Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I have a slight fear of spiders. I honestly have no idea where it came from, since I used to be totally okay with  them as a little kid. But in my old age (lol), I've grown increasingly afraid of them (parallel to my increasing fear of heights). Despite that, I still enjoy the "misunderstood spider" meme. I think this one is my favorite:

Some of them actually invoke a little bit of regret for all of the spiders I've squashed in my lifetime... but not enough to stop me from squashing more. Ew.

Growing up in Vegas, we had a lot of various types of beetles and (the ironically located) oriental cockroaches, also known (more ironically) as "waterbugs," (click  me if a bunch of pictures of cockroaches won't gross you out) and they'd crop up all over the place and in the worst ways. That weird itch you thought was a strand of hair? Waterbug. That sound you heard, like a soft "plop" on the table beside you? A cockroach falling from the ceiling. 


There's also some type of scorpion (I can't remember the name) that  was imported to Vegas (the person designing a new mall insisted on a specific palm  tree from California) and totally infested when I was in middle school- and while not native, they come from a more similar climate, so they're harder to get rid of than cockroaches. 


But curiously, when I was a kid, I pretty much always ended up being the person to kill the bugs if I was home and one was discovered.


I got used to it before I realized how weird it was. And by then, it was way too late. So by  the time I was, I dunno, eight, all I needed was a piece of TP or a paper towel, and I'd be fine. The only  bugs anyone else ever killed were Black Widow spiders, because, you know, poison. Then Dad would step in. Other than that, it was me.

And that, uh, bravery (?) led to me  still being mostly okay with killing bugs as an adult. I get weirded out and goosebumpy from spiders, but pretty much anything else, I dive right in and go for the kill. I stayed at my roommie's place in PA two summers ago for a few nights, and when I found a centipede on my pillow, I shrugged, went into the bathroom, grabbed some TP, and squashed it in my hand with said TP, all within less than a minute. And I turned the pillow over and went to sleep.

You'd think I'd be afraid of bees, though, but I'm  not. I was stung just below one of my eyes while at a pool party once when I was like four. I remember clinging to my New Kids on the Block towel as if my life depended on it, and you'd think that would have scarred me  for my future. But no, I don't really care about bees or wasps. Just leave them alone, and they'll leave you alone (usually). 

I used to play with those rolly-polly bugs (called armadillidiidae, apparently- a name that makes sense, but that I don't bother trying to pronounce) all the time when I was little. I even had my own "I Remember Melville" moment once when I was uber  upset that one I thought of as a pet for five minutes decided to croak. I did this all the time until I found a colony of them in my dog's poop. I don't think I've touched one since. 

So the  heat in Vegas led to lots of species being unable to thrive. Even though waterbugs like, well, water, they only survive because they hang around houses and pipes- if it weren't for humans, they wouldn't have even been brought  here, let alone been able to last by themselves. 

But some bugs, like fleas, for example, just can't cope: My mom's best friend drove her lhasa apsos out to our house from Southern California once because they had been stricken with a nasty case of fleas-  she stayed while her place was being fumigated. But by the end of the first twenty-four hours, the fleas were all dead. Our own boxer didn't really suffer at all.

Now that I have River in Indiana, where it's moist and icky, I'm starting to worry about different ways of caring for her than I did our boxer (or do my mom's chihuahua). Namely, the parasites and bugs I need to protect her from. Heartworms and fleas are the main ones I'm... worried isn't the right word... Um... On the lookout for, I guess.

And another odd thing that changed with age: While there weren't a LOT of mosquitoes in Vegas growing up, and yeah I'd usually get a bite or two a year, if we ever traveled somewhere with mosquitoes, I'd be the one with the most bites by the time we left. Sometimes I'd be the only one in the family bitten  at all, too. I don't remember  them bothering me all that much, but as I've  grown older, I seem to have developed an allergy. Because now, every mosquito bite ends up itching and swelling  into something the size of a spider bite, at least- and that's when I don't scratch them. They burn and  hurt and and make it impossible to sleep sometimes. And even though I've tried probably a total of $100 worth in OTC creams, I can't find any products without a prescription that do the trick.

So as much  as I love River, I can't help but get angry at her when she takes her sweet little  time finding a place to shit because I always, always, ALWAYS get bitten by at least one mosquito. The record is I believe eight new bites during one walk. The fuckers get me even when I wear long sleeves and pants- they either get my gorram hands, or my forehead, or my neck, or something. I'm not safe. Nowhere is safe.

And I know I get a slight and entirely unreasonable twinge of jealousy when I see bugs on her and she doesn't ever seem phased by it- not when we're still outside, nor at any time after we get back in the apartment. It's like she gets bit but it doesn't itch.  Like nature's fucking with me. Nature is saying, "Hah! I'm going to force you out into my trap by making your dog picky about her POOP, of all things. And I'm going to make you feel like the flesh is being peeled off of your skin as you do it. And that pet of yours, she's going to be happy and excited and oblivious to the fact, even as the same bugs are sucking her blood out of her, and even as you're on the verge of tears from crying as your elbow swells up to the size of a strawberry on one side and gets only slightly less red in color from one bite, while a bump that looks like a huge wart starts to form on your face from a different bite." And then she sits there, laughing  with the mosquitoes like an evil mastermind or something.

Yeah, like I said, entirely unreasonable.

Happily, a quick at-home remedy I was told  about by a friend from middle school a few years ago, though, is hot water. Like, borderline scalding. For as many seconds as you can stand. So my routine this summer became a morning semi-dip, one in the late afternoon, and one right before bed. I do my best to get all of the bites under the faucet in the bathtub, and it usually works. So when I feel the last spritz wearing off, I go into the bathroom  again and repeat. And I'll sometimes end up needing to do it right after getting back inside with River because of some horrible new bite that is already driving me over the edge. The last time I did it, I was scrambling to get inside and de-itched before some friends came over- I wasn't fast enough. And that bugged me, a lot.

I'm back in Vegas again with  the family, and by golly, I'll take triple-digit-and-dry-with-barely-any-mosquitoes over nineties-and-humid-with-clouds-of-bloodsuckers in a heartbeat. It was oone of the things I had on my list of "Reasons to be Happy About Going Back to Vegas" I was making (superficially) in my head as I psyched myself up in the days leading to the trip.

So imagine my sheer angst when I saw a fucking mosquito on the bathroom mirror an hour ago.

