Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A *Mostly* Applicable Anthem- Alanis Morrissette, "Hand in My Pocket"

So small factoid before I get into the substance: Alanis actually learned to play the harmonica to perform the solo in this song. Which is a signal of some of what she sings about working and being tired and such, to wit.

Now, moving on. Alanis, "Hand in My Pocket."

Also, Jagged Little Pill was the first CD I bought, ever. Well, okay, so technically my older sis and I split the cost, I believe (because I totes remember some aggressive disputes over who it actually "belonged" to, her usually coming out on top because I was too weepy and she was older). Like I said before, Alanis's songs tend to resonate  with me a lot, and  this is one that has only grown more and more resonant  with time. And yet. Even as a little kid, this song spoke... something to me. Something more than the rest of the album at the time did.

Confession: I sing this song every time I go karaoke-ing, if possible. Not to show off, but because it's a chance to belt it out, because I think that, if I was to pick my own "theme song," this would be it. Is it my favorite song ever? No. But it just... it's me. It's me, to a tea, so much of me. In general, because she's essentially singing about how she's a walking paradox/dichotomy overall, but the specific "but" scenarios she brings up are all ones I actually am/do/are/whatever. And even when she's singing about societal contradictions/things that kind of suck  in conjunction with one another, they apply pretty damn closely, too.

Ironically (HAH!), the only parts that don't fit are the refrains. Other than that, though, every single line of the song describes me in some way, not even metaphorically, but literally. So it's basically my anthem, and I sing it to the heavens whenever I can.

I'm broke, but I'm happy

I'm poor, but  I'm kind

I grew up with money  being tight, and while my parents did a good job of hiding just how bad it was from me and my siblings, I was observant enough to recognize I was poor, and especially when I was bused to the school all the country club kids lived next to in fifth grade; also in middle and high school when little things just added up (or didn't). And plenty of times being told flat-out I couldn't afford something, like a school trip; or that I could apply anywhere I wanted for college, but, understand, your choice will be most determined by who gives you the best financial aid.

Presently, I probably live the most comfortably than I ever have, but that's because I live in a basically rural area (or at least compared to Vegas) with an extremely low COL, and the fact that I have a roommate.

But despite that, I (usually) don't let it get to me, and I'm, in fact, extremely generous. Not only am I usually the first to pay for someone else when on an outing, but I also would be more than happy to give up more taxes, if those monies went to social welfare programs. I'm poor, but I'm not at all stingy, and I want to help others; show them kindness, so to speak.

The exception is right now. A tiny summer income doing enough work that prevents me from getting anything else makes me paranoid about making rent in August. I prolly will, but still, I'm nervous.

I'm short, but I'm healthy, yeah.

I'm short. Duh. But it's not like that's really burdoning me too much. Sure, it's one of the myriad aspects of my body type/shape that makes clothing shopping hard, but none of my health problems have to do with my height. And I'm not so short as to count as a dwarf.

I'm high, but I'm grounded

I won't dig too much into this, but I'm a dreamer with a pragmatic sense of the world around me. Sure, I may have hope in a given situation, but I'm able to recognize what's realistically attainable versus a pipe dream (most of the time).

Okay, I said "literally" above, so maybe if we're being literal, no. I don't get high, from drugs, at least. But to stretch the metaphor again, I do get high on life a lot- I get wrapped up in having a good time and do my best to make  those moments last. But I usually do my best to keep things on the level, and I don't lose sight of what's important beyond that moment.

I'm sane, but I'm overwhelmed

I'm lost, but I'm hopeful, baby

I do feel kind of lost and overwhelmed at times,  but, sort of like with the above, since I'm cognizant of those facts/states, I'm able  to navigate and talk myself through most of it. However "down to earth" I may be, I do sometimes feel a little  crushed, and that can take its toll. But I'm ever the optimist, so I'm always hopeful that things will get better. And, importantly, I always do my best to actively make them better, rather than hoping they just get better.

And  what it  all comes down to
Is that everything is just fine, fine, fine

I'm sensing  a little irony with the beginning of each refrain- and real irony, not the coincidence of the song "Ironic." Like  sarcasm. I can see myself saying things are, "Fine, fine, fine," as a means of getting someone off my case if I don't want to open up. Maybe not fine^3 like that, no, but "fine" is the universal codeword for, "I don't want to talk about it." I know I'm not the only one that uses it as such. 

Cuz I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one  is giving a high five.

I don't put my hands in my pockets. Not entirely. If I do, it's a hoodie, and it's both hands; or it's just a thumb. I do, however, high five people a lot. I get left hanging quite a bit, but that's one of the hazards of being outgoing. 

I feel drunk, but I'm sober

I usually don't get drunk at my parties, and I've hosted plenty where I didn't have a drop of alcohol but people thought I had had too much. I just act silly in general, and being around a lot of people makes me act kind of sillier than usual. It's part of my outgoing, warm personality- being with people makes me happy, so I act giddy and get energized by groups with which I'm comfortable.

 I'm young, and I'm underpaid
I'm tired, but I'm working, yeah

Oh boy, is that grad school or WHAT!??!!? I mean by golly. Even so, I felt like that as soon as I graduated from undergrad- that job in the special ed classroom was depressingly under-valued, and I kept doing it, despite how taxing it was. Because, for whatever reason, I loved it. So in either case, there or here, I keep at it, even though I was/am tired as Hell. 

I care, but I'm restless
I'm here, but I'm  really gone

I do care about people, a lot, and I'm genuinely concerned about their  well-being and happiness. But  I sometimes get a little distracted by either something going on with myself I'm not talking about, or someone else's situation comes into mind while I'm talking to yet another person about their own issues. So I'll admit, I sometimes seem slightly aloof or non-present. It isn't that I'm not absorbing the conversation, but rather I'm just trying to figure out how to help someone else that may need me (or some small revelation about myself is rearing its head at that particular moment).

I'm wrong, and I'm sorry, baby


And what it all comes down to
Is that everything's gonna be quite  alright

I like to think she isn't being ironic  here, but rather that this is the cry of determination. And if it's the latter, yes. I tell myself it'll be alright, to the point where I believe it- and that, actually, helps a lot. It gives me strength and  courage to stay on the up-and-up and do what's actually best. If things will get better, then I better help them along.

