Monday, September 30, 2013

Apparently We All Live in a Stephen King Story Now

I've been on a bit of a Stephen King kick lately.  I recently finished reading Carrie because the remake of the original movie is coming out soon, and The Shining because of the sequel to that coming out soon.

King is one of my absolute favorite authors--no joke, number one on my list, my favorite.  I could fanboy for hours about what I like about his works, but I won't--not now.  If you've been paying attention, you might also have noticed that King had a new book come out this year (well, two actually, but who's counting?) a few days ago.  Doctor Sleep, the sequel to the classic The Shining came out on September 24th.

And apparently September is the month we've all warped to a universe where King's stories are true?

About two weeks ago--on Friday, September 13th, a creepy fucking clown started wandering around England in a small(?) town called Northampton.  He doesn't do anything, per se.  He just stands there.  He often carries balloons.  He's also been known to stand around in drains and lakes.  It's fascinating.
"The Northampton Clown has announced he intends to continue making spooky appearances around town, but has promised he does not want to ‘terrorise’ people. 
In new comments this morning he has said he ‘just wanted to amuse people’. 
And added that he wanted people to ‘enjoy being a bit freaked out’."

Now, there's some cool, interesting things about this clown--like how the day he started appearing was also 27 years from the publication of Stephen King's book, which is the cycle that Pennywise from It appears.

THEN the pet cemetery at the Overlook--*ahem,* er, I mean, the Stanley hotel--is being dug up to make room for a wedding and corporate retreat pavilion.
Plans to dig up a pet cemetery at the hotel that inspired Stephen King's horror novel "The Shining" have neighbors feeling aggrieved. 
The graves at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park are to be moved to the other side of a small pond, making way for wedding and corporate retreat pavilion.

I mean...a pet cemetery...the Stanley hotel.  C'MON!

This is either the greatest series of coincidences ever, or King is an absolute genius at viral marketing.

Can we get more awesome news stories like this and fewer stories about how the Republicans are holding us all hostage while they grandstand some more?

Photo from Steve Scoles on Flickr and his Herald and Post article

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Marvel, Just Take All of My Money, Eh?

photo from Marvel Comics
Great. As if I don't have to deal with enough. Gail Simone has The Movement out--along with Red Sonja, Kelly Sue Deconnick has Avengers Assemble and the absolutely fan-fucking-tastic series Captain Marvel, and now I have to deal with this money vacuum as well??!
[...]She-Hulk editor Jeanine Schaefer says that Soule has a great handle on what makes her complex and intriguing without being grim and gritty or overly wacky. "He has a real ability to get into the heads of his characters, understand what makes them tick and what kinds of decisions they'll make when they're up against it — and then has the chops to deliver the 'it' to put them up against."
If it's half as good as they make it sound, it's going to be fantastic.  I'll definitely give it a glance to see what I think.  I'm also excited by this:
The story arcs will be on the short side, one to three issues each, according to Soule, and will be very much tuned into her surrounding superhero world. There's a "huge" guest star planned for the first issue, another A-lister playing an important role in the first story line, and an over-arching narrative with several elements of the larger Marvel Universe.
I like that the arcs will be shorter.  It'll be nice to have a series that's not cross-over after event after huge sprawling story line, which is kind of what DC's comics have become.

I'm noticing that despite having started reading comics with DC, I'm very quickly becoming more of a Marvel fan.  I've started from waaaaay back on Spider-Man, but it's fantastic.  Captain Marvel is amazing.  Avengers Assemble is fantabulous.  And Wolverine and the X-Men has been a ton of fun so far.  I mean, Marvel is cleaning up.  Meanwhile, DC has been fucking up left and right.  They had Harley Quinn commiting suicide in various ways be the contest images to earn a spot at the company...during suicide prevention week.  They have been cancelling their most innovative books left and right--or forcing their best writers out through too many last-minute editorial mandates.  In Wonder Woman reboot, which I've actually be fine with up until now, the Amazons are now rapists that sell their unwanted children into slavery...seriously...  No, I mean, like, for real, y'all.  What the fuck are you doing over there, DC?

Meanwhile, the most controversial thing at Marvel that I've seen is killing off Spider-Man and having Doc Ock take his place...but you guys know that's not going to be permanent, right?  Like, Peter Parker has been around since the 60's.  He'll be back.  Superior Spider-Man is just a temporary experiment--and a cool sounding one at that.

So, yeah.  Count me in for checking out She-Hulk.  Sounds awesome.

Quotes from She-Hulk's back with her own solo series in February | USA Today

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Do We Need Anita Sarkeesian? (Hint: The Answer Is Fucking Yes, Y'all)

Friday, September 20, 2013

NSA Pretends to be Google, Spies on Users

America has a proud anti-establishment streak.  Some take those ideals further than others.  It seems like every few days that the conservative Fox News is blasting the government for something that they were perfectly a-okay with just a few years ago without even blinking at the hypocrisy.

1984 has been thrown around so much to talk about corrupt governments that George Orwell's family should get a royalty for every comparison made.  Every time the government tries to accomplish even the most basic of tasks, certain people start channeling Orwell's poltergeist so he can reek havoc on our corrupted officials.

