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Saturday, September 24, 2016

On boobs and booth babes

Sorry for the long delay, kids. Turns out going to school and working full time is way harder without the benefit of mania. 
So I just had my first big assignment, and man, grad school is weird - I finished the thing, and if I'd had time, I would have scrapped everything and started all over. It's not that I hate what I wrote, it's just that I'm much better qualified to write the thing now that I've already written it. 
So the piece was about misogyny in the comics community, a subject I've got a hard time getting my brain around because first, I've personally never once felt anything but embraced by the geek community. And second, most of us geeks have been bullied and excluded for being weird; we should damn well have some empathy.
One of the most mind-boggling things i found in my research was all the men, including writers and industry insiders, bitching about female cosplayers. I read this CNN article where some wanker called Joe Peacock complained about fake geek women prancing around in sexy costumes to "satisfy their hollow egos." He's not objecting to real geek girls dressing sexy, he says, "I'm talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn't give the time of day on the street."
This guy, and the many, many guys who agree with him, are so the center of their own universes that they believe that women who aren't interested in geek culture would spend hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars crafting a dreadfully uncomfortable costume, then pay to get into a con and be surrounded by men they don't like, all for some attention. Even the picture that accompanies Peacock's article demonstrates his complete lack of logic. The woman on the right dressed as a gender swapped Loki? Check out her helmet. Loki's horned helmet was clearly designed with a total disregard for physics - it's way too front-heavy to exist in real life. I literally don't know how that woman is keeping that thing on her head. But I can tell you this - no woman makes or buys a two-foot tall migraine-inducing, physics-defying big ass helmet just to get some attention from dudes they're not actually interested in.
Peacock refers to these supposed fake geek girls as "6 of 9s" - in the real world they'd be sixes, but at cons they seem like nines. Here's the thing, Cock. Do you mind if I call you Cock? You don't need a multi-hundred dollar costume to get male attention. You just need to put on a short skirt and walk into a bar. If you think the ladies in your picture are sixes, then you'd probably consider me a three on my best day. And I have never wanted for male attention. The attention might not come from the kind of men from whom I'd ever want attention (once when I was 15 some old guy told me that if I came to his house he'd let me drink wine as long as I promised not to tell my mother), but Cock says himself that these fake geek girls don't actually want to date convention geeks. According to him, they're just dressing sexy to satisfy their hollow egos. (In related news, what the holy hell does "hollow ego" even mean?)
Anyway, it just depresses the crap out of me that some men in the community that has always shown me so much love have such a disdain for women that they complain bitterly, and at length, about being forced to be in the presence of attractive, scantily clad women. I just... I grew up believing that the end of racism and sexism were inexorable. I grew up believing that all the bigots I met were an endangered species bound for extinction, that society was now on the right track. And now geek women who speak their minds are victims of literal terror campaigns. A comics editor named Janelle Asselin wrote a review of a Teen Titans cover and pointed out that maybe having a teenage character with barely covered boobs the size of her head was inappropriate. And she was literally driven from her home by very graphic and specific rape threats. 
  And now half the damn country is rallying behind an openly bigoted misogynist because they're sick of "political correctness." Half the country. Half of the state I live in. Half of my neighbors and half of the people I meet each day and half of my coworkers. And a significant number of members of the community that taught me I wasn't alone, that women could be strong.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mea culpa

