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Purple: Connecting Fiction, and Personal Trauma

Purple is not my favorite color (black is, but that’s another story), but it is a significant color for me, for complicated reasons I shall try to explain here. In some regards, this blog-post can be seen as a review of Netflix’s new series, Jessica Jones. My opinion of the series, in brief: five stars — watch it!

Do not expect watching this show to be easy, though. Like Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, it plumbs the depth of human depravity, through the character of Killgrave, also known as The Purple Man, a character who has existed in comic books since 1964, when he appeared in issue #4 of Daredevil.


[Art by Tom Grummett; image found here, and from a comic book cover other than Daredevil #4.]

Killgrave’s skin is not purple in the new TV series, but he’s every bit as horrible a person as in comic book stories. He has one superpower, but it’s a nearly-impossible one to overcome: when he tells people to do things, they immediately do what he says, even to the point of killing themselves or others.

I was interested in Killgrave (and Jessica Jones) from the first time I saw either of them in a comic book, long before this TV series was planned. However, about halfway through the first season, I suddenly realized why Killgrave held such personal fascination for me as a truly horrible character — and why I hated him so intensely. It’s the fact that he controls the minds of other people, using his voice.

My father did the same thing, although he certainly did not have purple skin, and never, to my knowledge, killed anyone (but he did leave a string of damaged people in his wake). His voice had a hypnotic quality. There are people, to this day, who will claim to have seen him float straight up into the air — because they were told to see him levitate. I never saw that, but I do have faint memories, from a very early age, of seeing other unreal things, at his verbal suggestion, such as four or five finger-to-finger “ribbons of energy” called “orgone” connecting my hands, held in front of me, at night. Other children my age were with me; they saw these “orgone energy ribbons,” and more. I got away from this insanity as quickly, and as often, as I was able to do. Avoiding my father became my habit early, and often.

Many people have had horrible things done to them, due to abuse of this ability. In fiction, Killgrave, The Purple Man, is the best example of such a monster using his voice as a mind-control weapon. In reality, my father (and others with a similar ability, such as leaders of religious cults, a role my father did play, more than once) is another example.

When I realized the similarity between Killgrave and my now-deceased father, I had to stop watching Jessica Jones for about 24 hours. Having been a survivor of mind control left me (in real life) and Jessica Jones (in fiction) with PTSD, and I had to have a break from watching the show for this reason.

During this 24 hours, I remembered something about my father (who died in 2010) and my mother (who died less than two weeks ago): a story my mother told me, many years later.

Apparently my father hated the color purple, although I have no idea why. She was under his voice-control for years. So was I. We broke completely free of this manipulative monster at about the same time, in the mid-1980s. She left, and then divorced, him. I came up with my own way to “divorce” him as a parent, myself: I legally changed my last name to my mother’s maiden name. These things I knew already; the new thing Mom told me was what she did to celebrate her breaking free of his influence: buying a purple dress, and going out, wearing it, to celebrate her freedom.

After remembering this, I was able to watch the rest of the first season of Jessica Jones. I will not leave specific spoilers here, but I will say this: watching the rest of it helped with the ongoing process of recovering from my own “purple trauma.”

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On your nth birthday, you turn n – 1 years old.

birthday cake

As a teacher, I have had variants of this conversation many times. The specific details, however, are fictional, for this changes, somewhat, each time it happens.

  • Student: Guess what? It’s my birthday!
  • Me: Congratulations! How old are you?
  • Student: I’m seventeen!
  • Me: Well, happy 18th birthday, then!
  • Student: Huh?
  • Me: Look, on that one day, 17 years ago, when you were born, that was your birthday. That day has a better claim on being your birthday than any other day, because it’s the day you were born. That was your first birthday. But you weren’t one year old yet. You turned one year old a year later, on your next birthday . . . your second birthday. A year later, on your third birthday, you turned two years old. Do I need to continue?
  • Student: So I’m 18? I can buy cigarettes without a fake ID, and vote, and stuff?
  • Me: No, not for another year, because you’re only 17 years old — but you have had 18 birthdays. Say, here come some of your friends. Use this bit yourself, if you want to, and have fun with it.
  • Student, to other students: Hey, guys, it’s my birthday! I’m 18 today!

…At least I try. Also, sometimes, the educational outcome is better than in this fictionalized example.


[Image source:]

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John Lennon: Who Do You Want to Save?


The source of this quote is this Lennon song, which you can hear by following this YouTube link.


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Janis Joplin: The Meaning of “Freedom”

janis on freedom

The quotation is from the Janis Joplin’s song “Me and Bobby McGee.” You can hear it right here, in this video I embedded from YouTube:


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I’m Not Putting Up with Harassment Without Taking Action, in Response. Here’s Evidence of That.

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I just took this photograph of an official document completed within the last few hours, at my city’s local police station. The nickel is there to obscure some of the digits in the official report number.

In the age of cell phones and the Internet, harassment has become an unfortunate fact of life for millions of people. Lately, my family has been targeted for this, and other forms of, mistreatment. I have every reason to think that those doing this watch my blog and/or my Facebook, so I’m posting this in both places, so that they will know (due to their own “snooping”) that a complaint has been filed with the North Little Rock Police Department. My message to these people is simple: stop now. 

Others in the US get to spend their holiday week doing things more pleasant than talking to police officers and lawyers, so I guess I could bemoan how unfair this is — but I’ve known, for many years, that life isn’t always fair.

Now, having said this, I don’t want to give the harassing parties involved in this more attention than they deserve. Therefore, I will be following these guidelines with regard to this matter.

  1. Questions about why we are being harassed, from where, or by whom, will not be answered, except to police officers, lawyers, and, if it comes to that, judges.
  2. Clues regarding the above specific information will not be given.
  3. Guesses about any of this, whether true or untrue, will neither be confirmed, nor denied.
  4. No additional details about these incidents will be publicly shared or discussed.
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A Poem Written by My Cousin Sara, in Honor of My Mother

[This poem was written by Sara Bray McClain, after the recent funeral of my mother, Mina Jo Marsh, who was her aunt. I am grateful to Sara for writing it, and for giving me permission to post it here. I am also grateful that reading it helped me feel better, in light of recent events.]

I love the change in seasons,
when the night takes on the work
of a world that’s worn of summer,
lying down to rest its head
only when the sunrise lights…

I crave the peace at dawn
of a town whose jobs awaken
making good on the toil that for months
rolled on in the hope of a rich, ripe harvest.

I breathe in the crisp fall air
along with the scent of labor,
the fresh, sweet smell of firewood
and the smoke of my neighbor’s stove;
the birds all abuzz with the knowledge
that winter is coming soon, taking flight to their homes more southern
as we look to the star in the north.

I search for the words to comfort
those who grieve at this time of wonder
who, faced with life’s blessed turning,
can only look behind.

And, strangely, the winds of change
keep afloat my meandering mind,
rustling now through the branches of family
gone before to a winter their own.

My heart isn’t cold or lonely,
though the chill might have touched my skin,
for I know with the break of the first snow
comes the green of the spring just ahead.

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