly agreed to do it and the following I set out to making my first puppets and writing my very first skit. I nervously performed the skit voices and at the end of the skit I got applause. I had never gotten any applause for anything really. So I went on doing it, eventually I got to do my shows in front of the congregation, and I eventually took it outside the walls of the Church. Now I just put my stuff to film, with the self-made promise that I will post them. Sometimes I do going to start something that more along with comic strips that I draw to a possible FB page.

4. What kind of puppets have you made? Are they different kinds? What are their names?

I mainly make hand puppets. As far as the number of puppets, I have made dozens. As far as the puppets I use, I use about five of them. The cast consists of Haggis McFife, Bosworth Beagle, Raba Cadabra, Gomer Groundhog, and King Wordsworth. All these designs are copywritten in my name and are my property, including my names.

5. How do you go about getting gigs?

I do a lot of e-mailing, usually libraries, churches, coffee houses, the occasional festival, a lot of searching on the web.

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It’s Our Planet Too

Greta

I’m not normally a fan of environmental activists. It’s not that I don’t agree with the issue. Actually, I do agree that the environment needs protection. It’s part of what I’m supposed to do as a Catholic: be a good steward of God’s creation. We have species that are endangered because we are terrible, selfish people.

So why am I not a fan? Because so many activists don’t practice what they preach. Al Gore, for instance, drives around in a gas-guzzling car and flies a jumbo jet. But now someone comes on the scene who changes all that: Greta Thunberg. She’s from Sweden, and she’s been going all around the world for her cause of environmental awareness. And unlike the fakers, she doesn’t use a gas-guzzling car or a jumbo jet. She travels by solar-powered sailboat and Arnold Schwarzenegger gave her a Tesla.  She has a vegetarian diet. And she’s only 16 years old, and autistic. That’s amazing.

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The Fictional Spectrum: Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Star Trek: Discovery)

ensigntilly

When Star Trek turned 50 years old, CBS introduced a new series in the franchise,  Star Trek: Discovery, for its new CBS All-Access streaming service. From the moment I started watching  Discovery, I realized how different it was.

The biggest difference is in the show’s main character, Commander Michael Burnham, a human woman raised by Vulcans. She is not a captain of a starship nor a space station, as previous protagonists were. Instead, Michael commits mutiny against her captain because she will not take her suggestion, and then her captain is killed when she usurps her command. She eventually finds herself onboard the experimental starship  Discovery. It is here that we are introduced to our subject, Ensign Sylvia Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman.

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My Favorite Saints: St. Augustine of Hippo

augustine

Over and over, I often hear people say “I could never be a saint. They’re so perfect.”

Really? is that what you think? Well, then let me introduce to you someone who was the furthest thing from perfect, but became a saint. St. Augustine of Hippo.

Augustine was born in what is now Souk Ahras, Algeria in 354 AD. His mother would become St. Monica, the patron saint of mothers and victims of domestic abuse. His father, on the other hand, was a pagan who did not convert until he was on his deathbed.

Augustine went to school at the age of 11, and was exposed to both Roman Catholic and Pagan beliefs. In his Confessions, he said he had come to love his fallen nature. He loved the idea of sin. “It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.” At the age of 17, he had an affair with a young woman in Carthage, despite the objections of his mother. That affair led to a son who was born out of wedlock. He was a brilliant man, mastering several languages. The sole language he could not master, try as he might, was Greek. Yet throughout this, he reveled in debauchery and heresy, to the point where he made his mother weep in her prayers one night in church. A bishop came to her and said “A son of such tears will not be lost.”

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Sesame Street Has Betrayed Autistics

julia

In 2015, Sesame Street introduced an autistic Muppet named Julia, their first new Muppet in years. When I saw this, I was cautiously optimistic. They had aligned themselves with two groups, ASAN (the Autism Self-Advocacy Network) and Autism Speaks. This was a cause for concern, as one company is actually run by autistics, for autistics. The other is a hate group. Let’s not mince words, that’s precisely what Autism Speaks is.

It seemed at first that ASAN was the group they were listening to the most. Julia was made into a girl, which was a great idea. Most of the time when an autistic character is depicted, they are usually boys. This would be an ideal way to show the audience that both boys and girls can be autistic. Having her be friends with Elmo, Abby Cadabra, and Big Bird was also a great idea, as all three characters are popular with the children who watch. They showed both the strengths and weaknesses of autism, and did not seem to depict it as something terrible, just something that made Julia unique. Her puppeteer was even someone who had an autistic child. And she also had two rods for her arms so she could stim by flapping them.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Mike Bezalel

mikeb

This time for my One Faith Many Paths Project, I interview one of my newest Facebook Friends, Mike Bezalel.