And then the sick pleasure when I managed to smash it with my palm- I wanted to whoop and holler around the bathroom in triumph, brandishing the remnants of that fucker like the head of a conquered enemy. I would have taken a picture, but my phone was downstairs, and I needed to finish brushing my teeth and stuff. Suffice to say, I'm hoping I killed the last mosquito in the house. Otherwise flames. Flames.

I'll be in Washington in a week. I imagine there will be more mosquitoes than here, but fewer than Indiana. So I guess it'll be a transitional period for me. Fortunately, I'm fairly sure I'll be staying with people that'll give me the autonomy to jump into the shower for two minutes. It's a good thing Vegas has  so few mosquitoes. Otherwise I don't know  what I'd do here.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"That's just Soandso,"- Assholes Getting Away With Their Assholery

You know what I hate? When people excuse rude, offensive, or hurtful behavior on the part of someone else because, "That's just their personality." There's a difference between something like Asperger's and just being a jerk. 

I say this because I keep seeing a lot of misogyny and racism in my Facebook and Twitter, and when it's from people I know personally, they've pretty much always had someone come to their defense for the way they act if I've brought it up in person to mutual friends (usually by saying they make me uncomfortable, not really in a "WHAT AN ASSHOLE!" way). 

"That's just how Soandso operates. You get used to it."

Fuck that noise.
No, I don't "get used to it," and you know what? I'm not sorry.

When it's "normal" for a person to make objectifying comments about women every chance they get, they're perpetuating discourses of subordination and hierarchical normative structures of power that devalue women and place men at the top- literally and figuratively.

When it's "normal" for a person to make cracks about minorities or religion as often as possible, they're perpetuating the normalization of bigotry and hatred we experience every day, not to mention echoing colonial and neo-colonial discourses asserting the supermecy of whites and western culture.

I refuse to "get used to it" because by not calling someone out on their shit, it perpetuates the status quo. And I've ranted about the status quo before. And about how harmful discourses get/are normalized all the time. 

I don't usually get it on my own posts, but I hate the way I sometimes see myself and others patronized or condescended to when pointing out the isms when we post something  of concern to us. Often stuff like, "You think being mad about this one thing is going to change the world?" or, "Yeah, and getting angry on Facebook is really going to make a difference." 

This usually comes from assholes that post women in bikinis and think stuff like this is funny in earnest, and then refuse to concede the possibility it may be supporting a harmful discourse- or don't even acknowledge  it and Schopenhauer the shit out of anyone calling them out. Or they think this picture that was in my feed the other night  is funny and refuse to listen when how sexist it is gets pointed out:

I said it's sexist (well, "So fucking sexist," actually), and the person  that posted it said it's not and I totally didn't want to get into why with them, but it actually led to a quite fruitful dialogue between the two of us- I felt pretty damn happy about the end result (of course, this is operating off the assumption he actually meant it when he seemed to be taking what I said to heart). So here's what I told him (after I accidentally got too jargony for him... sigh.. and I try so hard to avoid that shit):

"It's sexist because all they're doing is comparing her looks to Chris Farley's. Chris Farley was an actor (who yeah, I thought was friggin' hilarious, I must watch Tommy Boy at least twice a year) whose gimmicks mostly revolved around him being overweight and unattractive. Instead of discussing her conduct as a judge, they're making fun of how she looks... So they're treating her like an object by only discussing her looks, as if she's a thing to look at, rather than a whole person. It doesn't matter if she really IS a shitty judge, what matters is they aren't even saying that. Just insinuating she's ugly."

Judging (HAH) from his  reaction, the fact that he seemed genuinely remorseful and surprised, while previously had  thought it was funny, I do think  he got it. So score one for the home team, eh?

But usually it doesn't go that well. I often end up just backing down if I start getting into it, either by telling them I'm done or letting them change the subject. It's the dudes (and yes, I'm saying "dudes" categorically because I've never really had any women do this shit) that this happens with that really irk me. I've had a few close encounters with a few women, but they're often about semantics or tangents, as opposed to entirely disagreeing (like, "The title is misleading" or, "This group is also doing X that's messed up, too, let's talk about that one, while we're at it!")

I say again, it's not cool. Being sexist, classist, ableist, any-ist "just to be funny" isn't NOT the "ist" it's emulating. It very much IS that ist. One person making a racist joke isn't one person being satirical, it's one person being racist- and just because it's one person, that doesn't make it okay, either, because add up all of the one persons, and you get shit like this and this and this and this being deemed acceptable enough to be said, made, and distributed for me to find the link in the first place- and, no doubt, you'd also get the hoards of internet  assholes defending  its creation.

And if that's your sense of humor, it's not something anyone should "get used to."

Yes, I believe in free speech, which is why I'm saying this now. I'm not saying we should preemptively sensor these people, but by golly, tell them they're assholes when you see or hear them, and maybe they'll feel shamed enough to think twice. And I fundamentally believe that if enough ridicule and shame is put  on people doing this sort of thing, the beliefs causing that sort of behavior to manifest will trickle away and, in time, things like racism, ableism, sexism- they can genuinely become a thing of the past. Not in my lifetime, but  maybe  someday. I try to think that as much as I can, at least, because it gives me hope, and cause to keep at it.

There are some social norms that can be harmful, like the isms, like the hierarchies leading to subordination. But some are good, like those dictating people should be respectful of one another, that they should consider the ramifications of their words and actions. And what I wish would become a norm for other people, not just the hippie-dippie-bleeding-hearts like myself, is thinking about the power structures embedded in what we say, what we think  is funny, and  how we defend ourselves if called on our shit, and self-correcting as much as possible before opening our fat mouths.

Yes, I'm pointing the finger at myself. I know I've made racist, sexist, classist, ableist, any other "ist" you can  think of statements before, and I know I'll do them again in the future. No one is perfect, and I by no means want to seem as if I think I am. But I do my best to stop myself if I catch myself about to act in a way that upholds any status quo that subordinates anyone else.

