Monday, April 29, 2013

Yet Another Person Pounding "Accidental Racist"

Image from:  Band Shirt Archive
So, as many of you are aware, Brad Paisley released a song a while back in which he attempted to address a concern that still plagues this country--racism. Since the backlash was much more critical than Paisley originally expected, Paisley has somewhat publicly wondered if maybe that was the wrong landmine to try to jump on.

Of course, part of the problem appears to be that he thought he could make some generally nice platitudes along the lines of “can’t we all just get along” and expected people to laud his praises as the bringer of peace between the races. Racism is a huge problem in this country because it’s such a complicated and complex issue. There are a lot of ingrained beliefs and practices that are racist that don’t seem immediately racist on the surface. Racism has gone underground in a lot of ways. I mean, sure, you still have southern politicians using phrases like “n-----r rigging,” but you’re not as likely to notice that people of color are largely unrepresented as actors and are not being featured on book covers--even when the story is about people of color!

There is also another problem with Paisley’s song, though. It’s his petulant whining is just that. He doesn't offer any solutions to the problem, and doesn't even actually correctly address the problem. His wording betrays a lot about what he thinks about the issue.

Let me give you an example.

The song starts with Paisley talking to a barista about his Lynyrd Skynard shirt, which apparently features a Confederate flag on it. He claims that he’s not racist, he’s just a fan of the band. And then he begins to expound on the situation, saying:

“The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room” [emphasis mine]

It’s his wording there--that this flag is somehow causing a problem--that is indicative of the larger issue. He doesn't see that he’s doing something wrong, but, being someone from the south, he can’t be ignorant about what happened here. Therefore, he’s displaying willful ignorance and stubbornness. As an example, it would be like a German wearing a t-shirt with the Nazi swastika on it and then becoming confused when people call him a Nazi sympathizer.

There are other issues with the first verse as well. For example, as Cracked writer Adam Todd Brown pointed out, there are plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts that don’t feature the Confederate flag. In fact, there’s quite a lot of them.  Paisley said the song was partially inspired because he got dirty looks for wearing an Alabama (the band) shirt with the flag. But there are plenty of those shirts without the flag as well.  All of which serves to make things even more inexplicable. After all, if it is just expressing your love of a band, why not express that love in a way that doesn't also carry the baggage of hundreds of years of brutal enslavement and systematic oppression?

But it goes even further. Here’s the next line:

“Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms”

There are two issues that this line brings up. We’re gonna talk about both. First is Paisley describing himself as a rebel son. According to Wikipedia, Paisley is from Glen Dale, West Virginia. West Virginia exists as a separate entity from Virginia because WV seceded...from the Confederacy. They refused to secede from the Union. Which makes Paisley’s claim that he’s a rebel son flawed from the very start.

But then there’s also a much larger issue: the idea that the Confederates were “rebels,” and even if they were, that one should be proud of them.

I’m from Arkansas, dude--a state that actually seceded from the Union. So let’s talk about the Confederacy.

The Confederacy came to be because of state’s rights, sure. The right to own people! They got their knickers in a twist because the Union had the audacity to say “hey, maybe owning people and profiteering off the torture and enslavement of an entire race of people is bad.” Then the southern states started spluttering about how they had a right and the federal government couldn't tell them what to do. But seriously--it was the right to own people.

It doesn't matter how you spin it--it was evil. It doesn't matter that abolishing slavery would have destroyed the southern economy. That. Doesn't. Matter. We were still owning people, selling them off, breaking up families, forcing men to have sex with women for so we could sell off their children like colts, beating them when they fucked up. It was wrong, and we were wrong. Wrong. There is no pride. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to say they’re proud to be descended from these traitors. None. Sure, not all the soldiers that fought were necessarily fighting for slavery as an institution. But most were.

And this is relevant to Paisley’s song in another way as well:

“They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years”

Boo fuckin’ hoo, Mr. Paisley. Boo fuckin’ hoo. I know people suffered in the south after the Civil War. It sucked. You know who could have helped a lot with that? Abraham Lincoln, who had expressed the strong desire to allow the Confederacy to rejoin, and he wanted to help the south readjust. He wanted to help them develop new ways to sustain their economy--because that’s what the federal government does for its people. Instead, a pissy little southern man decided that Lincoln deserved to be punished for his crimes of preserving our country. Seriously. We fucked ourselves over.

And then we spent the next 90 years oppressing black people because we couldn't let go the fact that we once owned them.

And that is the biggest problem with this song. Paisley claims that he wants to start a dialog and maybe heal some wounds, but he doesn't actually seem interested in hearing what it’s like to be a black man in America today. He doesn't actually want to talk about possible ways that we as a society could be fixing these issues. He just wants to whine about how he can’t wear a shirt that he wants.