People would rather have potholes so big falling into them would drop you out at China than the government have even the smallest fraction of power.  I, for one, have defended the government's choices on a lot of things.  There are some things that a centralized ruling body can accomplish better than the milling mass of contradictions that is the American General Public.

Well, fire up the ol' ouiji board, friends, because the NSA is pretending to be Google to spy on you.
Buried in a Brazilian television report on Sunday was the disclosure that the NSA has impersonated Google and possibly other major internet sites in order to intercept, store, and read supposedly secure online communications. The spy agency accomplishes this using what's known as a "man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack," a fairly well-known exploit used by elite hackers. This revelation adds to the growing list of ways that the NSA is believed to snoop on ostensibly private online conversations.
From Report: NSA Mimics Google to Monitor "Target" Web Users | MotherJones.com

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Riddick vs. Pitch Black


I went to see Riddick last weekend. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of Pitch Black, and I was very excited to see Riddick returning to the roots of the first film as a sort of survival-horror-sci-fi-type movie. Riddick was always best when he was morally ambiguous, mysterious, and seemingly one step ahead of everyone else.

But Pitch Black had more going for it than just Riddick’s brooding, anti-hero persona. It had an incredibly diverse cast:


  • Keith David plays a Muslim priest with two little boys (his children? Proteges? It’s not entirely clear what their relationship is…), also Muslim, are on a pilgrimage.
  • The leader of the group is a female starship pilot.
  • The film shows a surprising amount of creativity and progressiveness when it tackles gender normative behaviors and physicality by having a young girl disguised as a boy.
The previously mentioned revelation comes at a moment that in many other movies would be a moment of woman shaming. They learn that the reason the creatures are following them so easily is that they can smell blood--something established earlier--and the young boy, “Jack,” is actually a girl that’s menstruating.


Her reasoning for pretending to be a boy is not only understandable, but is keeping with a long tradition of women in combat situations--she wanted to be respected, and sadly, only boys get respect.

But more interesting is the fact that Jack is not shamed or punished for “being a girl.” Riddick, it seems, has known this for quite some time and possibly all along.  He, however, has treated Jack the same throughout the movie.  It's one of the best things about Riddick's character, and it's one of the things that humanizes Riddick and makes him more than just a murderous monster.  His understanding, kind-but-tough relationship with the kid is one of the highlights of the film.

Once the twist is revealed, the film seems to attack the idea of punishing Jack for being a girl head-on, with one character saying they should throw her under the bus.  Riddick wants none of this, and dishes out his own brand of justice for such thinking.

Jack's characterization isn’t entirely perfect, as when it’s revealed that she’s a girl, she seemed to become a bit more screamy and weepy, however, one could make the argument that by that point in the film, the situation has gotten a lot more dangerous and she feels more comfortable being herself around these people and doesn’t have to put on an act of being “tough.” But still...it is there. Take it how you will.

Anyway, I loved Pitch Black a whole lot.

Riddick...is not Pitch Black.

I haven’t seen The Chronicles of Riddick and decided I probably didn’t need to since the film seemed to be ignoring the previous movie for the most part, anyway, based on what I saw in the trailers.

The film starts with a short 5-10 minutes of bridging the previous movie with this film (although, it doesn't seem to answer any questions left open by the previous movie from what I've read online).

Then, the film has a long sequence of Riddick dicking around in the desert.  Given the direction that the film will inevitably take--as seen in the trailers, this sequence does nothing.  The pacing is glacial, and the longer it ran, the more annoyed I got because I wanted to know what the movie was waiting for.  Why didn't it just get started and introduce the other characters?  The only thing that happens is Riddick gets a dog that will most definitely be dead before the end of the film.

Finally, Riddick makes it to a bounty hunter waystation and activates a beacon summoning a ship of bounty hunters and the plot finally gets going.  It's structured similar to Pitch Black at this point, only instead of ground-dwelling monsters killing off the crew, Riddick is doing it, hoping to convince them by force that he should get one of their ships and they can take the other.  Everyone needs to get off of the planet because a big storm is coming that has a bunch of scary scorpion-like monsters in it.

Obviously, that doesn't happen, Riddick gets captured, the storm hits, and suddenly they need Riddick's special brand of skills to get them off of the planet.

This was the part of the movie that I'd been waiting for, and it had its moments where it was pretty cool, but for the most part, this part of the film felt kind of forced, like it was basically trying to recreate Pitch Black.

Individual elements of this film were cool: Riddick being abandoned and left to survive on his own on an unfamiliar planet, drawing out bounty hunters to try to steal a ship to get off the planet, introducing the father of one of the characters from Pitch Black to call back to the previous film, Riddick having to help a group of people out of another jam, this time with an oncoming storm approaching instead of a year-long night.  These were all things that worked.

However, the first woman we see in the film is a topless woman in bed with many others in the same state, and they are essentially fucktoys for Riddick's pleasure (he was apparently made king or something...).

The second woman we see is being held prisoner in much the same way that Riddick was.

This was exciting for me because I thought they were going to maybe introduce another murderer/prisoner like Riddick, but instead of having a heart of gold, maybe this woman would be a straight up sociopathic monster and Riddick would have to battle someone younger, meaner, and more dangerous.

Nope.

Instead, she is a prisoner of a group of bounty hunters...and the leader has been repeatedly raping her.  When someone touches her to let her go, she freaks out in an all-too earnest and realistic performance of panic in a movie that had, up until that point, been so cheesy I could have poured it over my chimichangas.  Then she's let go...and shot.  She's the only black person in this film.  Hooray.