So that's why there are people I flat-out don't associate with. Why there are people I deliberately avoid having over to my apartment. Why I sometimes skip out on social activities after seeing the guest list. Because whenever I call these people out on being racist, being sexist, being ableist, they get defended by others. And while sure, it's kind of disappointing to hear people whose judgment I value apologize for that sort of behavior, I understand  why they do it, and I don't fault them for it. Especially since they're usually the first to agree with me when I bring up some discourse of oppression in another context- whereas the people they defend  usually tell me I'm full of shit. The latter know what they're doing, and if they apologize at all (which they very rarely ever do), they don't mean it- and go on and repeat the behavior at the next moment possible. And that's why I can't stand to be around them. And that's why I try not to let them get away with their assholery. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: 'The Walking Dead' and '400 Days' Video Game (By Telltale)


I wanted to wait until I played the extra 400 Days chapter before reviewing The Walking Dead by Telltale. I know this prolly seems outdated because The Last of Us came out really recently, but I'll get that one eventually, too. So yeah, I'm slow. Sue  me.

As you can see on the cover, there's a dude holding a little girl's hand. That's Lee and Clementine.  Lee is the character you play as, and Clementine is the little girl you find in the very beginning of your struggle within the outbreak of zombies. Clementine becomes your reason for survival  and it's the immersion in the world in which you're trying to protect her that makes this game so moving. The game mechanic forces you to not just think for, but think as and feel as Lee. So I can't even use third-person- it's second, at best. It's you doing everything, not Lee, and that's why this game is so good. It transports you, and every decision has weight on you as Lee and you as you sitting on your couch with your dog chewing her deer antler beside you. Ahem.

In order to convey this, whenever I'm referencing my own reactions, I may sometimes say "Leeme." Get it? ;p

What mechanic am I talking about that could possibly lead to this sort of transcendence of self?

Importantly, the focus isn't the combat. It's not the killing of the zombies. It's the navigation of the environment itself- often what direction you walk in avoiding being seen, the method with which you decide to open or break something, which room you choose to go in first. But most importantly, the other people involved. Every couple minutes (and then sometimes a few times within one minute itself), you as Lee have to decide what to say or do with respect to what someone else has said or done- you're given options to negotiate, get hostile, say nothing, and sometimes even get physical with someone else, in every situation involving other characters. You can be snarky, you can be funny, you can lie, and the characters always remember what you did. And it comes back to you- they'll reference your past decisions in the future, and how you've treated them previously (and at that moment) often determines who comes with you whenever you have to break off from the whole group. And if they ever realize you're lying at that moment, they let  you know- or if they realize later you lied before, they definitely let you know.

There are more intense  moments that have deep ramifications on the future, too. More than once, you have to choose between two people that are being simultaneously attacked, and your decision determines who lives and who doesn't. The first time Leeme had to do this, I didn't realize that was the case- I thought I'd be able to help both. And when I couldn't, I was utterly shocked and had to pause the game because the weight of the outcome  was so heavy on me. Leeme felt damn awful and wished there had been a way to save both. And  the storytellers weaved reminders of that decision back into future moments constantly, reminding Leeme of that decision and that I had to let one person die.

The fact that I couldn't save both people made me realize this game wasn't going to end happily- someone important  to Leeme was going to die. Not because of storytelling tropes, but rather because they obviously weren't giving people plot armor, and if we're being "real" about getting caught in a situation like that, it'd be a miracle if Leeme didn't die in the end. 

Also, there are times when your decision effects people you may not expect. Moments where you think you're alone and then poof! Clementine witnesses you stabbing someone in the face. Ironically, whenever I did something more violent and against my own nature as ME, made a choice I know I probably wouldn't make (at least as I am now, not really in a zombiepocalypse), those decisions ended up being the ones that had the worst effects on Leeme. Like the aforementioned moment when Clementine walked in- I pulled myself out of Lee for a moment when I thought she was gone, and I wanted to get the guy out of the way because I thought this chapter needed to end sooner, so I stabbed him with a pitchfork, and as soon as I did it, she gasped. Oops. Likewise, in the last chapter, I hesitated too long, and that hesitation led to Clementine killing someone instead of me doing it. I had to pause there, too, Leeme felt so horrible. 

So since your decisions mold what happens next, these decisions can either limit or expand your future options.  And it's clear they tried to make as many scenarios as they could so that no matter how you chose, it would feel organic and as if it naturally progressed that way. Not only from the sheer fact that it does feel that natural, but also because  at the end of each chapter (except the 5th), there's a "preview" of the next one- and every time I saw a preview, I also saw scenes/clips that didn't end up happening when I actually played the chapter whose preview I was seeing. And while sometimes it seemed good, like when there were snippets of an argument with another character I ended up never having, I also saw some scenes that could have been better, like a character helping Lee kill a zombie in a preview, whereas when Leeme was in that scene as I was playing, that character totally wasn't with Leeme. And since the future depends so much on the past decisions you made, you can't go back or ret-con- the game saves itself so often in the middle that you really just have to move forward. So while I haven't replayed it yet, I know that every time I do, it'll be different. 

I'll admit, there were a few rather tired tropes- particularly the cannibalistic country bumpkins. I knew that was going to happen  the moment I met the two guys that ended up being the ones running the farm. That's the same chapter I just referenced that needed to end- it was still pretty good, and actually, I think the fact that I killed a man in front of Clementine really helped with the story later. When she walked in, I immediately became Leeme again, so there's that, too.

But chapters. The main game is divided into chapters, five in total, and they  range from about 1.5 hours for the shortest (the last one) to about 2.5 for the longest (not including times where you die and need to retry something). The length of each chapter gives you the time to get to know and care for the people around you (or think they're annoying assholes).

So then what about 400 Days? Well, it's five vignettes, each about 15-20 minutes, and you play as someone else in each one. The nature of them being so short means you aren't really given much  of a chance to get to know the characters all that well, but the designers  were still able to weave in the decision-making and how that effects what goes on in the future. And at the end, they've all met up and someone (that you also get to play as) shows up and tries to convince all five of the people you played as to join  her in her safe colony- this makes up I guess a sixth and final vignette, and a really clever way to finish it up and make those past decisions matter.

That moment was the best in the min-game. Because how you played as the other people entirely influenced how they reacted to you THEN, as you played as this new person trying to negotiate with them. So inadvertently, because I had played a few characters in certain ways, because of the choices I had made while in charge of them, I set them up for being distrusting of the person you play as in this vignette, so those characters didn't go. Because even though everybody is there, you only control that one woman- the computer/game controls the other people. And in the end, the number of people  that join her/you is entirely dependent on how you played each vignette earlier.