Lots of folks are saying the world has gotten "too PC." Lots of folks are saying that you can't say anything at all these days without being accused of racism. Lots of folks are saying that the pendulum has swung too far and lots of folks are saying that accusing white people of racism is "reverse racism," whatever that means.
Well I've got a long and storied history of saying stupid, hurtful things without even thinking about it. I've got a long history of hurting people's feelings and doubling down, or weaseling, or getting mad when confronted about it. And it took me a long time, but I have learned some things.
It's okay to apologize for saying something stupid.
No one will be impressed by my excuses or my denials.
It's okay to say something dumb, realize that was a dumb thing to say, and then admit that it was a dumb thing to say.
It's okay to apologize even if I think someone's being oversensitive.
It's even okay to apologize for hurting someone's feelings, even if I don't think what I said was wrong. 
It's not up to me to decide whether someone else's feelings are hurt.  
It doesn't make sense for me to assert my right to say something by telling others that they're wrong for asserting their right to disagree with what I've said. 
I'm not gonna convince anyone I'm not being insensitive by insisting I'm not insensitive. 
If I get accused of being insensitive, I'm not a persecuted victim of the PC police; I'm a person who got accused of being insensitive.
It's better to ask what's wrong with what I said than to argue that nothing's wrong with what I said; sometimes I don't know I've said something dumb because I didn't know the whole story.

It's okay to have an opinion and keep it to myself.
It's okay to have an opinion and not blast social media with it 9 times a day.

It's okay to shut up and listen.

Look, I recognize that policing language for political correctness can stymie the flow of constructive dialogue. And I do acknowledge that it really sucks to be called racist even when you know you're not. But someone once said "when you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." 
And if none of that flies for you, chew on this. White people have spent centuries taking away the voices of people of color, often using whips and knives and nooses. And that's not my fault and that's not your fault, but I think it's time we made peace with the fact that we don't always get to have the floor. 


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Damages

Answer

  • The amount of time Ice Ice Baby remained on the charts.
  • Every one of Elizabeth Taylor's 8 marriages.
  • William Hung's music career.
  • The amount of time Joanie Loves Chachi remained on the air.
  • The amount of time Home Alone remained #1 at the box office.
  • Theatrical run of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.
  • Lifespan of Mike the Headless Chicken - after his head was removed. 

Question
What are some things that go on longer than Brock Turner's jail stay?

Question:
What crimes are worse, in the eyes of the justice system, than dragging an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and digitally raping her?

Answer:



Question

What's the difference between the following three folks and Brock Turner?
  • On the other hand, there's Frank Lee Smith. One woman's eye-witness testimony put him in jail for a rape he didn't commit. DNA evidence exonerated him 15 years later, but it was too late; he was dead. The eyewitness later stated that she'd told police she wasn't sure he was the right guy, but she'd been pressured not to mention that at trial.
  • There's also Habib Wahir Abdal. In the 1980s, a woman was raped by a black man about 5'9" with a gap between his teeth. Habib Wahir Abdal was 6'2" with no gap, but he was convicted of the crime after a forensic analyst gave inaccurate testimony on the stand. Abdal served 16 years before being exonerated.
  • Paula Gray made a false confession under duress when she was accused of being involved in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young couple in 1978. She recanted her confession, but still spent 24 years in prison for the crime before DNA exonerated her.

Answer:

They were probably lousy swimmers. 
Just kidding. Race. It's race. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Phenomenal woman

We should all be appalled, but should not be surprised by the hate campaign being waged against Comedian Leslie Jones. Jones, who has been making racist man-children cry bitter white tears over her role in the all female Ghostbusters reboot, has faced an organized campaign of cyber-terror in recent weeks. This week, hackers took psychopathy to a whole new level when they hacked her website and iCloud account. They got into her personal photos and published the most intimate ones. They flooded her page with racist memes comparing her to a gorilla. They even posted screen grabs of her passport and driver's license. 
And we shouldn't be surprised. Leslie Jones is everything sexist douchbags want women to be ashamed of, and she is beautifully unapologetic. She is big in a culture in which women are ordered to take up as little space as possible. She doesn't hide her size by slumping or slouching or wearing flats. She doesn't hide her figure under mumsy gowns that scream flattering and sensible - she slays in custom Christian Siriano.
Leslie Jones is a loud voice coming through the televisions of men who think women should sit down and shut up. Her hilariousness makes liars of men who insist that women just aren't as funny as men. She's older in an industry that worships youth, she's openly opinionated in a society that prefers its women, and its people of color, meek and mild. And worst of all, she doesn't care what you think about it.
Leslie Jones doesn't care if you think she's pretty. Leslie Jones doesn't care if you think she's funny. She doesn't care how many bitter white tears you cry over a damn movie remake. She's busy going to movie premiers and covering the Olympics for NBC and performing at feminist events. Leslie Jones is busy being Leslie Jones and the racist, woman-hating weasels of the Internet can't handle it. 
So they tried to chase her off Twitter, even succeeded for a moment, but then she came back to tweet the Olympics - and so well, apparently, that NBC flew her down to cover it live. But the sniveling man children could have that - it was no fun hating her when she couldn't be bothered to care. So they got her attention - and they did it in the most cruel, dehumanizing, and menacing way they could. Congrats, trolls, you've got the news media to stand behind her. Got half of Hollywood standing up for her. Gotten people who didn't even know about her to care about her.
I can't even imagine what holy hell Jones is going through right now. I can't imagine how sick and devastated and violated she is feeling. It is an incredibly shitty time to be Leslie Jones, but I've got a feeling she's gonna rise up and when she does, the whole world's gonna be cheering her on.

