Friday, May 31, 2013

FINALLY: Damsel in Distress pt. 2


Good lord. This just gets better. Seriously. Nice length episodes, very academic in nature. I already loved this YouTube channel, but this series is transcendent. (You can follow Feminist Frequency on Twitter @femfreq.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's the Little Things

I'm crazy busy with work.  I'm getting caught up as quickly as I can, but it's a slow process that involves much paperwork.

With that said, I found something I wanted to share.

I know that companies often use stock photographs to create their advertisements.  And I know they use them to create most book covers anymore, as well.  However, it's truly bizarre to come across the same picture twice.  I mean, I've seen the same font a few times--fonts are different.  But pictures?  It's odd, like two people showing up to a costume party in the same outfit.

All the same, check this out.


Weird, right? It's the EXACT SAME PHOTO. Not just the face, but the foldy-bits down, the dirt under the finger nails, the circles under the eyes. The only thing that changed too much was the eye color.

Anyway, that's all for now.

Have you ever found anything like this? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five Months In, How Are Your Resolutions?

Photo by:  husin.sani
While I have some down time (I'm waiting for my clothes to dry so I can get ready to go to a play--obviously I'm writing this on a weekend), I thought I'd fill you all in on how my New Year's resolutions are going.

In a phrase: ups and downs, really.

1. Get back to counting calories to reach my goal weight--incidentally, that's 200 lbs.

Has been going piss-poorly. I have a hard time counting calories and giving a shit about my weight when I'm knee deep in a big ol' shit bucket of stress--and that's what the last couple of months have been.  I've been quieter on Twitter, you might have noticed, for the same reason.  I mean, the blog hasn't really suffered, and lately I've found a burst of inspiration for writing, but mostly the past few months have been a pretty grim slog, and I'm only just getting to the other side of it.  Things should clear up soon, thankfully.  Until then, I'm not really giving two fucks about the diet at the moment.

2. Start trying to work in more exercise.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA--*gaaaaaaasp*--HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
3. I'd like to make more time to read. Try to read an hour a day, and to try to fit in 25 books in 2013.

I can't really guarantee that I've been reading an hour a day, but I have been reading relatively consistently before bed.  I gave up on reading NOS4A2--any novels really--because my brain couldn't parse long narratives.  Instead, I've been reading tons of short stories.  I finished Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts, and I've been working my way through The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22. Lots of great stuff in both of those--and I've been trying to read more horror anyway.

4. I want to branch out into different genres than I currently read--history, political science, biographies, science, and books by and about females.

I've been trying, but many of the non-fiction genres require more brain than I currently have.  I did read one political science book, and I've been trying to read a fascinating book about the fast food industry and it's hand in shaping our culture in America, but I just can't concentrate at the moment.  I have been reading more females--and buying books by and about females.  I bought books by Jaye Wells, Delililah S. Dawson, Octavia Butler, and I plan to purchase a book or two by N.K. Jemisin as soon as I get a little bit more money.  Once again, stress has kept me from tackling novels, really, but I bought and have been reading from Chicks Kick Butt, a book of short stories by and about kick-ass women.

5. I would like to start getting to bed at a decent hour.

Successful-ish, I'd say.  Not great, but certainly better than I was doing before.

6. I will try to write 1000 words a day on fiction, three times a week.

Nope.  Not really.  Although!  While I haven't been hitting my 3000/words a week goal, I have been writing more.  I've been writing about three days a week-ish, or working on editing stories. I try to do an on-again, off-again cycle where I write a story, then edit a story, then write a story, then edit a story.  I take about a few days off between writing editing a story and writing a new one, however, because it's rather difficult to switch between edit and write mode.  How Chuck Wendig does that each day is baffling to me.

Anyway, the plus side to this is that I have 3 stories submitted right now.  No guarantees on them, of course, but I'm putting stuff out there and it feels good.

7. I will try to write two to three blog posts a week. 

I have actually been doing pretty well with this.  Not all of the posts have been glorious musings of Deep, Important Things.  To avoid burning myself out, I've been adopting Tobias Buckell's "brain salad" method where he quotes news stories and comments on them.  It lets me make brief comments and initial thoughts when I don't have time for big, long write-ups.

8. Taking one weekend a month and disconnecting from the Internet entirely.

After the initial time, my wife and I have fallen off of this practice.  It's just been too tempting for both of us lately to come home and veg out in front of the TV while scrolling through our Twitter/Facebook/Google+/FriendFacer/MyGoogs/ShoutyMcShoutBox feeds to warrant turning it off.  We've both been under a lot of stress--it's pretty apparent when you enter our house, which desperately needs to be picked up.  We're both seeing a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel--at least for a bit in her case--so, things should stabilize in a few days.