Cuz I've got one hand  in my pocket

And the other one is flicking  a cigarette 

Again, not a pocket person. And I will never smoke. I've never even inhaled a regular cigarette, and I don't intend to ever do so. 

But, why leave it at that? I think, perhaps, the gesture of "flicking a cigarette" can represent casualness or relaxedness. Along with  the hand in the pocket, it could mean  being  calm  and  overall composed, despite feeling like a walking paradox or like someone  dealing  with  a lot of barriers. I know I may come across as extremely volatile, but, all things considered, I think I'm pretty well-put-together. I have my moments, but I think everybody should, and  I'm sure everybody does. Overall, though, I can lean against a wall and  wink or smile.

And  what it all comes down to
Is I haven't got it all figured out just yet

Um, yes. Who the fuck does? If you have your entire life planned out and  every single thing has been wrapped up in a bow for you, well, congratulations, life has somehow entitled you to a cookie. But most of us are confused or unsure about at least something. I'm among the "most of us." But that's okay- it's to be expected, or at least it should be.

Cuz I've got one hand in my pocket

And the other one is giving a peace sign

My mom can attest to how I can't stand that symbol or gesture anymore because it was appropriated by a bunch of spoiled Gen-Xers that didn't give two shits about the issues the social (out)groups that came up with it/ originally made it popular did. It's extremely hipster, and in the negative way. I'm cool if someone more cognizant of social justice and such uses it or something, but I just get annoyed as hell when I see some trust fund baby with a peace symbol on their shirt. And if someone gives a peace sign, it's usually in a mocking  kind  of way- which totally corrupts the original message. So, for the most part, fuck peace symbols.

But again, as a symbol, well, that's another way of saying things are okay, that gesture. So okay, maybe that's it. In which case, yeah, I dig.

I'm free, but I'm focused

I don't really think the world is entirely my oyster, per se, but I do get that, even with all the hegemonic paradigms speaking against my favor, I'm still pretty privileged.  I don't lose sight of that. To the point where I sometimes hold onto things or keep my mouth shut about unhappiness/dissatisfaction too long, for fear of seaming ungrateful. I have a lot of options, but I keep them and everything in perspective- sometimes so narrowly, I don't see how it's okay to go after things for myself. 

I'm green, but  I'm wise

I take "green" as envious, in which  case, yes. I do often envy people that have had it easy, that have what I've wanted (either in principle, or the exact thing); but I also don't hold it against them from the get-go. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I prolly give too many chances to backstabbers and people that it takes me  a long, long time  to realize are rather bad people. And I also realize that most people are basically fucked up in some way, too- and that the areas I've been  blessed, perhaps they haven't; so while I may be envious of their X, they could prolly be envious of my A. And I keep that in mind, and sometimes remind them of it when they express their own envy of my A. 

I'm hard, but I'm friendly, baby

Yeah. This goes in more than one direction. In one sense, I have high standards of behavior and kindness from people, but I'm nice to everybody every chance I get, even if they fall far below my standards. Along these lines, then, if I realize in making a mistake in thinking you live up to said standards enough, I'll indeed cut you off- I don't really have any mercy for rudeness, inconsideration, or selfishness, and  if a person ends up proving one or any combination of these, I don't care what nice things they'd done or the fun we'd had in the past. No. But I don't always say, "You're an asshole, we're done," and still, somewhat dishonestly, treat them according to my standards- I suppose it has to do with Marcus Aurelius, "The best vengeance is not to do likewise."

Also, "hard" in the sense that I can be kind of unforgiving if it's deep enough, but even if I'm boiling inside, I may not tell you. Usually the latter happens because I'm so hurt, or because I find the timing inappropriate for a confrontation. And still, there's also the angle that I sometimes have "tough love" to give, meaning if I feel comfortable enough in the assumption you won't want to sever ties with me, I'm often giving the "hard truth," so to speak, to people. As in I'm usually not afraid to be honest. But I'm (usually) fairly gentle about it.

Lastly, I can be kind of stubborn sometimes (again, who isn't, though?), but I'm constantly being told I'm "one of the nicest people I've ever met," so I don't really think that stubbornness is a hindrance to my relationships.

I'm sad, but I'm laughin'

Well, I've said enough about that exact thing before. But let me just reiterate that part of why I do that is because, actually, the act can often become the reality. It's pretty easy to slide into.

I'm brave, but I'm chickenshit

There are lots of things I can be brave about, especially when it comes to defending others. But I'm a coward when it comes to standing up for myself or really, truly diving in for what I want. I've talked  about this in past entries, too. Yeah, I'll speak out about oppression and hegemony,  or I'll tell someone to be quiet when being rude to a friend but when someone cuts me in line or says something hurtful to me, I clam up.

I'm sick, but I'm pretty, baby

Funny she has this line, even though above she said she's healthy. Of course, she could mean sick in the illness sense of the word, but people don't know  or don't care. And yeah, I have legitimate health concerns, perpetual ones I prolly will always have to deal with. But I don't wander around, waving a banner over my head. And since they just involve taking a pill in the privacy of my home,  most are none the wiser. 

But I prefer to see this part as something more to do with internal workings. To be kind of blunt about it, I can be kind of dirty-minded or have a really dark sense of humor sometimes, but I'm usually still thought of as adorable and bubbly. Which leads to all kinds of hilarity, because pervy or fowl or kind of twisted stuff coming from my mouth is even more show-stopping because nobody expects it. I've had myriad people comment the first time I used "fuck" around them, for example; I've seen eyes go buggy when I talk about "mature" situations or make  innuendos. And I often say I have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old boy, which, again, makes people act scandalized.

And I don't get it, still. I mean, I get that from people I've known for ages. It's like  it takes cognitive dissonance  for it to be accepted, which means it's not really understood. But I like  being funny, and people like that about me, so what gives?

Well, hey, how about this? 


Are you not entertained? 

And what it all comes down to
Is that no one's really got it figured out just yet

Covered this already

Cuz I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing a piano

I used to dwiddle on my grandma's piano, but I've never done more than bang on keys and figure out songs I already knew one key at a time. One of my life regrets, so far, is not knowing how to play the piano properly.