And this leads me to a nifty feature, at the end of every chapter, including 400 Days, a screen shows up telling you how your answers compare to those of other players on whatever network you're playing from with respect to a few pivotal moments/decisions. None of them are ever combat decisions, they're always stuff like, "You and 60% of other players chose to lie  to Kenny." Or, "You and 15% of other players let Clementine kill Soandso." So at the end of 400 Days, they have every potential breakdown of who would go with you and the percentage of players that achieved each one. I didn't get everybody to come, but I felt kind of good about myself because I did get more than a lot of other players. And that's a unique way of presenting your progress. It really puts perspective on how you're playing the game, and while sometimes  it makes a body feel good ("Fuck yeah, I was moral!"), it can also make you feel like shit ("G'damnit, I really messed that one up.") Not just because it reminds you of what you did, but it compares those choices (or lack thereof) to how the hundreds or thousands or whatever of other players reacted in those same situations.

My friend included Lee's death in her list of Top 5 Most Heartbreaking  Deaths on her own blog, and her description hits it dead (hah!) on. As she says, during  the end of the last chapter, you find Clementine's parents, only to discover that they're zombies. And  it's all the more devastating because you already know you're becoming a zombie.

I was an  utter mess during that last chapter because of when Leeme was bit. You're desperate to get Clementine to safety because you know sooner  or later, you'll turn, and the last thing Leeme wants is for her to even see Leeme as a zombie, let alone get bitten by Leeme. It just feels so devastatingly unfair that after everything you did make it through and protect her from not just bodily harm, you know once you've reached a certain point in your progression of becoming a zombie, Leeme's going to have to find a way to get Clementine to separate from Leeme and go out on her own, whether it's by having  her kill Leeme or leaving Leeme behind.

So it's painfully ironic- that first "who gets to live moment" and my realization that someone would die... I guess that even in my "realistic" perspective of the game, I never figured it would be Leeme to die. Not that other people don't, too, but Leeme. So emotionally riveting. 

The immersion I felt during this game is like none I've ever experienced- not in reading, not in watching a movie, and not in playing any other game. There isn't even a release date yet for the second season (although supposedly Telltale is shooting for a 2013 release), but I'll be preordering it as soon as I can. I'm just hoping it comes out on PS3 and  not PS4, because I'm not about to spend $500 when I just spent $400 on a machine that won't even be a year old by the time the PS4 comes out.

Here's hopin'.

I give The Walking Dead  and 400 Days a 10/10, hands down, no questions asked. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tonto: A New Hope (?)

I know I just ranted about Johnny Depp's portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger, but some  new info has come to my  attention, and I would like to speculate on what it could potentially mean for Indian Country and the future of indigenous people in the U.S. I'll put some "citations" at the bottom of the piece, but I'm going to mostly rant about this because it's pretty gorram personal for me.

So to backtrack a bit, I need to do my own overview of Depp in order to set the stage, here.

Over a year ago, the Comanche Nation made him an honorary member. Somewhere along the line, he started making vague references to having Native American ancestry in statements such as this: 

"The interesting thing, if you find out you've got Native American blood, which a lot of people do, is you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books... you have to think, somewhere along the line, I'm the product of some horrific rape. You just have that little sliver in your chemical makeup."

This is kind of more than a little problematic for me- he's basing his assumption off of the fact that his family is from areas where the violence against Native American women occurred in the past. This becomes clearer through statements such as:
"I guess I have some Native American [in me] somewhere down the line. My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek."

So yeah. His white ancestors are from an area with a lot of indigenous people, so obviously he's Native, too, right? If he can't even say what tribe he's affiliated with, it's pretty damn hard to take that seriously. Maybe I'm being indigenously elitist (which in itself sounds slightly ironic, eh?), but it sounds more like the "Cherokee" claim (and, actually, pretty much is, given Cherokee is one of the tribes he thinks he may  be decended  from)- "Oh, yeah, I have Cherokee!" Every other person claims to have Cherokee. Bullshit, it's not like Oprah is going around granting Cherokee heritage to everybody.

I had to; I'm already going to burn in the firey recesses of Hell, so I may
as well have some fun on the way, amirite? But I still have to be
grammatically correct, even when making memes... Sigh.
So okay, vague association with some tribe back in the day because of a rape. Awesome.

Move forward a bit to the character design of Tonto. Without delving into the details too much, he was blatantly honest about how a specific painting inspired him. But the painter is open about how he deliberately avoids historical and contextual accuracy- he literally just paints whatever stereotypes pop into his head at the time out of a fetishized notion of all indigenous people and peoples being "more connected with the earth" and all that hippie bullshit. And of course, dude's white. 
Not to say white people can't be respectful and portray indigenous culture in ways that aren't offensive, but all he does is paint stereotypes- and he admits it openly, so I'm not stretching this at all, here. 

Anyway, since the inspiration piece was built off of a hodgepodge of stereotypes, it's no surprise the end result of Tonto would be a hodgepodge, too. And it was. Ignoring the hideous paint and the riggoddamndiculous crow on his head, different parts of his outfit are either generic "Native-esque" things (like the random feathers hanging off of him), or they're from specific tribal cultures that have been forced onto the body of one man (the chest plate thing is Sioux, the headband thing southwestern, etc.).

Oh yeah, and there's the Tonto Talk, too.

So then it's no surprise he'd get a lot of poo-poos and fingerpointings. 

Well, I found out this morning that he's expressed interest in buying  the land on which the Wounded Knee massacre in of December 29, 1890, as well as the 1973 protest on and near the site took place. The current owner put it on the market for a few million dollars a while back, and it seems the deadline passed in May. But now Depp has said he wants to buy it and return it back to the Sioux Nation. Here's the main quote I've seen floating around about it:
"It's very sacred ground and many atrocities were committed against the Sioux there. And in the 1970s here was a stand-off between the Feds and the people who should own that land. This historical land is so important to the Sioux culture and all I want to do is buy it and give it back. Why doesn't the government do that?"
It's hard to tell exactly what's going on with Depp himself, since he's kind of vague and says that he's trying his best to make it happen or something, and also because he and his people aren't responding to anyone's inquiries. It's somewhat complicated by the fact that apparently there are some other donors elsewhere that have been talking to the owner about buying the land and doing the same thing with it, as in giving it back to the Sioux. 