The third woman we see is one of the significant characters.  I was excited to learn she was a lesbian.  True, she was extremely butch, at one point actually uttering the line, "I don't fuck guys.  I fuck them up," which really plays into some harmful stereotypes of lesbian women being violent and butch and essentially dudes with boobs.  But at least it was some diversity.

To be fair, the cast wasn't all white.  One of the teams of bounty hunters was largely hispanic.  However, they were essentially the bad guys, and so they all get killed off before the end of the film.  So...you know...White People win again!

Anyway, I was annoyed with the death of the female prisoner and the clumsy, stupid way rape was just dropped into the movie with no bearing on the plot beyond "yeah, that guy is so evil he RAPES," but I was willing to forgive the film if it could turn around.

Then, Riddick started acting so out of character that I could have sworn this was written by some other person and not the guy that wrote the original film.

Riddick spies on the woman character--named Dahl..."doll"...seriously--while she's in the shower.

Riddick, while mentioning that when he gets unchained, he's going to kill the douchebag mercenary leader, also mentions that he will "go balls deep into Dahl...and she'll ask for it."

Riddick tells Dahl he likes her nail polish because "it matches her nipples."

All of this, Dahl bears with a coy smile.  I kept hoping that this was just Riddick being kind of clueless and dumb--being on the run, you're probably not going to develop the best social skills--but I was oh so wrong.  At the end of the film, Dahl rescues Riddick from being eaten, by being lowered down onto him and straddling him like she's fucking him--and he grabs her ass LIKE A MAN!!--and later, he tells her to "keep it warm for me."  Her vagina, he means.  And she's totally into it.  The film posits one of the oldest stereotypes: "All lesbians are just straight women that have never had a good dicking."

Most of these things, if they were isolated incidents, I could have ignored.  But it piled on annoying douchebag cliche after annoying douchebag cliche.  I heard several dudebros cheering every time he came onto her.  See, this is why things like this piss me off.  It's not enough that they're being disrespectful to part of their potential audience, but they're reinforcing that "persistence will get ANY girl" to the types of guys that REALLY don't need that lesson.

This also annoyed me because I always imagined that Riddick was...maybe asexual?  This may be my own fault for not having seen the first film, but Riddick never seemed to be attracted to the starship captain.  He felt superior to her, and often condescended to her in a "I know so much more than you" kind of way, but he did that to everyone.  And by the end, when she went back into the dark to save him, he'd made a connection with another human being in a way that--I imagine based on his characterization--he'd probably never had before.  When she got killed off, he broke down and screamed, "Not her. Not for me! Not for me!"  That was an amazing scene.

This movie gave me a character I didn't even recognize.

Everyone has their own opinion.  If you liked this movie, I wouldn't take it from you for anything.  However, if you liked Pitch Black, I recommend you just watch that over again.  This doesn't do anything new, and it takes a severe step backward with characterization and casting.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Birthday To My Wonderful Wife

Flowers I had delivered to my wife's office.

Today is my wife's birthday.

We haven't had the easiest relationship.  When we met, she lived with abusive, alcoholic parents.  Her life was constantly in danger.  When she finally moved out of there, we had a car accident that nearly killed her and did put her in the hospital for several months afterward.

There were times where we didn't think she would leave her teens, much less reach 22.

So today, I celebrate my wife: beautiful, smart, funny, and incredibly, astoundingly dorky.  You mean more to me than you will ever know.  Thank you for sticking around.

Happy birthday, honey.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cracked's Insight into the War on Terror

You know, people have a tendency to right off comedy's importance to society.  Comedy is often the front lines of where social change.  You get people laughing, lower their inhibitions, you're more likely to plant an idea that will cause them to think about things...maybe even change their minds.  Sure, you'll always have people who choose to use comedy to knowingly punch downward and write it off as "just a joke"...but then you have Cracked's article that came out on September 11th of this year.
Hey, guys -- I'm starting to think we overreacted to the terrorism thing. 
It hit me last year as I was standing in the naked airport scanner again, listening to the faint gasps and then applause from the monitoring booth, and realized that I wouldn't put up with that hassle to ward off the threat of, say, lightning. You know, like if scientists had figured out that you could reduce the already miniscule chance of being struck by merely standing outside and showing God your dick.
David Wong is an incredibly gifted writer.  I read and LOVED his novel John Dies at the End (and the movie version was pretty damn awesome as well).  Here he combines together the classic Cracked itemized article format into 6 insightful and and terrifyingly true observations about the state of our "post-9/11" world.

This is the part that I think might have killed part of my soul and made terrified me of the future:
Sure, it's not like some controversial comment on Twitter will get you sent to a gulag. It may merely get you a day spent in a hot interrogation room and your computer seized for a few months. Just a little reminder to watch what you say, and what you think, at all times. They don't have to throw you in prison, they just have to harass you enough that you'll remember next time. And the fire that makes us human grows just a little dimmer, and we shrug and say, What can we do? After all, it's a Post-9/11 World.
From "The 6 Weirdest Things We've Learned Since 9/11" by David Wong | Cracked.com

Monday, September 16, 2013

Gluttony, Thy Name is Myself

Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist
It's the wife's birthday week, and food is one of her huge motivators.  She loves food.  She'd cut a small child if it meant getting some cheese dip to go along with her chips and salsa.  She decided that she wanted to try some frozen custard.  I agreed.  We left.