Again, to take the symbolism of the  gesture, though, I especially like  this one. In playing  a piano, a person is making music. Music is  one of my favorite parts of life. Music is beauty.

And so no, I may not specifically play the piano, but I make beauty whenever and wherever I can, and I see it whenever and wherever I can. I try to both see and make the best of a situation. I try to make things better for myself and others.

And what it all comes down to my friends, yeah

Is that everything is just fine, fine, fine

Again, sensing a little irony, but, in the end, earnestness. 

Cuz I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is hailin' a taxi cab

I don't take taxis. But I do take a bus. And I think the cab, actually, signifies the ending of the song. As in, "Time to leave, begin outro NOW!"

So yeah. Song's done.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marked- Identity and Perseverance

One of the big schpeels/schticks I make when writing about identity for grad school (and sort of allude to a lot when Duty Calls )  is that lived body is inseperable from the corporeal embodiment. By  that, I mean your physical body in the outside world cannot really be separated from your internal, mental processes and the world in your head. This is because our physical bodies interact with environments and other people nonstop, and this shapes and directly influences the internal workings of our minds. So then, another schtick I push is that identity is not static, but constantly changing and ebbing and flowing, depending on what is most salient  to a person in a given moment. And similarly, when we assign identity  to others, the way our two bodies interact comes into the mix, as well as how our minds do or don't mesh- this, in turn, is also a constant process, too.

So identity is relational- we relate to our environment(s), we relate to other people (and creatures or whatever), and we even relate to ourselves- the way we present ourselves may not always be exactly the same as the self in our heads, so it's as if we have more than one self combating for dominance (I hate to make it sound so power-ee- it's not really about power, though, because it has more to do with what we want people to think of us: If we want to be more socially acceptable or less to them, more or less nerdy, etc.; and also with environments, too, because we may change the way  we walk or talk because we feel threatened or the terrain is rough). 

And one of the little things I hope to contribute is this notion that identity is a process with no End, and how a person interacts with all these things determines what they internalize and act out as theirself.  And that last word, "theirself," and a few other forms  of it, is  my way of signaling or marking that combined distinction in my own work- lots of people have said pretty much everything I have, sure, but none have said it all at once, as far as I know.

The caveat is  that disability acts as a mark. Whether the disability is visible or recognizable by  others, or entirely invisible and known only by  the person with it, it marks their identity in ways not hide-able. It directly affects that identity process. And so does its absence. Disability's presence and lack thereof influence that identity process every time it happens- and this is whether it's the process of identifying oneself, or identifying someone else. 

So what does this have to do with Batman?

Well, just before she left for the summer, my roommie and I were seriously considering getting tattoos together in the fall when she returns. 
Okay, well, admittedly, we were prolly both doing the, "YES YES WE SHOULD!" kind of thing, but I know I've become more serious about it, even in her absence. 

Which may come as a shock to a lot of people (MOM). But I want to do something for me, something unique, and something that won't just go away. For me, it'll symbolize  making  it through a lot of chaos and hardship and coming out as a good person with a loving heart and forgiving spirit. I've actually really thought hard about it, and I've decided that once I have enough spare money to do it (so yeah, prolly in October  or something) (I still need to pay my roommie back for all the moving costs she footed) (THANKS, ROOMMIE!), I'm doing it. Even if my roommie decides to change her mind about her own body, mine  is made up.

I have two places I'd do it. Either my upper right  shoulder, or my left shoulder blade.

Now what would it be? Yeah, something  Batman related. And okay, it may seem like it's just me being  immature and geeky, but one thing I hope people understand is I don't like  Batman just because he's a geeky fandom to be a part of. I like Batman because the story is deep and powerful: Dude sees his parents murdered, and turns  his  pain and anger into a force for bettering society. And the Batman I'm more familiar with nowadays (even though yeah, I watched the Adam West show as a kid) is even darker than  that. He deals with chaos and deep, deep corruption and genuine  evil and  darkness. And yet he always  retains  his  moral compass, and even though it really would  be better in a utilitarian sense for him to just off the Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, and all of the people in his Rogues Gallery (that's what they call the list of baddies in, uh, comic speak)- he doesn't do it. He could, oh most definitely- but he doesn't. He deliberately chooses not to, ad nauseum, sometimes even to the frustration of fans like  me that just wish he'd bloody grab a gun and blow that asshole sky high. And him constantly making that choice is what makes him so admirable. He may be fiction, but still.

Batman's constant struggle (read: process) to be good, in spite of all of the forces he's up against, all the things the world throws at him (and he throws himself at), is one that inspires me. I know that prolly sounds cheesy and unrealistic, but there aren't a whole lot of good people in the real world for a person to look up to, and  especially a woman like me. 
I mean, sad as it is, some of the people I've tried to admire have had a fall of some sort- Charlie Rengel, for example, broke my heart a few years ago when he really only got off on all those semantic technicalities (just because he didn't technically violate any laws, doesn't mean  he wasn't being douchey- apply this to pretty much every liberal political figure that's been in trouble since I was a kid). Now, sure, thank God for Hillary, but she's the exception that proves the rule, right? (And I'm also really worried/anxious about something coming up that means a hard downfall for her, too.)

So I want  to celebrate that perseverance and iron-will-determination I've had to keep hanging on and not entirely fall apart. I'm still kind and outgoing  and empathetic and I hope to never change that. It's something I do my best to not let go of, every day as I go through that identity process and interact with persons and things, and yes, it's a conscious choice, but that's kind of the point- I could really easily just become a raging asshole, but I choose not to.  And I make that choice every time I get up, every time I'm in the shower, every time I see someone, every time I'm  walking River, every time I go to class, teach, meet with profs, call a friend on the west coast. It's as if that choice is just a constant process in itself- it's made an infinite number of times a day.

And I feel like, after I make it through this  summer, there'd be no better time to celebrate my daily victories, small as they may be. 