And that's my check in.  What about you?  How have your New Years resolutions been coming?  Or have you made some resolutions recently that you'd like to talk about?  Either way, how's things?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On This Most Glorious of Days


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Songs about Race: Macklemore vs. Brad Paisley

Original images by sffoghorn and Nesbitt_Photo of Flickr, respectively.
Last week, I wrote about that horrendous song by Brad Paisley, “Accidental Racist.” I talked about how racist it was, how unapologetic, petulant, and whiny it was, and how, even if Brad Paisley was well intentioned, he completely missed the mark by approaching the subject of race relations in an incredibly clumsy and insensitive way.

If you want further analysis of why the song is just a complete incomprehensible shitstorm, I suggest you watch a hilariously done video analysis done by Todd in the Shadows and The Rap Critic.

Since all I did was bitch in my “Accidental Racist” post about how Brad Paisley utterly failed to address the topic in any meaningful way, I thought I’d post about a white artist that has talked about the issue of race in America without coming across as a petulant douchenozzle.

I mean, if you read my blog regularly, you probably remember me mentioning Macklemore a while back when I discovered the absolute awesome that is “Thrift Shop.” However, since then, I've purchased his newest album, The Heist, and let me tell you, Macklemore is much more than some silly song writer. He writes about topics that are uncomfortable and serious, and he does it in a way that pays respect to the topic. He’s one of the few rappers I've heard of out there that has come out in support of gay marriage--and released a song about the topic.

Macklemore has a couple of songs that deals with being white in America. One of them, “A Wake,” covers a bunch of topics. One of them, “White Privilege”--off of his album The Language of My World, obviously deals with the topic a little more in depth.

In “A Wake,” Macklemore writes:

“I'm not more or less cautious
Than rappers rappin' 'bout them strippers up on the pole, popping
These interviews are obnoxious
Saying that it's poetry, it’s so well spoken, stop it”

He starts by defending the hip hop genre (and specifically, black hip hop artists) from people who claim that he is somehow better than these other rappers because of the topics that he covers. He claims that hip hop is about truth, and people are going to rap about what they know. If someone lived in an area that was heavy with drug and gun crimes, that’s going to be reflected in their writing.

He’s also argued this before in “White Privilege.”

“Now I don't rap about guns so they label me conscious
But I don't rap about guns cause I wasn't forced into the projects
See I was put in the position where I could chose my options
Blessed with the privilege that my parent's could send me to college.”

He then moves on to talking about white influence in black culture.

Hey, did you know that racism from the Southern states was tolerated by Democrats in the 1930’s because the Southern voting block was important enough that it was needed to pass a lot of the measures like The New Deal?

“In an unwritten compact between northern and southern Democrats, President Franklin Roosevelt and his allies let Jim Crow rule below the Mason-Dixon Line. In turn, white Southerners backed the New Deal and delivered their bloc votes to Democrats.” - "The Myth of Secession and States' Rights in the Civil War"
“[...]I've got to get legislation passed by Congress to save America. The Southerners...occupy strategic places on most of the Senate and House committees. If I come out for the anti-lynching bill now, they will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep America from collapsing. I just can't take that risk." - FDR (“Race in FDR’s New Deal”)
Keep this in mind, as it’s very important. Because Macklemore goes on to say in “A Wake”:

“And neighborhoods where you never see a news crew
Unless they're gentrifying, white people don't even cruise through”

These lines express outrage at two different concepts in White America. One involves the treatment of African-Americans. See, a lot of The New Deal rules wound up screwing over the black community, resulting in a systematic and generational poverty in the African-American areas that persists to this day.

Now, what’s gentrifying, you ask?

Gentrification is when wealthy Americans buy up run-down buildings, apartments, etc, and fix up the buildings. Once the buildings are fixed up, the cost to rent those buildings goes up. Eventually, it raises the property value for the entire area. This seems like a good thing on the surface, but in extremely poor areas, these poor people can’t afford the new higher rent, and so they are forced to move away, leaving space for wealthier Americans to move in. Since black people’s household income is only 55 percent of white household income, black unemployment is twice white unemployment, black people are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty, this is a huge problem. (Inequality.org)

In addition to that, this song addresses the fact that White America and the mainstream media don’t really concentrate on the problems of minorities. They report on massive tragedies like Sandy Hook, where most of the victims were white, but they rarely report on the tons of gun deaths that happen in largely black urban areas. They report on children that go missing when they’re white--starting a countrywide outrage and outpouring of support...for white people. But there is rarely, if ever, an African-American child that goes missing that gets the nationwide outrage of America, or hours and weeks of investigation and coverage on programs like Nancy Grace.