Monday, August 22, 2016

and your unpunchable face

Well, it's back to school time, and you know what that means! Time to teach our nation's young girls how to keep from distracting the boys and getting themselves raped and sexually harassed! Recently, a Facebook friend shared a social media post about a school that recently got in hot water when it was found that boys were taking intimate photos of their female classmates without their consent, and then posting those photos on social media. Luckily, the school took quick and decisive action, placing the blame right where it belongs - on the girls, of course!
The school introduced a new dress code policy that requires female students to cover up their filthy bodies so as not to tempt boys into photographing them. Everybody knows that teen boys are completely unable to control their behavior with a shoulder or a thigh in plain view - and it's unfair to ask them to. Girls who wear skirts that don't come down to their knees are a distraction to boys - and male teachers - and it's just not fair. 
I know there will be those among you who think this is "victim blaming" or "body shaming," but this is the safety and integrity of our girls we're talking about. I for one don't think the school's policies go far enough. 

Might this also be a great solution to the problem of bullying? Schools could pull all the unpopular kids aside and give them some guidelines on how to not get beaten up by the popular kids. Everybody knows that popular kids just can't help themselves in the presence of a nerd or a loser, and having to look at nerds and losers is really an unfair distraction. These social lepers can help solve this problem by simply having less punchable faces. 
No one beats this guy up anymore!
Yes, I believe schools should amend their dress codes to require that freaks and geeks hide their faces at all times. I know it seems "cool" and "fun" to go flaunting one's face in public, but honestly, these losers need to have a little self respect and pull on a nice respectable ski mask. Or maybe a snazzy balaklava. Heck, even a clown mask! Sure, it seems unfair that a kid should have to go to such lengths to not get punched in the face, but it's really the only option. You can't exactly expect popular kids to be responsible for their own actions, can you? Preposterous!
Schools need to take a stance against bullying. That's why they should pull the unpopulars aside and measure the eye holes on their masks, just to make sure they're not showing off too much nose or forehead. Losers who don't conform to this dress code can go home or they can wear a school-supplied plastic garbage bag over their faces for the day. Their choice! Everybody wins!
I never leave home without
my purrtection!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Whistling Dixie

I was passing through the downtown shopping district of a small town once. It was one of those pretty little places with brightly lit toy stores and fragrant popcorn shops and grinning shopkeepers and friendly pedestrians. And then I passed a storefront that proudly displayed a Confederate flag in the window. 
Now keep in mind, I live in Ohio. Anybody around here who waves a Confederate flag is doing it for a reason, and that reason is not their war hero of a great grandpappy. And the one word that came into my head when my eyes landed on that flag was unkind. Pretend for a minute that that symbol isn't meant as a star-spangled middle finger in the face of any brown person who drives through town. It is still so damn unkind. Sure, you've got a right to be unkind. Your constitution promises you the right to your unkind words and signs and store displays. But why the hell do you want to expend all that energy on being small and mean and hurtful? What's the point in making a point to be unkind?
To be kind in an unkind world, to be kind when when others are cruel, to be kind when doing so puts you in danger, to be kind and not count the cost... that's heroism. Kindness is the quality I admire most in my folks, my ancestors. That's the kind of flag I want to hang in my window.