So the tattoo will mark me for that, in a way anyone can see (if I want them to- notice I did pick places easily hide-able; I'm not doing it on, like, my face). It'll use iconography that I have genuine affection for, but that very much parallels my own internal identity process. Sure, most people will just think I'm a nerd- which sure, don't get me wrong, I totally am, and I'm fucking proud as Hell of that!- but hopefully someone that doesn't know me will overthink it and realize what the images in it symbolize, or at least ponder what they could mean beyond nerdery. And someone that does know me, I'll prolly explain it to them. Not in too much detail, but something like, "Well this symbolizes hardship, and that symbolizes perseverance." And  they'll nod, maybe make a noise, and move on . It won't be  a big deal, regardless, because this isn't for anybody else. This is for me, and fuck everybody else's naysaying. Especially since they won't have to see it if they don't want to.


The idea I have is in-progress, and I could use some help. So I'll explain the  idea and  then  where I need the help at.

To represent  the chaos and struggle, I want something to represent  the Rogues. But getting a tattoo of Victor Freeze or Edward Nigma would just look dumb. I just happened to be watching The Dark  Knight last night, and it dawned on me- the Joker cards. So here's what I want in the foreground:

I'd get rid of the "Joker" on either side, but that particular card showed up during a few of the most chaotic scenes in the movie, so I think  he's a good representation of the randomness of life and the stuff I've persevered through. I'd consult  with the tattoo artist about whether I should have it look kinda vintage the way it does in the picture, or if it should be more solid. Aesthetically, the way it is would be better, but as it'll be a tattoo, having it already look kind of faded may not  be a good idea- I'll have to ask about some way  of sealing over the sort of empty spots or something, like with a lighter creamy color or something.

So then superimposed in the background, I want one of Batman's symbols. But the trouble is,  there are a lot  to choose from:

Now, obviously the person  making  this poster doesn't have every single one, but  a lot of that has to do with symbols being reused in various publications and depictions of the Dark Knight simultaneously (for example, the one labeled as "1986 Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight" was also the symbol in the somewhat Biblically proportioned/referenced The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller). But I picked this for here because it's easy to read, and because the symbols I'm debating are all easy to spot. Here's a link to the image in case you need it larger.

So the first one I'm debating  is the one labeled as "1998 The Batman  Chronicles" because that one is pretty close to the most recognizable one out there- I feel like, even though Nolan's movies are so popular, that one is still somewhat more iconic because of how it was- and still is- used in so much merchandise (I've been wearing this wrist band since I went to the premier of The Dark Knight Rises almost a year ago, only taking it off to be in weddings, and I bought it brand new, for example) (I got one for my BFF, too, so we could be twinsies, yay!). When you search for Batman stuff, whether it's a picture or shirt or jewelry, it's most likely going to have this version of the symbol on it. This is the one I'm leaning  toward the most, but  I haven't entirely ruled out two others.

Next, of course, is the one from The Dark  Knight and The Dark Knight Rises (which are the same- the person making the poster was just being superfluous in having it look all cracked and stuff, that's not the actual symbol itself... end nerd rant).  It would make sense, given where that Joker is coming from, after all. And it does look pretty fucking badass, the shape. But I think with the first symbol in the background, it'd still be obvious the joker in the foreground alludes to the Joker and blah blah. But this one may also be easier to use just because it's a little simpler in its shape- it's sleeker and has fewer points on it, which may be easier to put the joker in front of without it looking too cluttered.

Last is the one from the two Arkham games (they're on the bottom). Again, I would get rid of the silly graphics the person included here (honestly, person, if you're able to come up with some more obscure titles as the names for the symbols, and the very fact that you're making this thing- that says to me you're  a pretty devoted fan, so why keep the extra graphics- what matters is the symbol on his chest, not the box for the game or movie poster). I like that one, again, for its sort of sleek design, and also, somewhat arbitrarily, I have a shirt with that symbol on it (got it with a friend, again, in prep for the premier of The Dark Knight Rises) (I don't remember if he wore his or another Batman shirt, but, regardless, our little gaggle was rockin' the nerdery that afternoon/night, whether Batman, B@manor not). (And, for the record, that symbol was also the one on Batman's chest in- some of-  Hush by  Jeph Loeb  and Jim Lee.*) I also like  it because it's, at least in my head, sort of a middle ground  between the first and second choices. That symbol is pretty popular, too, especially now that it's being used in those Arkham games, but it's not so prolific that it'll seem like I'm just going with the most popular choice. And don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm trying to be hipster about it. I just don't want it to seem like  I'm taking this remotely lightly. And I do want to keep it unique, so that's why I'm not 100% sold on the first choice I brought up and yeah...

And there's one last thing I'm not sure about. I was wondering if I should have the Batman symbol in the background tilted a little, so that it was veering to the left a smidge and the wings came out in the kind of large gaps made by the knees/chest-chin and the tail/hat because of the joker's stance; or if it would look better straight. Part of me thinks this may have somewhat to do with which symbol gets chosen- the first one would prolly look best straight, and the third, but the second one may work either way because of how rigid its shape is.

So anybody taking the time to read this, which symbol, and at what angle, do you think seems best? I'll figure out bodily location on my own, but I'm more torn on the symbol and its placement.

ADDENDUM 1: Another reason to tilt the symbol is the ears of the bat may get entirely hidden by the body of the joker.

ADDENDUM 2: As a backup, in case it's too complex or something for the tattoo artist, the joker from that card looking up at a Bat Signal. Eh?

*Also, that one  is interesting because the symbol itself morphed a little over the course of the story arch, I think to represent  what Batman/Bruce was going through. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Derp" Is Ableist and Offensive- Stop Using It (at least around me)

In the past year or so, the term "derp" has become rather popular with folks under forty. According to Know Your Meme, its first use was in the late nineties, but it suddenly gained popularity and became a feature in myriad image memes and "rage comics" fairly recently. It's used in various ways:

Noun: You are a derp.

Verb: You derped.
Adjective: You are derpy.
Adverb: You acted derpy derpy. 