There are mixed opinions, of course. The Sioux have been trying to get the land back via the courts, since it does come down to a legal, territorial thing, and they shouldn't have to buy back the lands they were forcibly relocated to in the first place. At the same time, the president of the Oglala Sioux has said he loves the idea. There are some tribal members that don't want the land bought back at all, though, because it's messed up for the white dude that owns it right now to  make a bunch of money off of its sale. There are others that don't really care, as long as the Sioux get the land back and can then erect the right monuments and museums to educate visitors about the history of what happened there and such.

So now, my position.

While I'd prefer that no white dude make a profit off of Wounded Knee going back to the control of my people, I realize that's probably a pipe dream. Since the history of the foundation of this country is the original exploitation of the tribes (and that this exploitation has never ceased), I find it highly unlikely that the Oglala will prevail in the courts. So acquiring it by any means necessary, given the fucked up system we're in, will just have to be the way to go. And since the Sioux Nation is so fucking poor, why not make a dude that sort of made a mockery of all Native American tribes in a summer blockbuster foot the bill?

As for Depp himself, I'm trying to see this as an earnest gesture in the face of what he did with Tonto. I agree entirely with people accusing him of making a PR move- but I like to see it as a public  move stemming from sincere regret and apology for the offensive nature of his version of Tonto. I don't know if he'll ever say, flat-out, "I'm sorry for Tonto," but if this is his way  of doing so, that's totally fine with me. Plus, if my tribe can get something out of his fuckup, then yay.

I also like to view this as the beginning of a genuine search for verification of the Native ancestry he says he has. And as it's highly unlikely he'll actually have all that much Native American blood in his body, if any, perhaps it will also lead to him realizing how fucked up the whole "blood quantum" thing is in the first place. It's entirely messed up that a person like me with relatives  living on the Rez in South Dakota can't legally claim to be Native American. And there's a saying, something like, "The government only  quantifies three things by blood: dogs, horses, and  Indians."


So maybe, and this is my highly optimistic, probably not-gonna-happen optimistic hope... Maybe in realizing he doesn't "count," and that probably multiple generations back, his line stopped "counting," Depp will get angry enough  about the whole concept of "blood quantum" and  become an advocate against it.

Now I realize there are logistical and pragmatic reasons for it in terms of who the tribes can and cannot afford to take care of, but  along with the optimistic hope that Depp will advocate, I also have this naive, self-righteous belief that the government should do a better job  of helping the tribes. Infrastructure, education, health care facilities, rehabilitative centers- tribes need assistance building themselves up. If the tribes had enough resources, they'd be able to embrace more people with legitimate ancestry connecting them. 

I guess my point is, I want things to get better for all indigenous people, and that my hope is this gesture on the part of Johnny Depp, if it actually leads to something real, could help start a trend in the gradual restoration of the dignity and autonomy of the tribes of the U.S. 

Comprehensive "sources"

Native Appropriations. This specific article deconstructs Tonto pretty rigorously, but it also has links to the rest of her coverage of Depp's little journey with the role. Her own sources are legit, it seems, so if you just skim over her stuff, you'll see I'm not pulling my summarizations of what's been going on with respect to Tonto or Depp's heritage out of my ass. 

This article is pretty comprehensive for all the necessary info about Depp buying Wounded Knee, but here, here, and here are some other sources. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Market Doesn't Matter: Why "Isms" in Fiction Is a Problem

I like a lot of fiction. Movies, comics, video games, TV- I even used to read for fun, until I started grad school... le sigh... Anyhoo, as a kid, I wasn't so good at it, but now I'm sometimes too good for my own good at recognizing "isms" in works of fiction as I consume them. And sometimes, I can do the whole cognitive dissonance thing and enjoy myself, but other times, I just can't. As I've talked about before, albeit somewhat briefly, whitewashing in movies is not okay- but  of course, whitewashing actors under any circumstance isn't. And neither is the objectification of women  and  their bodies* in fiction.  But I feel like going into more depth as to why this is problematic. The bottom line  is that it's fiction.

Now here's the thing. "It's fiction," is often used as a reason why it's not important; they're fake, so what does it matter? With this frequently comes, "They're doing what sells." And often elaborations on how the fiction being created is "just" a reflection of the society in which we live, so that makes it okay, or at least not directly harmful. It's the market, not the creators.

Rants about how so often in my life, I want to scream, "FUCK THE MARKET!" and how that's itself a socio-political construct, so ideas about it being "free" are utter bullshit, stop cutting welfare you rat bastard Ayn Randofiles.... aside...

Well, for one thing, when a woman stops playing a game because a female character gets raped in the middle of it, that's harmful. When a person of color feels uncomfortable watching a movie because someone of their ethnicity is being portrayed by someone of another ethnicity, that's harmful. Etc. And that kind of stuff happens all the time. So it's harmful. 

I get really fed up with the "censor monger" strawman arguments from people apologizing for "isms" in fiction(or, really, anywhere). I'm not the only person to notice this, and it happens even when part of the point of the statement or article in question is about how it's not about censorship, but the very sorts of rhetorical and argumentative  strategies that then get employed in those comments. 

Of course, this all revolves around identity politics, and while I do have my own interpretation of identity, one of the biggest difficulties with identity politics is that the "groups" in question, that may or may not be getting marginalized, that may or not be doing the marginalizing, are entirely heterogeneous. Which means that just because some people that may identify with that group are offended, hurt, whatever, doesn't mean everyone is. So then the prolem becomes one of whose feelings and opinions are given more weight, and which way to take it. I'll give two examples.

There are problems with the way ABC conducted this segment: They asked D.L. Hugely, a non-Jamaican, to speak for Jamaicans- not directly, but they bring him on as if  he has some moral authority, here, and thus they're basically saying all black people are the same; so even though Hugely is American, he can totes speak for Jamaicans (this is like how a lot of people assume Korean, Japanes, Chinese, Taiwanese, etc. are interchangeable). (Also, Cool Runnings vs. Fargo? C'mon, that's hogwash- but he's a comedian, so, you know.) Then they let the quote from the Minister of Tourism from Jamaica speak for all Jamaicans, discounting the upset of Jamaicans that didn't like the ad and basically trivializing them. Also, ignoring the fact that not all Jamaicans are black.

This follows the logic behind the creation of the ad itself. Read this if you don't believe me, but VW decided to run the ad because they selected a few Jamaicans to view it and ask what they thought; since these focus groups didn't express offense, VW ran it. 
Barring the fact that they even had to check (which you'd think would be a red flag for any ad campaign), VW was also letting some small focus group of 100 speak for every Jamaican. And since VW is a huge corporation, they have the financial and social capital to put their perspective out there and drown out any differing opinions.