My wife may be motivated by food, but food is my weakness.  It has power over me that is embarrassing.  I can't count the number of times I've thought, "I can eat all that," and then spent half the night moaning and doubled over, laying on the couch with my gut in my hands.

As we approached the order window, I saw the three different sized cups for the frozen custard.  Small, medium, or large.  My wife told me she was going to get a small, that it would be more than enough for her.  I knew what I needed to do.

#

It's our first time visiting Cold Stone Creamery--well, mine.  We're on a road trip to the big city to see New Moon in IMAX.  My wife is pretty excited.  She'd enjoyed the first one despite its flaws.  I'm less excited, but happy to see her so happy.

It's in the car that my wife suggests, "Hey, you wanna stop at Cold Stone?  To kill time?"

Ice cream?  Sure!

We go inside, and it's like a magical dessert wonderland.  The skill that the scoop jockeys demonstrate as they snatch out a pile of ice cream and plop it onto the countertop, it's practically sorcery.  Then I watch them smash and mold it around like Play-Doh, mixing and smashing different things into a delicious icy concoction of sweet and glory.

Three sizes of cups: "Like it," "Love it," and "Gotta Have It."

And I realize I DO! I gotta have it.  It calls out to me, a saccharine siren song so savory, to deny it would be to deny a piece of my soul.

My wife orders.  I follow, lay my money on the table, and proudly proclaim, "Gotta have it!"

It's only ten minutes later that I realize the mistake I've made.  I'm halfway through the deceptively small bowl, feeling my stomach gurgle and toss, shouting at me for being such a glutton.

"Oh, sweetie.  I've made a terrible mistake."

My wife scrapes the bottom of her own cup, piling the remaining ice cream into one concentrated area.  She hands it toward me.  "I'm so full.  Do you want the rest."

My stomach rolls again.

#

I stood at the frozen custard stand, the handsome young man behind the counter grinned at me.  Teeth straight and white, like Chiclets, muscles bulged from his white polo work shirt, I wondered if he ate the stuff he shilled, or if it was just a paycheck to him.

"Are you ready?" my wife asked.

"I...uh..."

I noted the choices again.  Three cup sizes: small, medium, or large.

I glanced back at the vibrant picture of the frosty treat of my heart.  I turned back the Merchant of Sweet Death.

"I'll take a medium," I said.  Because I'd learned since Cold Stone.  But I hadn't learned enough.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Your Weekend Earworm

I have friends that are quite possibly insane.  They're sweet, but it's generally good idea to keep them away from sharp objects lest they hurt themselves or someone around them.

Somehow, they managed to break the manacles that hold them to their beds until the nice men in the white coats can give them their medicine.  They found a computer and showed me this.  And now...the world makes so much more sense.

It's Friday the thirteenth.  You might have had a bit of a rough day.  Sit down, relax, and let the maddness of "The Fox " by Ylvis flow over you.  It asks the age old question: "What sound does a fox make?"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gender and Behavior

Fascinating stuff regarding behavior that demonstrates power and how that translates to "gendered behavior."  I constantly try to remind myself as well as others that what we often consider to be "girly" mostly means "that which men don't want to be associated with."
Philosopher Sandra Lee Bartky once observed that being feminine often means using one’s body to portray powerlessness. Consider: A feminine person keeps her body small and contained; she makes sure that it doesn’t take up to much space or impose itself. She walks and sits in tightly packaged ways. She doesn’t cover the breadth of the sidewalk or expand herself beyond the chair she occupies. 
[...] 
In laboratory experiments, people who were prompted to take up more space were more likely to steal, cheat, and violate traffic laws in a simulation. A sense of powerfulness, reported by the subjects, mediated the effect (a robust finding that others have documented as well). 
In a real world test of the theory, they found that large automobiles with greater internal space were more likely than small ones to be illegally parked in New York City.
From Gender and the Body Language of Power | The Society Pages

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Moment to Squee

© EW/Doane Gregory/Red Granite Pictures
Since Monday's post was very Serious, and about Very Serious Things, I wanted to take a moment to talk about things that make me very happy.  Basically, some squee-worthy moments (for me at least).

One thing that I want to squee about in a "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY AND GIVE ME THAT YOU HEARTLESS TORMENTER" sort of way is how excited I am to hopefully eventually see Horns.  I absolutely love Joe Hill's book.  It was my first experience with him, and it was a great, exciting, tragibeautiful read.  I didn't find it quite as spooky as his previous book, Heart Shaped Box, but it was indeed a great book.

A while back, Joe Hill announced that they were adapting Horns into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. I was so excited that I nearly passed out.

Well...the wait appears to be (sort of) over.  They premiered the film at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Joe Hill has announced that he was really pleased with the adaption, and the early buzz appears to be good.  However, despite what it says many places on the internet, there is not release date for the film yet.  It's supposedly coming out in October, but Mr. Hill says that's not the case.

And all I want to do is scream!  C'mon, man!  Give me the film!  I need this!

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!

*pant pant pant*

Okay, fine.  I'll wait.