This is one of those instances where I hate the Internet for its ability to spread "harmless fun" that's actually extremely oppressive and offensive. If you just look at that Know Your Meme page, you'll see lots of images of people with crossed eyes or below societally average levels of attractiveness behind the word "derp" or its forms. One of the most egregious examples is that gorram Derpy Hooves from My Little Pony:

I've actually been given a direct explanation from a Bronie over this character (on my favorite site, OTI, too, of all places- go figure), and he eventually comes down as defending it.Between this and other discussions about ableism and objectification, the same dude has basically pulled every trick in the book parallel to the MRAs arguing for sexism in video games- stuff like "But it's never said she has a disability, so no harm, no foul," and, "But we genuinely love the character/ what if people  enjoy it?" and, "Isn't it empowering that she exists  at all?" and (one of my favorites), "Well, how dare you speak for persons with disabilities- YOU'RE objectifying them and removing their autonomy by not letting them speak for themselves!" So I don't really think  he understands or  is willing to listen; he just thinks Derpy is funny and adorable and cool because she's "different," and he basically doesn't give two shits about if someone else gets hurt by something he finds amusing, because he finds it amusing.  And I think his behavior is pretty representative of the whole Bronie community- after all, they're the ones defending Derpy. 

I honestly don't understand  how someone else can't understand how Derpy Hooves is offensive, though. I've seen the episode she first appeared in, as well as the one that featured her as a larger supporting character- the punch line is always her disability, and she has a speech impediment in the original version of her first appearance (because, knowing they'd effed up, the producers behind  the show ret-conned it after enough anger from the disability community and gave her a new voice). She's a pony with disabilities, and she's funny because she has disabilities. How is that hard to understand? What happened there was a bunch of (mostly white) dudes thought she was funny and harped on the forums to get her a larger role on the show because they wanted to laugh at (not with) her more. They assigned to her the word that had been floating around  the Interwebs for a while: "Derpy." And the writer was insensitive/unaware enough to roll with it in her quest to please her "fans" (and I have trouble believing some of the Bronies actually like the show and are "real" fans). So then a character whose only purpose is to be laughed at for her anomalies became a semi-regular pony on that show, and  the Bronies would  get up in arms (over the Internet) to preserver her and all her "derpines." Take a look at this, one of the images the Bronies spread when trying to keep her around:

Notice the textual simulation of speech impediment there, the derpspeak? "Ai promise," "scurry," "I will learn to talk better." That shit's not funny, and it's not harmless, it's offensive and colonialist- because when you think about it, it's  quite similar to Blackface and notions  that Whitey Knows Best. Know Your Meme has  a page on her, and I think  they lean more toward the Bronies- they don't say why some people found Derpy offensive, they just say  that some people did. I guess they don't really argue overtly in favor of the Bronies' position, but neutral explanation is too often a form  of obfuscating the ethical issues and, really, just amounts to tacit consent. Seriously, one of the most frustrating  things I encounter online with douchebag MRAs and  ableist champions is their need to "explain" things, thus making excuses, thus leaving no room for changing the status quo. 

If you're still having  trouble following me, let me spell it out for you more clearly.

"Derp" has spread like wildfire as a replacement for "retarded." It, like the pejorative sense of "retarded," has underlying ableist assumptions, hierarchical structures, and normative values embedded within it. You don't believe me? Look at some of those pictures on Know Your Meme again. And look at some of these- they all either have "derp" directly in the image, or use what I'm calling "derpspeak," the incredibly offensive and ableist dialect meant to simulate cognitive or learning disability; some use actual disabled persons, others have modified the faces to make the  person in the image look more "derp-like," as in look more like stereotypical imagery of mentally disabled individuals:

I'm hoping you're understanding me now. These memes are all attempts at humor, and the punchline is disability. That's exploitative and entirely oppressive of persons with disabilities.

And here's the thing. The "no harm, no foul," or "all in good fun," arguments  are deplorable. All that does is prove how little consideration persons with disabilities get on a regular basis, and just how entirely dominant the paradigm of ableism  really is. Sure, no harm from an ablesit perspective- it's not like those pictures are meant for anyone with a disability, so what's the big deal, right? Well, it's not like white guys saying the n-word is meant for black people, yet that's obviously frowned upon. All in good fun? Well, some people like offensive humor, sure, but when the community being made fun  of has no say in the matter, the joke is 100% at their expense- and they don't even get the opportunity to strike back. They're being completely suppressed.

If you use the word "derp," think about the last few times you used it, and why. What other words could you have used? Chances are, probably "retarded" at worst, or "stupid" at best. But whether you realize it or not, even "stupid" is ableist, too, because it implies social structures that place normative values on levels of intelligence, cognition, and capability. It may take more words, but it's never entirely necessary to say a shirt looks "stupid" or a movie was "stupid"- you can say the shirt looks too nineties, or the movie was badly written. And seriously, I doubt I need to convince you that saying something is "retarded" if not talking about an actual diagnosis is ableist, too. I mean, come on, "retarded" has become so dominantly pejorative that it was removed from the gorram DSM. And  that's after being in it for ages as a legitimate diagnosis to give to persons with learning delays. The people determining the  new DSM received enough entreaties from disability rights  advocates that they were convinced there were too many negative meanings and undermeanings  culturally surrounding the word, so they changed the diagnosis to try to add some humanity back for persons with that diagnosis. They realized that 90% of the people that could hear a legitimate  diagnosis would associate it  with a slur, an insult, with  something you say when you're pissed at a situation or person or thing ("This is retarded, I should have been home  an hour ago!" "Wow, good job dropping that bowl, retard!" "Ugh, this  knife won't cut, it's so retarded!").

I have a brother that was diagnosed as mildly retarded (among other things), back  when that was still a diagnosis to be had. I've never found that word "funny" or casual. And I think it's really messed up how people tell me I'm being hypersensitive and that I need  to let it go or take a chill pill or have a sense of humor or whatever the fuck it is that day when I ask them not to say it. I've given up on some people (and in various ways- some by not bothering to ask anymore, others, I've had other reasons piled on top to not want to hang out with them, anyway), but others I know just hold it in and then let it slip every now and then by accident around me, meanwhile tossing "retarded" out for every other mildly annoying, unpleasant, or dissatisfying thing or situation they encounter when I'm not there. That's actually almost worse- it's being deliberately deceptive about what is, ultimately, an ableist insult and expletive. Because it's one thing  to refrain from saying "fuck" in front of your parents but dropping the f-bomb  every other sentence with your friends; it's another thing to use the equivalent of a racial slur in some company  but not others. One is  just about being "proper" or whatever;  another is about not being oppressive.