But to problematize things a little, the ad wasn't just offensive to Jamaicans- as Hugely said, a blogger expressed something about "black people." And the thing is, the same reason ABC thought having Hugely speak for Jamaicans is why it's potentially offensive to Black, non-Jamaicans- if the cultural zeitgeist paints Jamaicans and Blacks as the same thing, then something stereotyping one will, by degrees, be stereotyping the other. 

And as Suzanne Persard on Racialicious points out, there are so many neo-colonial things going on in this ad, I don't really have the time, space, or emotional energy to state it all myself- read her article, if you're interested. The "we got some people to look at it" argument is far too reductionist. It's like  saying, "I'm not racist, I have a black friend!" and completely ignoring the history of physical and economic control western, i.e. white, countries have had on Jamaica- the "tourism" that may be "helped" by a joint endeavor between Jamaica's government and VW came from and thrives on that violent history.

The second  example I have is Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger

Tonto sees problem, thinks white men
appropriating his culture, thinks this heap bad
I still haven't seen this movie, so I realize this probably gives me far less ground to stand on, but I know there were lots of outcries about this casting choice from Native American activists ever since it was announced. Then, based off the trailer, I was given no reason to even want to give Verbinski et. al. the benefit of the doubt, given Depp uses Tonto Talk in trailers, and, as I've referenced before, that contrived, insulting mode of  speech is friggin' named after the character in the first place- and its nomenclature is not a compliment; depictions of it are backwards and insulting, and for Tonto to be "revived" in this way is utterly deplorable, in my most humble of opinions.  Watch this, and pay attention to the way Depp speaks- and try not to get distracted by his paint and outfit.

Disney put out similar stuff to VW in its defense, about how Comanche tribal members are okay with it and think it's great. Plus, don't forget, Depp is an honorary member of the Comanche Nation!!! This situation is problematic differently, though, in that Tonto is supposed to be a Comanche, and members of the Comanche tribe are cool with it- so then do other Native Americans, let alone white people, have the right to be upset? 

Well I've perused around, and it sounds to me like it's still pretty ridiculous and there are too many random, weird things going on with this character for all  of it to be entirely accurate/ "true to the culture" or however the blazes they'd like to put it- like that creepy hawk thing on his head. This review does a good job  of really digging deep, so I'll leave it to you to read it for yourself, but one more thing to add: I have suspicions about what's going on between the huge, megacorporation that is Disney and the Comanche Nation. Maybe Disney has some control over them somehow through investment or "donation," maybe the tribe is trying to just gain some positive publicity and Disney is taking advantage of that, maybe they're like the dolls in Dollhouse and feel basically like they have no other choice but to sign off on this shit. I don't know. I just feel like something at least a little dishonest is going on, here.

I'm not Comanche, but I'm of Lakota ancestry. And I know I'd find  it extremely offensive if a white dude, even if he had been given honorary membership to the Lakota Nation, played a Lakota on TV or in a movie. It's hard enough for Native actors to get work, but what about blood quantum? How is it right for a white actor with maybe some vague, "in spirit," I guess, connection to a group to play one of those people- and when hundreds (possibly thousands) of others whose ancestry is legitimately traced back there don't have blood "native enough" to be legally recognized? Movies aren't law, no, but having white people play Native Americans runs parallel to the forced assimilation and cultural appropriation of Native Americans that predates even the slavery of Africans in the U.S. - and, unlike slavery, still goes on.**

And okay, I'll be one of the first to admit that Johnny Depp is hot and a megastar and whatnot. I mean, c'mon, look at this. Or this. Or this. Or this- and notice the tattoo on his arm? I don't want to rail too much on Depp, but actors and celebrities like him that fetishize other cultures do nothing to help. A big reason his version of Tonto has on that ridiculous getup is he saw some painting and was "inspired" by it. Maybe I'm being too universalistic, but seriously, walking around with a dead bird on their head wasn't something any Native Americans did back in the day. What the fuck, dude, what the fuck. Not only did Disney roll with having a white actor play a Native American character, but Verbinski et. al. then rolled with some pretty horrendous ideas coming from that actor because of his star power. Depp has always come across to me as a pretty complex guy, and while he can be really sweet and humble, he also gets some pretty wonky ideas (which isn't surprising, given who he hangs out with). 

The big problem with VW and Disney is they're letting the voices of a few speak for everybody- and those few voices, conveniently, align with their corporate interests. The opinions of the people in agreement with VW and Disney are used as a contra to dissent, and the implicit statement behind flashing the former is that the latter should just shut up. This is  another discourse of silence- since some people are cool with it, there must not be anything wrong, and anybody that  thinks there is is just a prude, or a censor-monger, or an overly-politically-correct douchebag. So no need to listen to people that are upset, because they obviously have no idea what they're talking about. So keep on keepin' on, and let's make more of  X because it's art, and there's a demand for this kind of art!

Enter the market again. 

One of the things that drives me up the wall about generic "economic theory" is it can totally swing both ways. And while I'm totally for GLBTQ rights, I'm not for the promotion of using economic theory as an excuse for marginalization, especially when economic theory can eat its own tail. I'm not going to get too technical, here, but there's the theory that the market reflects the demands of society. I don't disagree with that, but I find it entirely cherry-picking to state this is why isms are present in media, but then ignoring another bit of economic theory- that if the product goes away, demand will shift to something else. So by that logic, okay, maybe there would be some loss of profits for a little as products made the shift to ism-less, but in the end, people would buy ism-less stuff because that's all they'd be able to buy. If you change the products, you change the market. If there was only one fruit stand and it switched from oranges to bananas, people would start to like bananas. And there would always be money at the banana stand

No, I'm not saying that changing movies will instantly mean no more isms. But here's the thing. Movies, games, books, whatever- they're fiction. Which means, as whomever is creating them makes the decisions as they're doing this creating. Claiming to be "trapped by the market" is a lame excuse. I don't think there's malicious intent all of the time, but there's at least willful ignorance most of the time, or maybe much, much more frequently than coroporates are willing to admit. Going with "the market" because that market is inherently ism-ridden is a choice for the sake of profit. 