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Comparative equine dental hygiene

Today I read a blog post subtitled "The 'sibling gift' trend is turning our kids into spoiled brats," in which the author complains about people giving gifts to her children. The author was having a shower for her second child, you see, and objected to the fact that one of the guests bought a gift for her first child, then a toddler.
Now I know exactly two things about the rules of etiquette - one involves forks, and I've never been at a party fancy enough to use it. The other is that you do not get a shower for your second kid. I don't give a crap from etiquette, but I do think that if you're getting showered with gifts when etiquette dictates you shouldn't, you've got no business complaining when some of those gifts splash onto the wrong kid. A beef I'd probably not consider blog-worthy had it not been for this sentence.
Still, the perpetrators of this offense typically don’t have kids of their own and I can’t possibly expect them to see things from my perspective if I am not going to explain it to them.
You have no idea how insulting it is to tell an intelligent, well-meaning person that they are deficient, incomplete just because of her reproductive choices. As if shoving a human being from your nethers gives you some special magical wisdom that those of us without children can never have.  
This woman isn't just looking a gift horse in the mouth, she's sharing pictures of her free horse's teeth on the internet so she can flaunt how much more special and wise she is compared to her poor kid-free friends. She could quite easily say "please don't give my kids gifts because I think it spoils them," but instead she chose to make examples of them online. 
I don't think the children are the spoiled ones in this scenario. The woman's blessed with a bunch of friends and family members who want to do nice stuff for her kids, and she's bitching about how terrible it is.
And here's a little bit of etiquette I do care about: never, ever tell a person that they can't understand something because they're not parents. Recently someone tried to justify her casual bigotry to me using the old "you'd understand if you had kids." And all I could think was that this lady didn't know me. I'm kid-free by choice, but she didn't know that. She didn't know if I was struggling with infertility or if I'd had miscarriages. She spat those words out without knowing a single thing about my story.
Look, gift horse lady, maybe your friends are spoiling your kids because they don't have kids of their own to spoil. Or because they found something they knew your kid would love and couldn't wait to give it to them. Or because they had some beloved aunt who did sibling gifts and they want to carry on the tradition. You're free to ask them not to do it, but don't assume that their decision to buy your kid a gift is the result of some fundamental foolishness or inadequacy. It is rude and insulting.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

You just turn the crank and snap the plank

The Swedish band Wintergatan specializes in creating musical instruments more impractical than you ever thought possible, and they are breathtaking.

Like, just why would you do that? Who even thinks of that? More to the point, who thinks of that and then thinks "Yeah, this is a thing that could clearly exist in real life; where can I buy ten million ball bearings?"
There's also this:
This one in particularly made me think of the book Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, and how it both did and did not predict the future. Okay, so I don't remember the book all that well. I was living on the road when I read it, and it's possible I read more in the two years I spent on the road than in the rest of my life combined. But I do remember that it expressed Vonnegut's fear that technology would gradually replace human ingenuity, that artists and creators would be crowded out by contraptions and distractions and we'd all be the dumber and the duller for it. 

And he was right; we waste so much of our lives staring at little glowing screens that it's kind of tragic. But yet universal access to these gadgets allows folks like Wintergatan to share their absurdly unnecessary contraptions with the world and possibly make enough money from YouTube ads to cover at least some of their ball bearing expenses.
And yet it's absurdly hard for a truly talented musician to make a living at it, and pirating, underpaying streaming services, and an extremely saturated market are making it so much worse. And as cool as it is that these guys make crazy money doing this:

it's not entirely fair that they're achieving great success while orchestras languish. 
But then, it's not entirely fair that Britney Spears is a gazzillionaire while most of us have never even heard of RenĂ©e Fleming (myself included, I just Googled "greatest opera singers alive"); and that's not the Internet's fault. It has kind of always been that way, hasn't it? It's weird though.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Olio