I know I'm  being morally high-horse-ee, here, but if you're a friend that cares enough about me to read this, then you'd most likely understand my perspective. And if you're someone that only knows me through the blog, then realize I have a very intimate history with oppression in a lot of forms, and ableism in particular. In either case, if you feel like I'm being annoyingly self-righteous or something, I want you to consider how quickly whistle-blowers on various "ism"s get accused of being hypersensitive or seeking out things to be angry about. And think about how many times you can remember someone claiming something was oppressive of persons with disabilities actually being taken seriously- you probably can't think of any, or can count them on one hand. Maybe Derpy Hooves and/or the stuff about "retarded" being removed from the DSM I just talked about are all you can come up with, hard as you try. I wouldn't be surprised, nor judge you negatively for it- it's society's fault, not yours. But think about that- why do we all hear so much  more about other "isms" in society, when we don't even consider ableism as an option?

And I want you to consider the possibility that this isn't because there's nothing to get upset about, but rather that the positionality and perspective of persons with disabilities is so marginalized that those perspectives aren't even in the backs of the minds of the majority of your everyday person. So even acknowledging they have some claim to or semblance of legitimacy is actually impossible for some people to grasp. It's like trying to describe the taste and texture of Provolone cheese to someone that's never even had milk, let alone any other form of cheese- that person you're trying to explain it to will never fully understand until you put a piece of Provolone in their hand and they eat it. Even if it's sitting on the counter, they won't entirely get it until it's in their mouth.

I think there are genuinely people that, even after somehow getting connected to disability, be it because someone they know or love is born with it or becomes disabled, or they themselves become disabled- there are some people that still won't understand entirely because ableism is so hegemonic, so in-control, so dominant. So even a person that has an accident and ends up in a wheelchair devalues disability and thinks it makes them less of a person- ableism has trained them, subconsciously and indirectly, to believe that about theirself*.

Now apply this outwardly. Ableism conditions everybody to devalue disability and not even realize when a physical or speech act is oppressive. So you get people running around tossing words like "retarded" and "stupid" and, yes, "derp," around like it ain't no thang. So 
I'm not saying that using "derp" makes anybody a bad person- not if they don't knowingly act out ableism, at least. Often times, we're so caught up in discourses and hierarchies that we don't even realize when we're acting in ways that reinforce them.

Of course, if you defend the status quo once its oppressive nature is exposed to you, you're an asshole. 

But I do ask  a few things of anybody that has taken the time to read this.

1) Think about the power of words and how they serve to reinforce discourses of oppression and marginalization. (Also, keep in mind that by "discourse" I don't mean just speech patterns, but also norms of behavior and interaction.)

2) Consider that "derp" is a new(ish), Inernet-savvy way of saying "retarded," meaning it's pejorative and devaluing of disability and/or anomaly. 

3) Consider checking yourself and avoiding using it in the future. Maybe even consider calling it out if you see it being  used, either online or in person.

And of my friends that may be reading this, I respectfully ask you to not use "derp" around me. I'm sick of it, and I know none of you are assholes (like, say, this guy). If you honestly feel like I'm somehow oppressing you by making that request, then, well, talk to me. Or, you know, don't, and just use it when I'm not around- but don't be all shocked and alarmed when I call BS on you if you slip in my presence. 

*Not a typo- separating corporeal mind from physical body is impossible, so the physical body directly influences the overall corporeal definition of self. They devalue their physical structure in their tangible body, but they also devalue the metaphysical makings of them as a person.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On Sleeping and Dreaming

I seem to very frequently have trouble sleeping. I'm not sure when this problem started, but I know I was living in Washington when it became a regular thing. 

I think lately it would help if I asserted myself more in bed with River; rather than molding around her, I should probably make her mold around me. But I'm a sucker. At any given rate, this is usually how I like to be positioned and find it easiest to drift off:

The top arm isn't always supporting my face;
the bottom arm may do that, especially if
it's my left side, as that's the ear with the cartilage piercing.

What I hate is that the lack of sleep leads to/is part of one of those gorram recursive situations I and everybody else finds themselves in. I can't sleep because I'm stressed; I stress over not sleeping. And I mean, honestly, how can a person actually "remove" stress from their  life? I hate it when doctors and shrinks say that- as if it was so simplistic, right? And it makes it sound like I or anyone else being told that is somehow doing it on purpose. I mean, sure, maybe  some people love the drama and  make  shit up to stress about, but I don't, and I'd absolutely fucking LOVE it if  I could flip a switch and cut the bullshit out. But I can't. So I'm gonna be stressed.

Of course, what matters is how I do or don't deal with it. I think part of why I don't sleep well is that I actually don't dwell or wallow as much as it  may seem from this  blog- between either distracting myself or putting on the happy face when that isn't working, I'm pretty bubbly  and jovial. And I think my avoidance techniques lead to me bottling it up and storing it in my subconscious and back and shoulders.

One reason I'm not sleeping well lately is my back, especially left side, is really sore. Like pinpricks if I'm positioned wrong in bed. It's hard to sleep when you can't get comfy. For the first time since I lived in Walla Walla, I took naps this past semester- not on purpose, but I'd be so exhausted mid-afternoon and on the couch watching something with River, and I'd just crash. I'd sometimes have enough consciousness to turn off the PS3 just before it hit me entirely, but not always.

(I know this is also a sign I'm monstrously out of shape, but meh. Our new apartment has a lovely fitness center; once I'm over the initial shock of losing  my roommie for the rest of the summer, I plan on gradually becoming a gym addict.)

But sleep is important, and I like being in bed, once I'm comfortable. And especially when there's a warm body with me- River certainly makes me happy right before bed or in the morning, the way she looks at me (either begging for me to turn out the light, or begging me not to turn it on). It's of course optimal when that warm body is a dude, but River certainly helps beat back the loneliness.