1. You’ve told me that your father was a member of the KKK. Can you tell me what that was like?

Growing up with that mentality hanging over me was terrible, to be flatly honest with you. I was led to believe that simply because of my race that I was superior to all others. He refferred to anyone who was not white always in reprehensible racist terms. I was punished for associating with htem, beaten. My parents were both just terrible human beings.

2. How did your Maw-maw help you unlearn what your father was trying to pass on to you?

Well she resucued me. Saved my life in very real terms. I was taken away from my parents at around 13 because of the physical and mental abuse I had suffered. My maw-maw, my paternal grandmother, helped me to overcome all of the refuse I had been forcefully inundated with over the years. I never felt like I was worth anything. A person spends years being told they are worthless…it kind of stays with you, you know? I still battle with that sometimes. It was the gift to me that still seems to be giving back, I guess.

Maw-maw gave me the space that I needed to grow as well. Perhaps a little too much I was very angry after I escaped from the hell of my early life and I went wild. Drugs, partying, drinking…and even worse at times. I was even angry with God and dabbled in Satanism at one point of my teenage years. I fled from that after about a year, though, and never allowed myself to return to that point.

3. You have epilepsy. When did this first manifest?

The doctors seem to think it stemmed from a steries of head injuries over a 3 year period. A fall down a flight of stairs that resulted in a severe concussion, another concusion about 8 months later and then the big one, a motorcycle injury that resulted in a TBI so severe that I was in a coma for about 2 weeks. The seizures first began when I was in a coma. That was 26 years ago this September.

Unfortunately, I have what has been deemed as an intractable case of epilepsy.. I have been on at least two dozen different medications over the years and none of them stop the seizures completely. MMJ comes the closest, but it is not covered by insurance, and being medically disabled, I cannot afford it. Seems to be my luck…lol.

4. How did you become a Christian?

My maternal grandfather, who I called Pap-paw, was a devout Methodist minister. I grew up in his church every Sunday for much of my childhood. He instilled i nme a love for God and the pursuit of life, love, and light.  He was the best man I have ever known and I could never stray away from what he taught me. He was also the very reason I didn’t believe th garbage my mom and dad tried to brainwash me with I know they hid their beliefs from my grandparents for a reason, after all.

Anyway, later as a teenager, when I went through that period where I was mad at God and messed around with devil worship, I even knew then that I was wrong. I was just very, very angry and was lashing out. I had a dream with my Pap-paw in it, and he was just staring at me with disappointed eyes. When I woke, I began weeping and asked God to forgive me.

A few days later, my friend Steve and I were at a Perkin’s restaurant at around 3 AM. he and I both were longhaired metalhead kids. I looked at him and commented, “Man you kind of look like Jesus this morning.” He really did at that moment–scruffy beard, dark hair. Kind eyes…a little glazed from weed, but it was true. He began to witness to me. It didn’t take much coaxing or convincing to help me find my way. We went to a parak just about a mile away and I prayed the acceptance prayer. Right before I prayed, I implored to God, “I want to believe in You, God, but so much evil has happened to me. I need You to show me a sign. Please God, if You are there, please show me. I know I shouldn’t ask You…but if you exist, You know my heart. I need this.”

When I closed my eyes and prayed the prayer, I felt peace like I had not felt for so long. That would have been enough, but God is good. I opened my eyes and saw the night sky in all its glory. Then the single brightest shooting star I have ever seen flew across my line of sight, exploding right in the center of the sky, and then vanished. I broke down in tears. I have never doubted for an instance since that day.

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My response to Fr. James Martin

A couple weeks ago, on the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York, tweeted a controversial statement on Twitter. He said that the time is right for women to become priests and invoked the name of St. Mary Magdalene, using her as an example of a woman who was sort of like an apostle. In fact, we Catholics often call her the “apostle to the apostles”. This got him under the ire not only of his fellow clergymen, but also many laypeople who disagreed with him. This is not the first time he’s caused this kid of fervor, but I’m not here to discuss those other times. Let’s just focus on this one.

I disagree with this notion. Now, in a way the Christian religion was indeed started by a woman. When Mary said yes to God and yes to becoming a mother to Jesus, she became, in essence, the first Christian. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus resurrected after he died on Good Friday. Jesus appointed 12 apostles, all men. If he had wanted to use women, he naturally would’ve appointed either his own mother or Mary Magdalene, as they were both worthy candidates considering their status as models for His followers. But they never were appointed. And it’s not like Jesus didn’t treat women differently from the way Jewish people of his time did. He would address them as he would anyone else, as illustrated when he did not admonish Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, when she sat at his feet when He visited their house. It was considered against Jewish culture for a woman to do such a thing, and yet Jesus did not admonish her.

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