The OTHER thing that made me squee like a small child on Christmas relates to one of my new-found loves: comics.

My favorite comic right now is Captain Marvel.  Formerly Miss Marvel, Carol Danvers took up the mantle of Captain Marvel in her own solo series a while back, and I've been absolutely hooked.  The art has been hit or miss for me, but the story is freaking good that I can forgive overly dark--or just overly goofy--art.

So, I came back from watching the absolutely atrocious Riddick, and my wife cheered me up with this news:
“There’s obviously a drumbeat that is banging louder and louder that we want a female lead superhero,” he says. ”… [W]e have strong female characters in our films from Black Widow to Pepper Potts to Peggy Carter and you never know. Maybe there’s an offshoot film with one of them. Or Captain Marvel, you know?” -- Marvel Studios' co-president Louis D'Esposito to ComingSoon.net.
 FUCKING CAPTAIN MARVEL WOULD BE AMAZING TAKE MY MONEY PLEASE SHUT UP AND TAKE IT!!!!!

Then, Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar Galactica and horrible--through no fault of her own--Riddick) mentioned that she's in talks with Disney to possibly work on a project.  Now, Disney's a huge company with tons of projects, and so it's completely ridiculous to assume that Sackhoff is negotiating to play Captain Marvel.  And I get that.  These speculations are so nebulous I could disperse them with a wave of my hand.

But let's look at this side-by-side comparison of Katee Sackhoff and Captain Marvel and dream a little, 'kay?

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DISNEY/MARVEL, MAKE THIS HAPPEN!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

More Thoughts on the VMAs

I know I just talked about the VMAs, but honestly, there's an entire aspect of the VMAs that no one has been willing to talk about.  I guess it's too controversial.  People are afraid of the fallout that may result in this discussion.  But goddammit, I am willing to bear the weight of this controversy, so let's do this thing.


How long has Robin Thicke been Beetlejuice?

If we say his name 3 times, will he and "Blurred Lines" disappear?

Is that where Winona Ryder went?  Did she become Miley Cyrus?

Do we need to call Alec Baldwin to defeat Robin Thicke in a battle royale?

So many questions.  So...many...questions...

Some Thoughts on Miley Cyrus's VMAs Performance

I know that this topic has been talked to death already by people who are much, much smarter, and probably much, much more qualified to discuss this than I am.  However, I wanted to talk about Miley Cyrus’s incredibly, fascinatingly horrible performance at the VMAs. There are so many things going on there.

There's a term that gets tossed around on Tumblr for people who worry about racism, misogyny, sizeism, ageism, homophobia, and other social issues and how they present themselves in popular culture.  They call them "social justice warriors."  It's supposed to be used in a mocking way by people who feel that these folks are overly sensitive, that they're the PC police coming to ruin everyone's fun.  However, I wanted to talk about this because, as I become more aware of various social problems in our world today, I wanted to give you an example of what it's like to be inside my head.  I am still learning, growing, changing, deciding how I feel and where I fall on these issues, and it seemed like an interesting way to show you how complicated these things can be at times.

Original image from: West Midlands Police
One thing about being interested in the sociological implications of various things in pop culture is that you often find issues overlapping like a pulsing, writhing orgie of horrible. There’s actually a term for this in the “social justice” community. It’s called “intersectionality.”  Like it sounds, it means that one event or situation can involve several different causes.  Miley Cyrus's performance is fascinating because she somehow managed to waltz into nearly a thousand different issues with one booty-shaking dance step.

First, let’s talk about the body shaming that occured. Miley Cyrus is a young woman, and young women are expected to be sexy, but not too sexy. They’re expected to be attractive, but they can’t flaunt it. They have to be shy, but not so shy that they don’t talk to anybody or they’ll be considered a snob. If they stand up for themselves, they’re headstrong, angry bitches, but if they don’t then they deserved what happened to them because they didn’t stand up for themselves. Being a woman in today’s society is a conundrum wrapped in a paradox slathered in a juicy glaze of contradictions.

Miley Cyrus’ performance was immediately slammed for being “too sexy.” Gentlemanly fellows had their monocles fall neglected from their eyes, whilst ladies in flowery wide-brimmed hats swooned and wilted at the unchecked display of debauchery and sexuality on stage. Miley Cyrus let her freak flag fly, shaking her rump, sticking her tongue out, and letting everyone know that this is who she is. She’s the kind of girl that wants to party hard and have casual sex with people and fuck you if you judge her.


And you know what? There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that to a point. Women should be allowed to have sex with whomever and whenever they want without a bunch of dudes saying, “Yes, but only I’M allowed to do that.” Remember: When bros sleep with tons of chicks, he’s a playa, he’s making conquests. When a lady does it, she’s a slut, a hoebag, a whore. See the double standard?

And Miley’s performance wasn’t exactly the most shocking thing ever. I mean, why are people decrying Miley’s performance. She was clothed wasn’t she? She gyrated all over the stage, but she had the “essential bits” covered, right? Where was the outrage over the degradation of America’s moral fortitude over Robin Thicke’s blurred lines video.

However, there’s more to this issue. The fact is, when Disney genetically engineers their child stars, none are held to a higher standard than their little pop princesses. Vanessa Hutchins sent a naked pic to Zac Efron. Was Efron decried as a good boy gone bad for indulging in the type of relationship that would result in naked pictures? Nope. But Vanessa Hutchins, oh, people would click their tongues and shake their heads and say, “she used to be such a nice girl.” Because ladies can’t have sex. It’s not allowed. Only men.