I feel like this is a good spot to post this as a transition:

I don't go to sleep to dream, but for entirely different reasons than she seems to be professing one would do it. I do it because I have to- I need fuel for life, after all. The dreams can be fun, though, so when good ones, they're a perk, I guess, that comes from the necessity of sleep.

Not always, but quite frequently, my dreams are detailed and sensical enough to make for decent (or at least cogent) films or short stories. They have fully realized "plot arcs" and make internal sense. And they often look like movies- weird "camera angles" and closeups, even slow motion sometimes. 

One of my favorite dreams, despite being really sad, was a zombiepocalypse dream I had well over a year ago. It involved me and a really close friend fighting our way around together, and one of the major "plot" elements was that neither of us would shoot or kill zombies- we'd beat them off to run away because these zombies at least used to be people (and this was before season two of The Walking Dead). And even after joining  other people with guns, we refused to kill, much to the annoyance of the others. After a while with this group, he and I went to help rescue some people in a house nearby.  I got semi-tackled and dropped  my baseball bat, so as I was holding the offending zombie at arm's length as best I could, my friend hit it hard enough to kill it. His first kill, and his face went from panic over the danger I had been in to sorrow at realizing what he'd done to pain as another zombie came  around  a corner and bit his upper arm- not ripping a chunk, but enough before someone else  shot it to infect my friend. We hid it as long as we could, but eventually the symptoms started to show and the others figured out he was turning.  I locked myself in a room with him, and after a few moments of depressing dialogue, I shot him in the temple at the last second (he was crying out in pain and begging me to do it) with someone else's gun. And then I totally lost it and ran out of the house we had all barred ourselves in. To a park where we had chained up some zombies behind a fence. I lured them to it, and then I proceeded to shoot a bunch of them execution style, just putting the gun up to their forehead through a gap between links and shooting. At some point,  the person whose gun I had stolen showed up, and he handed me another one once the first gun was empty, and I unloaded that one, too. And the last "shot" in the movie is of me with this incredibly empty look in my eyes and my friend's blood on my face.

I'm leaving out a lot of details, but I'm telling you, if it was a movie, it would at least not suck.

Some also recur. Here's a list of some  repeat scenarios. I've had  all of these dreams at least thrice a piece. And I realize they all sound like bad fanfic, but if some things were changed and they were done well enough, they could be alright as books or movies. 

  • I'm the  head of a non-profit lawfirm  in Gotham City that takes on anti-discrimination cases. I go after Wayne Enterprises for  not having good enough disability access and win, so Mr. Wayne comes to the office one day with coffee for the two of us a few weeks  later. I'm wearing feather earrings from a tribal elder back in South Dakota (where my family is from), as well as sneakers with my suit and am changing a light bulb when he shows up. I say no thanks. He sends me a picture of my deceased great uncle, a former lobbyist for Indian Country, shaking hands with Bill Clinton, so I call him all angry and say he has no right to go into my background, yadda yadda. He donates a bunch of money to the firm, forcing me to put up with him, and he ends up almost shadowing/apprenticing and helping out a lot (using his detective skills I don't know he has, he conveniently brings up lots of evidence  of deliberate discrimination that wins cases for us).
  • I'm a special education teacher in Washington, and Paramount asks me  to consult with the writers and director of a movie about a single dad with a kid in special ed. in that area, and I end up meeting the actor playing said dad- it rotates among a number of male celebrities, including Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris O'Donnel, Shawn Ashmore, and Cory Monteith- to help him figure out how to do the scenes with the teacher of the kid (I also work with the actresses meant to play her, which have included Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Drew Barrymore,  Winona Ryder, and Scarlett Johansson). Said actor and I end up bonding and as a favor, he takes me as his date to the fancy premier, and kisses me for the first time on the red carpet. 
  • I'm a disability advocate in Chicago, and I accidentally sideswipe a car as I'm turning left. The owner is just coming out of the house their car was parked in front of, and it takes me  a while to realize it's JGL because I'm so distraught and freaked out. We exchange insurance info, and as it's the first time this has happened to me, I see no problem in him asking for my number and email address. He leaves me a voicemail, asking to meet at a small coffeeshop in a burb-ee area to "go over things," and I'm still pretty embarrassed and upset and don't realize he's flirting with me a lot (in that adorable JGL way). After the  insurance  stuff  is done and payments have been made where necessary, he calls again and I freak out, thinking something  has gone wrong. He reassures me, nonono, it's fine, I wanted to invite you to a party at my place with some friends of mine as a thank you for being so cool about all of this. I agree to go, and I take a pie I made with me, something oddly  unexpected. The people are all pretty sophisticated and there are a few celebrity faces there, so even though Ellen Page seems to be trying quite hard to make me feel comfortable, I'm kind of awkward and nervous until JGL breaks out his guitar and asks if anyone knows the song he starts- I, of course, am the only one that does, so I sing along, and he then asks me to make  requests for him, so we do a few more together, and  at one point  when everyone is clapping between songs, he holds my hand and gives me a smile that makes me  turn bright red. 
  • I'm a Rhodes Scholar, and running late for a meeting, so I spin around really fast with my coffee at a coffee stand on the Oxford campus and collide with/spill my coffee on a tall guy. I write down my number on a napkin in a rush and give it to him, apologizing profusely but  I really must be  going, I have a meeting. The message I get is from Benedict Cumberbatch. We meet for tea, not coffee, later that week and I offer to pay for his shirt, he says  no need, he's here studying for a role as a professor in a play he's contemplating doing. Of course, we hit it off, and he visits me  a few times while I'm still on the campus. Eventually, we get a flat together, as well as a British Golden Retriever. 
My favorite kind of dream to have is lucid. You know, when you can sort of control what's going on? I've been able to take some of the crazy dreams that make no sense whatsoever and turn them into vaguely understandable clusterfucks. And  sometimes, they replay themselves more or less the same after I've plotted them out the first time. I've even  been able to turn  genuinely random, acid-trippy dreams  into ones that have more of a story and, eventually, make the acid-trippy parts not even matter (and  then just replay the sensical parts). 