Macklemore addresses not only a well-documented issue that causes friction between the races, he also addresses how these situations make him, as a white dude, feel.

“This is an issue that you shouldn't get involved in
Don't even tweet, R.I.P Trayvon Martin
Don't wanna be that white dude, million man marchin'
Fighting for our freedom that my people stole
Don't wanna make all my white fans uncomfortable”
-- “A Wake”

Here, Macklemore addresses how he feels being the beneficiary of this system that is skewed in favor of people like him. He talks about how, on the one hand, he wants to write and rap about these types of topics because they are important to him. On the other hand:

“Now who's going to shows, the kids on the block starving
Or the white people with dough that can relate to my content?”
-- “White Privilege”

Add to that the fact that he feels like a hypocrite for railing against the system while also being the benefactor of it.

Besides demonstrating how Macklemore addresses issues of race, I wanted to compare how he approaches the topic to how Paisley approaches the topic in “Accidental Racist.”

Fighting for a freedom that my people stole
Don't wanna make all my white fans uncomfortable
[...]
Don't get involved with the causes in mind
White privilege, white guilt, at the same damn time
-- “A Wake”

Macklemore explains that he is white, and he knows he benefits from a system that favors whiteness. He expresses frustration that his colleagues won’t be taken as seriously as he is partially because of their skin color, and guilt over such an advantage--he doesn’t feel like it’s fair.

“They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin
But it ain't like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin”
-- “Accidental Racist”

In this quote, Paisley tries to talk about a very painful part of America’s history--Reconstruction. It was a hard time for people in the south because their economic model was recently made illegal. However, where Macklemore talks about the ways in which he’s benefited from the privilege his race gives him, Paisley fails to address the heavier topics--namely that post slavery, laws were passed to ensure that, despite being free, African-Americans couldn't get a solid foothold to create a stable livelihood. Instead, he complains, once again, that it’s darn hard to understand how someone else feels when you've never gone through a similar experience.

In fact, Paisley never really mentions that white people or the south have done anything wrong at all. He did include the line, “I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we've done,” but that is the only line like it in the song.

Interestingly, the only lines in the song that actually apologize for wrongs done in the past come from LL Cool J.

“I wasn't there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood”
[...]
“So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good
I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book.”

Since black people are the people that are still oppressed by our system, it’s really bad form for your song trying to heal the bonds between the races to feature only the black guy apologizing.

I mentioned last time that Paisley plays coy about white people being guilty of bad things with this line:

“The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south”
-- “Accidental Racist”

Paisley may not be the smartest guy, but even Kindergartners are aware of the historical significance of the rebel flag. Most kids can tell you what the Civil War was fought over. Therefore, Paisley’s idea that the flag is somehow the elephant in the room is a pile of crap. He’s being willfully dense, and you can’t honestly tell someone you’re trying to talk about racial relations in America if you’re going to disregard a huge chunk of the argument.

To expand on the example I gave last time, the swastika is actually a religious symbol important to the Hindu religion. In fact, the word comes from Sanskrit which literally means “to be good.” Now, was it the Hindu religion’s fault that Hitler took the symbol and turned it into a symbol associated with genocide, hatred, and military dictatorship? Nope. But how many people do you see today that wear the swastika in a religious way? You don’t. Because that would be rude and disrespectful toward the people who suffered from that conflict.

Paisley can try all he likes to separate the racial connotations of the CSA flag, but he’s wrong, it’s there, and he’s being disingenuous and rude in trying to ignore it.

As you can see, you can address the issues of race in America without coming across like a douchenozzle. Macklemore addresses concerns that he’s seen, expresses frustrations, while still acknowledges the complexity of the issues. Paisley spews some vague platitudes about everyone having been wronged, and then proceeds to bitch and moan that it’s not his fault the system isn't fair, so why should he be punished.

Same issue, to totally different approaches.