The depictions of people in movies, games, comics, etc., do, indeed reflect society. Isms are normalized in our everyday discourses and activities, so it's only natural they'd show up in media. And it does make sense that those would sell easier than things without them. But choosing to ignore the voices of people that don't like what you're doing in the name of profit, especially when parading a token minority (literally, that's usually what they are, amirite?) that just so happens to agree with you is malicious. Because then you're choosing to continue doing something you know hurts at least some people. And that's unethical.

But the other side is possible- I honestly think that if enough companies and corporations making the garbage we (read: I) consume every day, if they actually put forth the effort to normalize not marginalization and oppression in the worlds they create, but rather equality and- and this is prolly a way too huge-ass stretch- altruism, maybe it would help to normalize those things in the real world.

And a huge distinction that, sadly, is necessary, goes thus: This has nothing to do with censorship. Anyone making anything  meant to be interpreted or consumed by others is thus doing things that have the potential to harm. And while sure, artists and whoever should be given some "creative license," so to speak, it also means they need to be receptive to people saying what they're producing is hurtful or offensive. And while asking  them to always go back and ret-con everything into not having isms embedded within is pretty absurd, they should, ethically, go forward and think critically about their future endeavors and ask themselves  what, if any, isms could be present in their future work. If they realize something could be "ist," and  they go ahead and do it, then yes, they're making a deliberate decision that reinforces an ism. But asking them to be more careful isn't the same as censoring, and I have a lot less sympathy for a dude like Seth MacFarlane, someone constantly called to the carpet but refusing to change, than I do, say,  John Inverdale, who slips up once and then openly apologizes for it. And anyone  choosing to play a video game that has any "ist" portrayals isn't thusly a bad person, either, nor anyone  that likes a movie with some isms, etc. 

Blithely saying something like, "Follow the money," or, "It's the market," as if that's the only explanation needed, oversimplifies the matter. Yeah, following the money would get you somewhere not wrong, but stopping at the money isn't enough  and thus not entirely right. We need to look to the people caught up in the market, consumers and producers alike. Having isms normalized in fiction, even if that's a reflection of "the market" and the real world, gives no counter-example to what's being reflected. Thus, there's no cause to question the legitimacy of the current structures and distributions of power in everyday life. Isms need to be questioned, and their alternatives need to be made more prevalent in the minds and hearts of the public in order for those minds and hearts to change. 

*That's a post from a joint blog I'm doing with a friend and fellow overthinker- have a gander, if you so please. :)

**I love Disney, but it also has some of the most offensive stuff out there with respect to Native Americans. This video explains WONDERFULLY how shitty Disney does when it comes to Native Americans (or at least in two movies- there are a lot more). 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Discourses of Silence

I have written about ableism a few different times already, so I hope by now this entry  comes as no huge surprise, coming from me, but at the same time, I also hope you read through and take  it seriously- especially since while the specific discourse here  is ableism, the argument stands for any discourse of oppression. 

If you didn't know already, I'm a Ph.D. student in the last bureaucratic stages of their requirements before starting the dissertation phase. One of those requirements is writing a few papers that are good enough for peer-reviewed publication. As I was finishing the rough draft of the last of these papers, I got kind of tired of seeing the red squiggly line under "ableism" and "ableist." This sort of clicked when I was writing a paragraph about how one of its strengths is its omission in the consciousness of most of us as we go about our daily lives. 

It was like... Oh, jeez, DUH!

And  then I started writing a Facebook status about it to be a little tongue-in-cheek, and I realized Chrome also puts a red squiggly under "aleism" and "ableist." So the status ended up being, "Hey Microsoft! And Yo, Google! The fact that "ableism" and any of its forms gets me a red squiggly is ableist. Just sayin'..."

And it is. 

Any disability scholar or advocate will tell you that one of the things about ableism that makes it so difficult to overcome is how it hides itself, masquerades as the norm- and thus as nonexistent. So by inadvertently not including "ableism" in their lexicons,  both Microsoft and Google are inadvertently upholding ableism itself. 

So as a friend reminded me, "ableism" wasn't even  an accepted word in the OED until 1981; I'd give  you a link, but I have access to the Oxford database through my university. The entry here says it was first used in the feminist periodical off our backs the quote being this: " 'Ableism'- that is, the systemic oppression of a group of people because of what they can or can not do with their bodies or minds- is the result of... ignorance." 

I think this late naming of a system of oppression that has been around since Aristotle and Plato goes right with that definition given in off our backs. By hiding under a guise of normalcy, ableism continues. After all, how can you change something you don't even realize exists in the first place? Giving something a name can give it power, but I also fundamentally believe that not naming something can lead to perpetuation of hegemonic paradigms of oppression and discourses of silence that lead to the marginalization of groups of people. 

One of my favorite normative theorists (liberal/communicative democratic, too), Iris Marion Young, has in one of her books a chapter called the "Five Faces of Oppression." When introducing these five faces, as well as wrapping up the chapter, she explains that one of the most dangerous aspects of oppression is that it's often so embedded in our regular goings on of our daily lives that we don't even realize we're practicing  it. I haven't read it in a while, so actually, I don't remember if she specifically says this has to do with privilege, but I'm going to say in my interpretation, it does, because a lot of times, we don't really understand, recognize, or (the most conscious of the three) want to acknowledge privilege when it exists to our benefit.

So along these lines, silence is an extremely powerful tool of and for discourse- but only when controlled by the hegemonic and oppressive group in charge. And this works in two ways. The most pervasive and hardest to deal with is what I've already  discussed- passing  off as regular, everyday  activity, i.e. as entirely neutral. If the status quo is oppressive, a "neutral" status quo (or stance) is going to continue to oppress (or support the continued oppression of) whatever social group(s) it suppresses and marginalizes. By hiding behind neutrality, in silence, oppression festers and thrives.