Little known fact: the Crossword Puzzle Writers Association of America are the world's largest purchaser of size EEE shoes, as their continued existence is vital to their careers.
I'm pretty sure that Will Shortz, puzzlemaster of the New York Times, secretly financed the movie Ulee's Gold so that it could be used as a way to squish more vowels into crossword puzzles for the rest of time. 
All of which is to say that the headline of my post, olio is defined as "a miscellaneous mixture," and was almost certainly made up by crossword writers (not to be confused with oleo, another word for margarine, also made up by crossword writers). 
Dog was actually named Leland Stumbleduck
Oneshoe before the powerful crossword lobby
had their say about it.

**
A couple days ago the new Miss Teen USA was inexplicably not stripped of her crown after it was found she'd tweeted out the n-word multiple times a while back. Is it any wonder, though, that she'd make value judgments about people based on superficial criteria, considering she spends her life clopping around on a stage like a show pony, begging to be found worthy based on superficial criteria? 
**
My grad school residency was amazing, exhausting, and a little terrifying. Something I don't get - a few years ago I took a job that had me out of state for months at a time. Now I get crippling homesick after being gone a couple of days. This is definitely probably not a sign that I have a horribly codependent relationship with my cats. 
You'd be codependent too.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

That's show biz

One of my theater profs, back when I was majoring in something even more useless than English, told story about Ed Wynn. Ed Wynn was an old man in the twilight of his career. He'd started out in vaudeville, made a name in Hollywood, but these days it was mostly television and voice acting. One day he was invited to give a lecture to a bunch of young theater students and during the break, he gave them a rare treat - with the grace and agility of a much younger man, he performed one of the physical comedy routines on which he'd built his name. He played a man trying, and failing, to climb a free-standing ladder - up a few steps and back down, climbing and sliding and falling as the students laughed and clapped. When he finished, one student noticed that Wynn was crying. When asked why, Wynn replied that the routine only worked if the audience believed his sorrow.
That story is almost certainly made up, but the message behind it rings true: the things that capture audiences the most are the things that come from artists' deepest pain. Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night while in the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole, just a few months after he severed his ear in a violent psychotic break.
Ludwig van Beethoven's string quartet number 15 was inspired by the month he spent bedridden by disease in 1825. Though not an old man, he must have known, by his ever more declining health, that he was reaching the end of his life. He was deaf, in pain, and probably a fairly severe alcoholic by then. The piece marks the triumph of his recovery, but is among the last he wrote - he died, slowly and painfully, two years later.


I've just read Lindy West's Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, which I plan to write more about soon. In one chapter, she writes about her father, saying "I sometimes told people my dad reminded me of Robin Williams, and they would assume I meant the drive to entertain... but really it was that ever-present Pig Pen cloud of kind-eyed sadness." It's funny - there were performances of Williams' - his stand-up in particular - that I simply couldn't stand to watch. All I could see in him was this impossibly infinite well of sadness boiling over into some manic purge - words that brought abject joy to everyone except the one saying them. I could not understand how other people didn't see it - I could not understand how other people could laugh at someone so obviously in agony. Now I know the only reason I could see it was because I was just the same. 
I tell people Springsteen's been my favorite musician since I was five, but that's probably not entirely accurate. The truth is, I don't remember ever not loving him. I've loved Bruce since the first time my sister put on one of his records for me. So many of his songs are so big, so joyful, but he once said that his career has been driven by "pure fear and self-loathing and self-hatred." Bruce has been really forthcoming in recent years about the depression he's lived with all his life - he's been in treatment for the disease for the past 30 years. I used to kind of wonder what drove a kid like me to worship this old man who sang about cars and sex and working for the man, and other stuff I wouldn't understand for decades. But I think that somehow that piece of him reached out to that piece of me - that little germ of madness that would grow one day into pure fear and self-loathing and self-hatred. I think that's why he's been a light for me in my darkest times.

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