So how do Disney pop princesses break away from their sweet, good girl persona that has been carefully crafted and hand brewed by the finest Disney PR people? Making people realize that you are a sexual person and acting out against the pristine image you’ve been associated with for so long is pretty much the only option given to women in the music industry. Think about the women who are successful right now. Think about the way Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Rhianna, Beyonce, Ke$ha, ad nauseum all dress and act when they perform --various states of undress, rump shaking, showing off sexy legs, back, cleavage. Why do you think they do that? How many options do you think are afforded to them in their careers? The only notable exception that comes immediately to mind is Adele.

But when they play the game, and they get sexed up in order to make a point, people shake their heads and mutter about our moral decay.

The issue gets even more complicated because women being in various states of undress honestly shouldn’t be scandalous. Bodies are beautiful things, and showing yours off shouldn’t be a crime. God knows, nobody bursts a blood vessel whenever Matthew McConahey goes shirtless. Nobody’s been grumbling about the downfall of society over Taylor Lautner or Robert Pattinson being shirtless in Twilight.

WHOOOOOOORES!!!
This, however, appears to be perfectly acceptable. Carry on, gentlemen.
And the issue gets even more complicated because women being in various states of undress is also an all too common thing. If a woman is in a movie, music video, billboard, poster, etc, she’s probably in her undies and twisted around in a ridiculous, rubber spined manner. Just look at comic books. Or hell, look at the new Star Trek narrative, that shoe-horned in a woman in her underwear for literally no reason, just so they could say they had tits and ass in the movie.

But, that’s not to say that Miley Cyrus should escape criticism. After all, she totally hijacked an entire cultural expression. It’s taken me a lot of time to more fully understand why Miley’s music video and song recently was SO racist. I mean, it was obvious it was; cultural appropriation is a thing I’m still learning about, so it’s a bit confusing to me.

But holy shit I think I get it now. Let’s look at Miley’s outfit from her video.

Found from: Jezebel
That’s Miley Cyrus with gold teeth, big rings, chains, a do-rag, etc. She’s emulating a type of culture called ratchet culture. Ratchet culture is a type of impoverished African-American culture that, from what I’ve read, originates in southern Louisiana. It’s basically emulating the actions and dress of poor, mostly undereducated people.

When Miley Cyrus dresses the way she does, sings the way she does--adopting a sort of quasi-”black” accent at times--and generally plays around with that image, it’s on the same level as watching a Larry the Cable Guy show. Ol’ Larry plays himself as a good-ol-boy from the Southern United States, but all of his “aw shucks” simpleton demeanor is a farce. “Larry” is actually Daniel Lawrence Whitney of Pawnee City, Nebraska.

While all small, poor, farming communities have things in common, the South has particular aspects to its culture that are pretty well known. It is the subject of constant mockery. Hell, I remember I stopped watching All That when I was in middle school because during a skit entitled “The Chef and the Hillbilly,” the hillbillly belted out “I’M FROM AWR-KAN-SASS!” It was exploiting and mocking a culture that I was a part of and had grown up in for profit. When cultures are emulated for profit, it doesn’t feel like an homage or an honor, it feels disingenuous and sleezy. It’s not a respect of the culture, it’s just using a particular culture (and/or mocking said culture) to make money.

That makes money, I don't care who y'are.
Miley is doing the exact same thing with ratchet culture, but the issue is even more multi-layered because black people have had their culture stolen and extorted to make a profit over and over and over again. Jazz, rock, hip-hop, and R&B all originated from black culture. They were only made mainstream and acceptable when white people began participating. Even now, black artists have a struggle reaching the same level of success that Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, and Eminem reached.

You could even make the argument that Miley is exploiting the lesbian/bisexual culture by engaging in mock-sexualized acts with other women on stage to shock the more conservative crowd. As far as I know, Miley is not bisexual. Pretending to stick her tongue in another woman’s asshole was purely for shock value, because she likes the attention it gets her.

“Social justice warriors” as they’re mockingly called, have a sort of warped view of the world. They’re often thought of as humorless, but maybe now you can see a little of why these issues are so complicated.

  • Miley being mocked because “she doesn’t have the ass to twerk” is body shaming, as if you have to have a certain body type to enjoy dancing a certain way.
  • And people who bitch about Miley’s hyper-sexual performance are honestly just scared of ladies being sexy, exhibiting symptoms of our sexually repressed society.
  • And yet, Miley’s usage of ratchet culture in order to make a bunch of money is surely cultural appropriation--she can switch that persona off and on whenever she likes. She’s not like those poor women living in that culture with no other choice.
  • Plus, Miley’s white, and she gets all of the benefits inherit of being white--being successful at a style of music that white people took from black people, but that black people can never seem to match that same success in.
  • Plus, Miley’s sexual performances and twerking with a bunch of women--and pretending to eat a woman’s asshole--is appropriating the culture of the lesbian/bisexual crowd.

Man, being a decent human being is hard. I feel like I should take the last piece of cake a child’s birthday party to make up for all of this. But I won’t, because I would feel bad. DAMMIT!