Basically, when discussing complex issues? Don’t be a dick.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Sonnet Because I Was Bored

Photo by: epSos.de of Flickr
Recently, I got kind of bored.  The writing wasn't going well.  I had just finished a very difficult story, and I couldn't get my brain to come up with any new ideas.  Finally, I got frustrated and decided to write a poem. I decided I wanted to try to write a Shakespearean-ish sonnet, make it sound as epic as possible, while also writing it about the most mundane thing I could think of. Enjoy the product of my boredom on this Monday morning.


"On a Morning Jaunt to Vocation"

The brilliance is too much. It pierces through
The flimsy, fleshy shield into our minds.
We rise, stumble, stagger--we can’t construe
What villain is to blame for parted blinds.
A muttered curse, a frosty shock, to shake
The treach’rous grasp of Somnus’ iron chains.
Defiant men wield countless blades to take
The whiskers from their squalid, unkempt miens.
Forsooth, the morning’s journey disheartens.
‘Tis fraught with boorish straphangers in force,
But bear the nuisance ‘til the journey’s end,
And thou shall reap the bitter, saving source--
An inky brew of Strenua’s domain,
A single quaff of which will spur thy brain.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Southern Thoughts on Southern Pride

Photo by: Benjamin Gray of Flickr
I posted awhile back about Brad Paisley’s song “Accidental Racist” and how it’s just regular old racist. In that post, I touched on the concept of Southern Pride and how, as someone from Arkansas, I just do not get it.

Now, that isn't to say that there aren't things from the south that one could be proud of.

For example, one could be proud of our rich heritage in literature. The south has produced some of the most important writers in modern American literature. Folks like Charles W. Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Edgar Allan Poe, Frederick Douglas, and Tennessee Williams.
Or what about music? We have a strong tradition of some pretty kick ass music in the south. Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly all hailed from the south. Hell, actor and musician Steve Martin was originally from down here, along with the tradition of bluegrass. And how about the meeting of those two things, eh?

And we have some awesome (if heart-crushingly terrible for you) cuisine, with a rich history of barbecues and meats and sweet tea and...shit, this all sounds awesome!

If we wanted to be known as the friendly, outgoing, people, boisterous but kind, I could get behind that.

Unfortunately, that’s not what southern pride means.

Southern Pride means glorifying a bunch of traitors that separated from the United States because the federal government was considering abolishing the practice of slavery--the practice of buying and selling people as property. And then they went on to create a society whose policy of slavery was written into the founding principles of the country!

“In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”
[...]
“1. The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.”
[...]
“4. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”


Since we can all agree that slavery is evil, I’m with John Scalzi on this about the whole Southern Pride thing being a big pile of horseshit.

And the thing that really baffles me about the whole Southern Pride movement is how many of the people marching under that banner are getting their own history wrong!

For example, you've all seen this flag, right?

Image from Wikimedia Commons
That is the flag worn by bigots and idiots the world over. It’s worn by people who romanticize a terrible, horrible time period in our country. And it was never the flag flown over the Confederacy.

The Confederate States of America had three flags during its brief stint as a separate nation, and none of those flags were the above flag. The above flag was a battle flag used by the Confederate army. Not a national flag. There were two flags that looked sort of like that:

Original Image from Wikimedia Commons
Original Image from Wikimedia Commons
The flags featured above are the second and third national flags of the confederacy. The almost solid white one was nicknamed the stainless banner at the time, and while a lot of hoopla was made about the symbolism of having a pure white field, two things became apparent: 1) it looked like their battle flag put over a surrender flag, and 2) it was not actually...well...stainless.

The one with the red bar was nicknamed the bloodstained banner, which is also funny when you consider that the south got their asses kicked and surrendered two weeks after passing this flag.

The only other flag to fly over the CSA?

Original Image from Wikimedia Commons
The flag that everyone commonly refers to as the stars and bars (aka the rebel flag, the Confederate flag, etc), is not the actual stars and bars. That would be the flag featured above. This flag was designed partially because the people of the south didn't want to totally abandon the stars and stripes of the United States. However, I guess they did too good of a job mimicking the US’s flag, because the two flags kept getting confused during battle.

The point to all of this is that it is frustrating and sad when I hear people talk about being proud of the South, being a proud rebel son, blah blah blah. The southerners weren't scrappy little guys trying to buck an unfair and unjust nation. They were trying to defend an institution in which people were bought and sold as property for the profit of other people. There’s nothing to be proud of there.

However, if you want to read some William Faulkner while listening to Steve Martin’s new bluegrass album and eating some barbecue? Call me over. That’s some southern pride I can get behind, y’all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Song For the First (NSFW)

A tune for this glorious day.  Enjoy!