And finally, Adam Todd Brown also brought up this little gem of a line.
And caught between Southern pride and Southern blame
Come ON, Brad Paisley! Who in the hell doesn't use the word "shame" there instead?”
Yeah, why wouldn't he use the word shame there? It almost seems like he doesn't feel shame. Maybe he feels like he’s getting blamed for something that has nothing to do with him, like when your sibling breaks a lamp and then blames you for it. And if he were wanting to separate himself from that whole Confederacy thing, then I could understand this sentiment. But because he also pairs Southern blame with Southern pride, he’s implying that he does want to be associated with the south. He's implying that dressing in the military regalia, using the same terminology of the era, glorifying the soldiers, the culture--right down to the goddamned rebel yell--everything EXCEPT the very foundation that all of that was built on.

See that’s the thing. He probably doesn't feel shame. He thinks that all that race stuff is in the past. And because he’s white, straight, and a dude, he can feel that way. However, white privilege is a real thing. If the worst thing that people of color had to deal with was someone a bit of a douchey shirt, this wouldn't be an issue at all. Something about that whole not getting hired for jobs based on your black sounding name, the lack of representation in the media, the overwhelming number of black people vs white people in prison--all of that probably has a little more to do with why they’re less than keen to just bury the hatchet and call this whole thing good.  And Brad Paisley's attempt to broach this topic was either stupid and clumsily done, or maliciously dismissive, depending on which way you want to categorize him.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Senate Won't Vote on CISPA

Which effectively makes it dead in the water.  Which is good.  It was a piece of shit bill and it deserved to die a horrible, horrible, flamey death.  And have rats eat its nether regions.

Something particularly encouraging was this bit:
"'We are currently drafting a bipartisan information sharing bill and will proceed as soon as we come to an agreement,' Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Thursday."
And I'm pretty sure we know when that'll happen.

(The correct answer is "when monkeys fly out of my dick hole."  ...also "never" works, I guess.)

Via Senate Won't Vote On CISPA, Deals Blow To Controversial Cyber Bill - Huffington Post

Thursday, April 25, 2013

This Just In! We Have a NewsFlesh!

I love politics.

I mean, it’s frustrating, it’s annoying, and it has dire consequences, and it’s a dirty, dirty system. If you decide to become a politician, you should also basically give up on having a soul, as there will be nothing of it left by the end.

And yet, it creates some of the most fascinating human drama ever. I mean, even George W. Bush, colossal fuck-up that he is, is a human being, and that means he has hopes and dreams and fears. He may have ignorant, hateful beliefs, but he’s still a human. When he made bad decisions, you have to wonder what was going through his head. Why would he choose to do the things he was doing? Did he believe he was doing the right thing? Was he cowing to pressure from an outside source? It’s fascinating.

And that’s why I LOVE Seanan McGuire (writing as Mira Grant) and her book series The Newsflesh Trilogy. It is incredible.

Zombies are played out, man. How can anyone have anything interesting to say about them anymore? They've become such a spectacle that they’re circling around to self-parody. YET somehow Seanan McGuire creates a fascinating, innovative fantasy/sci-fi world.

McGuire has talked about how she’s done enough research into diseases and microbiology that she could practically write a medical textbook.  She did a ton of thought experiments and reading, then took that knowledge and created a perfectly plausible way for the zombie virus to exist as we understand science today.

But that’s not where she ended it.

See, the problem with a lot of zombie media is that it assumes the zombie apocalypse will be the end of the human race. That we’ll be overwhelmed and be just a handful of ragtag survivors in a world that wants us dead--humanity hanging by a string. McGuire rightly assumes that we've reached a point in our society where we could effectively react to such a disaster to keep our societies from collapsing.

It’s like she started with a premise and took it to it’s most logical conclusion: humanity adapted. Sure, there are places where zombies would find the environment more conducive to thrive, but humans figured out a way to protect ourselves from the danger. Legislation was created to help protect us, technology was created both to prevent infection and protect us. Hell, even the media has changed to better accommodate their new needs.  Hell, she even reflects plausible cultural shifts--the two main characters are named after George Romero and Shaun of the Dead.

All of this is just background information. It informs the story without BEING the story. The zombies are the main antagonists. They’re a problem, sure, but it’s never the forefront issue like in Dawn of the Dead. It’s like the weather. It just happens.

The real conflict and drama comes from the characters. The two main characters, Georgia (George) Mason and Shaun Mason, are journalists in this New Media environment. George is obsessed with the truth and revealing the true facts. Shaun is a bit more of the reckless, adrenaline junky. Together, they run an awesome news team.

And it’s here where my love of innovative, creative, yet logical world building meets my love of politics. They are asked by a Republican presidential candidate to go on and report about the campaign. There’s tons of political intrigue, personal friction between characters, and straight up action.  And I love seeing a Republican candidate that's not a fanatic, a hate monger, or a douchebag.  He's a moderate, and that's awesome.

Feed is my favorite of the trilogy because of the political intrigue. Blackout is probably the most intense of the trilogy--I've literally never had to put a book down because I was so tense that I needed a break to relax.

Basically, what I’m saying is, go buy this book series. Read it. Enjoy.

(This post is partially inspired by #womentoread on Twitter, an awesome campaign trying to raise awareness about female authors in the science-fiction and fantasy fields especially, since they’re somewhat underrepresented.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Senate Blocked Universal Background Checks Today

Today, the senate chose the cowing to lobbyist groups was better than doing their duty, both to represent and enact the will of the American people and to protect us.