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Quick Friday Book Recommendation

Okay, I'm writing this up in a quick and dirty fashion because I haven't had a lot of time to crank out another blog post.  Because of that, I figure, hell, I'll recommend a book to you guys.


I recently finished reading two awesome books.  One is a bit of a "duh" in the recommendation department, and that's Stephen King's Carrie.  Again, it's Stephen King, so "duh."  I'd never read it and decided to blitz through it before the movie comes out in October--which I'm super excited about.

No surprises, it's great. It's surprisingly slim for a King book, and surprisingly stripped down.  Not like his usual fair--nor should it be, since it's his first--but there are still moments of Kingsian description and characterization.  He makes me so fucking jealous.

But the real reason I'm writing this is to recommend the other book I just finished recently:  Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects.



Sharp Objects is about small town life, about mothers and daughters, and about women's relationships with each other.  It is a grim, vicious little book, but it's also beautiful and harsh and awesome.

The main character is a broken, fucked up person, with a cynical world view and a drinking problem.  She's layered, mysterious, sarcastic, and awesome.  Similar, at times, to Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black.  I like them both.

The book manages to keep the plot unfolding at a good pace, but it also seems to take its time, really developing a feel for the town, the atmosphere, the mindset of the people and how they deal with the tragedy afflicting their little corner of the world.

I dug the hell out of this book, and totally agree with Stephen King's blurb--the last 30-50 pages had me hooked through the eyelids.  I had to see what happened next.  Once I finished the book, I was determined to go buy the next two immediately.  And you can bet your ass I will.  Payday has Flynn's name all over it.

It's gritty, it's dirty, it's harsh, and it's amazing.  Give it a read if you can.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Car Ride Grammar Debates


INT. CAR - DAY

My wife and I are driving to the cemetery to put some flowers on her grandmother's grave. We're talking about random things. Suddenly, for some reason, we begin debating the grammatical principles for the word "porn."

Me - Something something something something porns.

WIFE - Did you just say "porns"?

ME - ...yeah?

WIFE - You don't say "porns" you say "porn."

ME - ...No you don't.

WIFE - Yes you do. You don't say, "I have a bunch of porns on my computer." You say, "I have a bunch of porn on my computer."

ME - You can say that. But it depends on if you're referring to the conglomerate idea of "porn" or if you're referring to individual titles.

WIFE - No it doesn't! It's like "deer." You have one deer, you have twenty deer.

ME - No, it's like dollars. Dollars can be singular when referring to an amount of money, or it can be plural when referring to the bills.

WIFE - No it can't!

ME - Yes it can! "Five dollars is a lot of money." Dollars is singular in that instance. "Dollars are used in America." Dollars is plural in that instance because you're referring to the individual bills.

WIFE - No it isn't. That's why people say "dollar bills" instead of "dollars." You're wrong.

ME - I GOT MY DEGREE IN ENGLISH, I KNOW HOW THE LANGUAGE WORKS!

WIFE - You're wrong, and you're face is stupid, and porn is correct.

ME - In some instances. But not in every case. If you're referring to individual porn titles, then you can say "porns" as a collective.

WIFE - No you can't.

ME - YES YOU CAN! You can say "I have a bunch of porn on my computer." That's referring to the nebulous, conglomerate "porn" as a concept. Or you can say "I have several porns on my movie shelf." In that instance, you're referring to individual titles as a collective.

WIFE - You are so wrong on this.

ME - No I'm not! I'm telling you, English isn't so basic and black and white. Words and how they function can change depending on the context. It's the same reason that verbs can SOMETIMES be subjects because they can act like nouns.

WIFE - Whatever. You're wrong on this. Pull in here.

-END-

Monday, September 2, 2013

Car Shopping Was Invented by the Devil

I know he's not selling a car.  Shut up!
It's an old, boring cliche that used car salesmen are sleazy, seersucker suit-wearing greaseballs whose only goal is to take your money and/or chain you to a series of high payments on a piece of shit that will crap out when you're just down the road from the dealership.  (And of course, if you try to take it back, you'll get "I'm sorry, but you bought it as is!")

I try not to deal in stereotypes when I can.  Just because many of the Republicans in Congress are some of the most backwards, mentally unstable, childish people I've ever seen and I shudder in horror that they are the ones behind the wheel of this country doesn't mean that I think that ALL people who identify as Republican are crazy.  That would be silly.

Ignoring car salesperson stereotypes, car shopping is still a stressful experience.  The salesperson wants you to buy a nice car--and the more expensive the car, the better their commission will be.  You want a car that's nice enough, but that's also affordable.  And if you're not a mechanic, you have to do the Mexican Hat Dance of trying to glean through psychic vibes and strong intuitions if the car is a lemon--if there's anything wrong with it mechanically.  There have been several times that I've opened the hood of a car and just stood there looking at the tangle of wires and metal with horror, like I was staring into the belly some metallic Lovecraftian horror.

Art by c-dane of DeviantArt
Ia, ia! Hyundai fhtagn!
Virtually every time that we have tried to buy a car, when we went to the dealership, we had to deal with a salesperson that would flat out make things up.

We have been looking for a small car in decent condition that gets relatively good gas mileage.  My preferred car would be a hybrid because they get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 mpg, and that's fucking amazing.  However, 35-40 is acceptable.