Lately, I've been having dreams about people from my past. I don't really know what this means, why it's happening, etc. I do know they're usually either sad and/or just plain weird. I can be at the store and have them in my shopping cart; I'm in a classroom and they're the teacher (and others are also in the desks near me); I keep saying I'm sorry and they start talking about sugar cookies; I'm at a funeral for the dog I grew up with, and they're holding my hand.

Yeah, weird, right? Again, no idea. 

But speaking of sleep, River is giving me that, "MoooOOOOOOOM! Time for beeeeEEEEED!" look from right next to me on the couch. Observe:

Corrections: Apparently I suggested I'm losing my roommate for the rest of the "semester." I meant to say "summer." Given the context, I'm surprised it was that confusing for people, but whatever, fixed now. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Ladies is pimps, too"- Jay-Z, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"

I'm going to take this opportunity  to discuss Jay-Z, one of the rappers I could listen to all day and not get tired of or bored with. But first, the song in question:

I do think he's "the motha fuckin' greatest," or at least one of the greats. Some of his music does get pretty  sexist and racist (just because dude's black doesn't mean he's immune to criticism- lyrics like, "I got this Indian squaw" in "Girls, Girls, Girls," stand out to a woman of Native American ancestry like myself, you know), but I think the overall focus of his albums is racism against blacks and the way he turned himself around. Also, his rhythm and smooth delivery are pretty fantastic. 

Anyhoo, so Jay-Z. You'll notice there's the line in the chorus, "Ladies is pimps too," in a song  that's overall about himself. That may seem like a throwaway, but it's the little moments that sometimes gives more insight into what's going on than trying to think too largely. Sometimes you need to look at a tree to understand the forest.

Also, I've defended the video to "Run This Town" featuring Kanye West and Rihanna because Rhianna is more clothed than women in your average rap music videos. 

Relative progress, relative steps. You can't expect an artist to be taken seriously and completely break the paradigms in which they exist. 

Not that I consider Jay-Z a catalyst of progressivism and liberal ideology. But I do think the idea that simply by being less disrespectful to women overall, he's helping, especially as one of the "big" rappers today. He can set an example that's subconsciously followed by others.

Now I'm actually posting this because I've been getting a lot of dust and dirt on me the past week. My roommie and I decided to get the Hell outta Dodge and move, so ever since last Wednesday evening, I've been spending the majority of my waking hours either packing or unpacking all of the shit I had acquired whilst living in our first apartment. Only two years, and I swear, I could have my own Goodwill store with all the gorram stuff up in here- but since I, you know, want/need it, I only gave up almost four garbage bags full of stuff.

When I went to take River for her second walk yesterday, there was a notice on our door about the stuff we have on our balcony- we had been tossing empty boxes and containers out there temporarily as we were unpacking. We were only  doing it as a temporary thing so we could figure out what storage space we had for them after unpacking everything. 

Now, truth be  told, I'm more than kind of glad this notice came- it shows the management  and maintenance in this complex are infinitesimally more on top of things and interested in keeping the complex clean and orderly than our last place. My only qualm is someone already complained about it, and we've only been putting stuff there since Monday. So another thing I'm concerned with is River's barking- she's barked a lot more when I leave from here than the last place. I was already worried we'd get complaints, but since someone's already bitching about empty boxes on a patio, I'm even more worried about it. I've moved her cage to an area she won't be able to see people leaving from, so hopefully that helps. 

But along the lines of me being glad the management responded so quickly to whatever asshole neighbor complained, I dropped in on the leasing office roundabouts two this afternoon to put in a maintenance request for my toilet (of course I get the bathroom with the shitty toilet that clogs). Chelsea and I went to the mall around three, so at four-ish I ignored a call from a number I didn't recognize; listening to the message, it was one  of the gals from the office, asking if the toilet was "working  to my satisfaction" yet, as one of the maintenance dudes had  already been in the apartment to fix it.  This just floored me.  I mean, whoa.

I'd say  the  management  and maintenance here is pretty pimp, then. 

But anyhoo, I've had to dust a lot of furniture in the past few days, too. I didn't have time to give everything a good wipe-down before we put it in the truck, so there were a lot of moments where I started putting stuff away, then yanked it back to clean whatever surface off first. That phase is over by now- all that's left is putting the stuff up on my own walls and a few more posters in the living  room (we need nails to hang a cute wooden shelf thingydo in the corner, and then I have posters to go on either  side) (as if the minute details really matter to you...). But I did notice there was some dust on the other posters as I was putting them up in the living  room. Kinda gross, but it wasn't that bad, I suppose. 

Oddly enough, I feel like  dust accumulates about as much/quickly in Indiana as it did in Las Vegas, and that Washington is the least dusty place I've lived. I tend to let my room get kind of ridiculously messy, so whenever I actually clean it and use the furniture polish,, I end up going through multiple rags on about the same amount of surface area I'd use one on in Washington. And that's Vegas, too. So I wonder why it's so dusty here, too. I dunno, I'm just kind of babbling  now.

So anyhoo, "Ladies is pimps, too." 

I'd never consider myself remotely "pimp"- I have absolutely no swagger or finesse, but I do try to be awesome as much as I can. By that, I mean helping people, thinking outside the box, and doing my best at whatever I'm doing. Being awesome is pretty important, and I actually think it's worth its own post. But what I will say is I do sometimes feel good about it when it happens, and I dust some dirt off my shoulders in my head. Especially when things get tough.

In that sense, I've dusted veritable buckets worth off my shoulders by this time. Because, in the words of Beyonce Knowels, who happens to be married to Mr. Jay-Z:

It isn't like my entire life is crap, but I've had some rough stuff that isn't all that overtly helpful or beneficial, so I've made due. And I'm still here and fighting the good fight, so that must mean that even when I don't realize it, I've dusted myself off and kept going. Because that's all a body can  do. And Jay-Z makes a point of explaining that yeah, he's had it rough, but those experiences have made him who he is- and that's awesome. 

So no, I may not be a professional rapper or, more specifically, the "best rapper alive," but I too have overcome a lot, and I, too, know there are people that "be hatin'" on me for some of the things I've been able to accomplish, in spite of all of the barriers I've had to leap over. So yeah, sure, I'm "pimp," in my own, geeky sort of way.