Today, the senate decided that money from special interest groups was worth more than the lives of our children.

Today, the senate decided that my wife's father, a man with several felonies (including domestic violence) should be able to waltz into a local gun show and buy a gun with now issues because it would be too much work and "infringe on the rights of gun owners."  As in, the rights of the gun owners to own guns is more important than our rights not to be shot by those guns.

Gabby Giffords, a victim of this type of crime, is incensed.  As she should be.
"Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way."
 Via A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip | The Opinion Pages - The New York Times

I am ashamed that my representative voted against this bill.  I'm ashamed that my state is one that--of course--voted to continue the cycle of blood and death.  I'm ashamed in my government.

Please keep these votes in mind come 2014.  Please remember this.  Remember the pain of those dead children.  Remember that it doesn't have to be this way.  Vote them out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When the Word Mines Come Up Dry

Photo by:  GSofV of Flickr
Lately, writing has been hard.

Not because of Boston.  Although I could certainly try to use that as an excuse.  No, I don't plan on talking about Boston.  I makes me too sad, and tons of smart, eloquent people have said all I could ever hope to.  Go check out John Green or Micheleh's videos, or Chuck Wendig's post, or Patton Oswalt's Facebook post.

No, today I want to talk about writing.

Lately, I've had a bit of a dry spell and I'm not sure why.

My goals of writing 1000 words a day three times a week has been...not bueno.  I mean, I've done it off and on.  I've managed to up my blogging.  But my short fiction has been stunted since mid-March.

The plus sides:  I've completed three stories this year, and I did some basic work on a 4th--maybe 1/3 or 1/4 is written?  And I've revised two stories have them making the submission rounds.  They may be good, they may be bad.  But they're out there.

However, I can't seem to get a project to stick in my brain.  It's like, every time I sit down to do any fiction writing, I start hearing a chorus of voices telling me my ideas are stupid, my writing is hackneyed, and my stories are as uninspired as a bowl of oatmeal.  It's frustrating.  The creative wells are drip-drip-drip....dry.  I reach for words, and they're just not there.

I know what Chuck Wendig would say.  He'd say, "Harden the fuck up, Care Bear".  He'd say, "On good days--write.  On bad days--write.  The words always come first."  Or something along those lines.  Probably a lot more eloquently.  And with several more references to unicorn pole-dancers or leprechaun porn.

I know what needs to be done.  I just can't seem to bring myself to do it.  And that's the frustrating part.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Here. Have a Puppy Pic.

Then go be with your families.  Because life is short.

Stay awesome, y'all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

3rd / 4th Anniversary

Today was ( my third wedding anniversary.  It's been a very happy three years.  It also, not coincidentally, is the 4th anniversary of our relationship.  We got married on our 1 year dating anniversary.

My wife and I actually on New Year's Eve, and reconnected a couple of months later.  We talked quite a lot in the following months, but we didn't begin dating until a tornado scared the shit out of both of us.  We decided not to wait after that.

Anyway, today has been very nice, and even though my wife had class this evening, we still managed to spend the evening together.  I made us our traditional meal of apple-glazed pork chops, with a side of stuffing and a kind of potatoes au gratin that we experimented with tonight.

Here's a picture of the meal for the curious.

So, yeah.  3 happy years.  Here's to many more, eh?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What's Been Playing on My Spotify Lately

While not a massive listener of the Death Metal genre, I do dabble.  One of my favorite bands is actually a cartoon--the fictional (now real) band from the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse, Dethklok.

I have the Dethalbum--I got it back in college.  The Dethalbum III just came out recently, and I've been relatively obsessed with their song "I Ejaculate Fire."  It's...erm...NSFW...possibly NSFL.  It's stupidly over the top and hilariously hardcore and...God, it's like watching a really cheesy action movie.  But with legitimately good instrumentation, and a very impressive vocabulary (and I don't just mean the swearing).

So...if you're curious, you can watch the video below.  Beware, lots of flashing images, swearing, nudity...hopefully at least some of this is apparent with a song title like "I Ejaculate Fire."

Monday, April 1, 2013

You Should Totally Back This!

If it were real...y'know...

Happy Birthday to Me

No, it's not an April Fool's joke, although I'm sure I'll get a lot of those today.  Today really is my birthday.  I turn 24 today.  The wife and I celebrated over the weekend, where I consumed copious amounts of fro-yo cake and played Harry Potter Clue.  International Tabletop Day was also over the weekend.  I'm not saying Wil Wheaton held it in honor of my birthday celebrations, but I'm implying it.  I played Settlers of Catan for the first time and almost won.

I got in the mail an amazing gift from my mom.  Two packs of chili mix. But these were no ordinary chili mixes.  The proceeds to these went to a shelter that helps women from abusive relationships get out and find work.  Charity is one of my favorite things, and birthday gifts that benefit me and other people?  Bad ass!

Today will be a bit more quiet since I'll be at work all day, and then she'll be in class all evening.  I'll probably eat more cake (mmmm...delicious cake).

Happy birthday to me, and happy April Fool's Day to all of you.

Pictured: (Image from Shirt.woot) the shirt my wife got me for my birthday.