Car dealers seem to think small = good gas mileage however.  Just because it's vaguely Smart car shaped doesn't mean that it runs like a Smart car guys.

We went to a dealership where we wanted to look at a Ford Focus.  When we started it, it squealed and squawled and shook like a banshee was locked under the hood.  Instead, the salesman told us he wanted to show us a Hyundai that got just as good, if not better, gas mileage than the Ford.  Red flags began to go up immediately when I--not the most automotively savvy, I guess--noticed that the car was CLEARLY a Nissan.  You know the Nissan symbol?  It's the one with "Nissan" printed on it.

Image from Technorati.com
What brand is this? Hold on, give me a moment.  It'll come to me...
He started claiming outlandish mpg.  My wife already had her Android out and checked the listing on fuel economy.gov--lo and behold, it got much fewer mpg than the guy was claiming, and much less than we wanted.

When we brought this to his attention, he hummed and hawed around, making excuses, talking about what the people that traded it in reported.

We left.

Another time, we went to a dealership where we wanted to test out a Chevy Aveo.  It had quite a few miles on it, but it was a nice price, and it looked like it was in pretty good condition.  After testing it out, we didn't really like it--the engine knocked a bit when shifting gears, and the brakes didn't work right.  The salesman was obsessed with getting us in a newer car, one with fewer miles, because he said we could get a better deal on insurance. He kept pumping this Suzuki Reno over and over and over, repeating the same spiel incessantly.  I agreed to drive the car--1) because I like to be open minded and see if they actually can get me in something better, and 2) to shut him the fuck up.

One red flag came up when he didn't want me to drive it as long as the other car.  The other car, I had driven it down a back road to an area where I could open the engine up to highway speeds.  He had me turn around before I could with the new one.  While we drove, he continued the same speech again and again, "I'm trying to put you in something newer with fewer miles.  If you guys are willing to upgrade to a newer car with fewer miles that's just a little more expensive, you can get a much better deal for your interest rates."

When we returned from our very short trip--essentially, he only let me drive it around the block--he ducked off to return the key, and I talked to me wife.  I liked it well enough, but it was more expensive, and we weren't sure we could make the payments.  While discussing it, we noticed something else:  the door handles were a different color than the rest of the car.  The car was blue.  The handles were white, with little traces of the old blue paint around the edges.  Another red flag.

I've had experience buying cars with damaged titles before.  I don't necessarily mind, because if they've been fixed properly, they're pretty much new again, and you can get a practically new car for a significantly reduced price.  However, I'm only willing to consider it if the're up front with me and explain what the damage was to the car, how extensive it was, and what they did to fix it.  One car I bought previously, the dealer did just that, and it was a great car.  The other car, the dealer had illegally cleaned the title, and we didn't find out until much, much later.

Photo from bradleygee
"For sale: one car.  Minor dings in roof.  Great engine!"
When I brought up the door handles to the dealer, he told me, "Oh, well, that's no big deal.  You can just take that to a body shop.  They don't have to repaint the whole car; they can just do a touch-up.  It'll cost you maybe $100-$200?"

"Okay," I replied, "but what happened to it?"

"I don't really know," he said, "but you know, when the dealer buys these cars, they want you to buy them 'as is.'  The dealer just buys them and sells them back to the customer, they don't fix anything on them."

This, I know to be bullshit, because, again, I've purchased two cars that were previously damaged from two different dealers--and looked at two others from two different dealerships.  Hell, my wife and I saw one before it was fixed--it was a sporty little yellow car that looked awesome.  It was in the dealer's garage, getting repaired.  We could it would be a good car once they finished fixing up a door and repainting it, so we told them to give us a call when it was ready.

Now I had alarms going off in my brain like crazy, but we pressed on anyway, waiting to see how this would play out.  After all, those dealerships that I bought my cars from were smaller.  Maybe the bigger dealerships didn't fix them up?  Sure, a bigger dealership had offered to buy one of my cars that was missing a trunk from an unfortunate accident involving a preppy, douchey rich kid with connections.  They said they could fix it.  But still, I don't know everything in the world.  I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt--even if this car looked like it had been fixed up by the dealership, and just wasn't finished yet.

Determined to sell us this car, the salesman started telling us about the engine size, how amazing the gas mileage was, especially compared to the Aveo, how the engine size was the same, and again, how the lower amount of miles would mean a better deal when we financed.

While he went to get the paperwork and look over our own car to see what the trade-in value would be, we looked up the information on fueleconomy.gov as well as Suzuki's own site.  The Suzuki's engine was 1.25 times bigger than the Aveo, cost almost ten bucks more to fill up, and got worse mpg than the Aveo.  He was just making shit up as he went along.  The Reno may be a good car, but he either had no clue what he was talking about, or was out and out lying to us.

We left because I don't feel like buying from a salesman that will fucking lie to my face.  That's not a way to build a trusting relationship.

Thankfully, this story does have a happy ending.  We found a car that is in our price range, that gets the kind of mpg that we want, and we got it with the payments we wanted AND a 3 year warranty.  Our saleswoman let me take it out on the interstate feel how it handled at higher speeds.  She was awesomely blunt, but also extremely willing to try to work with us to get what we wanted.

Say hello to "the Snowberry," aka, "the White Bullet, aka "the Tardis" because it's bigger on the inside.