The second is more outward and direct, and that's silencing difference. There are lots of examples of this- pretty much any time a minority expresses discontent, the retaliation from the majority is an attempt at silencing that minority. And of course, this is because of the first method of silence- if the majority gets called out on its shit, giving legitimacy to the claims against it would mean relinquishing. Saying, "Nonono, you're mistaken," or, even more repulsively, "Nonono, you're the one being an asshole," are pretty simple, excessively rampant methods of silencing difference.*

And this is exactly what happens with ableism. Starting with how, as alluded to before, Plato and Aristotle wrote  about the way some people are just born  better than others- smarter, more physically capable, etc., and that hierarchies and  castes should be established and upheld by the military  and government based on this. A large aspect of myriad works by these guys (The Republic, Dialogues, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics...) stipulate that persons we'd now say are born with cognitive disabilities, or people born with physical ailments severe enough they'd be rendered immobile- how these people should be drowned or "disposed of" at birth- yeah, that thing called eugenics? It's entirely ableist, as its premise is literally killing off people of anomalous physical and mental capability. If you look hard enough, there's at least a normative value placed on comprehension, if not some division between physically "capable" and "incapable," in pretty much anything coming from these dudes. This is all philosophized in the name of what's "best" for mankind (emphasis on the "man" part, by the way), what will make  society function  in the most efficient and stable way possible. The people  that were "better" would, "naturally," then, have more authority and power, and that authority and power was to be wielded over and through the effort of those of lesser value. 

Plato- a totally elitist  motherfucker
So, in essence, Plato and his little prodige wanted to establish a society that functioned literally on the backs of the disabled and less mentally rigorous people born into that society- the ones allowed to live, 'natch. We then move forward, and it's not until 1981 that this normative stratification of persons based on physical and mental capacity is acknowledged to have a name. 

So how can a person change a system they can't give a name to? In order to change a system, the specific aspect of it that needs changing needs naming. Without a name, it's hard to get people to understand.  

Seriously, think of it like Balderdash or similar party games, ones where you have a word you need to get your partner(s) to guess without naming the specific word, any of its various forms, or any words found within it (example, you can't say, "straw" or "berry" if it's "strawberry").

Or  better yet, think of it like charades. Except you can't say how many words there are, whether it's a noun or adverb or whatever, or how many syllables it  has. You're entirely silent the whole time, waving your arms around, making faces, and everyone is just staring at you like you're having some sort of mental breakdown or violent episode. 

That's what advocacy without naming the target is like.

So that's why not being recognizable is such an effective method of perpetuating ableism.

That's why not having "ableism" in a dictionary is ableist.

I may be pushing my luck, but I bet that there are a helluvalot more people that are well-educated, enlightened, and fairly down with the whole "equality" thing that don't know what ableism is, or at best have misconceptions that it only happens when someone says something is "retarded," than those that are the opposite, that really understand how having stairs in front of a building instead of a ramp is ableist, that calling something or someone "crazy" is ablesit, or that the lack of normalization of anomaly in physical and  mental capability in society is ableist. 

And before I get any snarky, "So what are you doing about it?"s, I've already drafted a letter to Microsoft that I'll modify for Google, and I'll send each once a month to various locations for the respective corporations until I get an answer. Also, I'm writing this blog, aren't I? I'm not staying silent. I'll also either write a dissertation about this, or go into a job dealing in disability advocacy once I'm ABD. So yes, I'm trying. I'm giving a name to this bullshit, and suggesting ways of changing it. That's my goal in life, or for my career, at least.

I'm going to end with a snippet from the paper I wrote, because I think ableism is so embedded and so rampant and dominant today, that pretty  much anything we do or have is traced back to it somehow. And let me be clear, I don't  mean to say anybody is a bad person for doing ableist things- it's unconscious 95% of the time overall, and 100% of the time in a lot of people. We're good people, we've jut been conditioned to both simultaneously ignore and devalue  anomaly.

"While I do not expect for the entire worldview of any reader to be completely changed  or shattered, I do hope to give readers cause to think about some of the theories to which they ascribe, attitudes they hold,  and ways they interact with both people and their environments; asking themselves, at least every now and then, "Is this ableist?" or, more aptly, "How is this ableist?"

*Trolls especially like doing the latter, doing things like bringing up entirely unrelated topics or arguments to paint the person they're trolling  as a bad person (like extrapolating racism out of a discussion about ice cream) (or as what just happened to me, abortion and Black Panther ideology from a discussion about... spoilers).  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Those Cleansing Things

I had a pretty classic "dramedy" moment earlier today.

It had been spottily raining off and on all day- nothing too heavy or extreme, and not lasting more than a few minutes, so I didn't think it'd be that big of a deal if I took River for our daily walk. After a few minutes, this song started up on my MP3 player:

(Sidenote: Florence + The Machine is ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY worth all of the hype.)

So I won't dwell too much on how applicable this song  is right  now. But it was a highly poignant song to come to my ears.

A few bars in, it started to rain again and got kind of dark; then the first time she sings, "It's always darkest before the dawn," a sunbeam shot out amidst the rain drops. I stopped walking and let River  stand next to me in some grass as I stood there with my eyes  closed for a few moments, sort of sucking in the moment. I opened my eyes and looked down at my little angel...

...and she was shitting on some flowers.

My life is pretty fucking awesome sometimes, amirite?

Anyhoo, so that got me thinking, I used to have this place I'd go in Walla Walla to sort of calm down and cleanse myself through nothingness. It was this stream with a small waterfall that was not too far from the road, but the bushes and stuff around the area made it easy to forget you're in a college town, not some enchanted grove or some kinda jazz. Seriously, there were rocks spattered about as if someone had put  them there, and the flowers around  the stream grew most of the year- pretty much the only time I didn't see blossoms was when there was snow. And yeah, since the stream was fast enough, it was flowing year-round. 

I'd go to this little spot and let the environment kind of sap all the negativity and crappy stuff out of me, and it was sort of like a cleansing ritual I'd do whenever I got too stressed or something.

I don't really have a spot like that here in Indiana. But I do find walking River is somewhat close to it, especially if I have the right music playing. Barring the fact that every now and then I feel sort of like I'm in a Schrodinger's Rapist situation because someone seems to be walking way too fast/has caught up to me fare sooner than I thought they would, I generally feel pretty relaxed after walking River.

But even so, I have a few cleansing things I do indoors, and I've used them more since moving here, as I don't have "a spot" any more.

  • I like long, hot showers if it's during the day. I couldn't really take long showers at my old apartment because our water only stayed warm for a few minutes, let alone hot.
  • If in the evening/night, long, hot baths with the lights off and some candles. Also some classical music, like Respighi or Satie, maybe some Brahms or Faure. I need either light and  airy or sort of... uh... triumphant, I guess. Although it can't really start out march-ee, like Ravel, despite how awesome "Bolero" is...  (Sorry, I seriously wasn't trying to show off my music, I'm just trying to word things and babbling a bit.) 
  • Baking. I stress-baked probably the best fucking cookies I've ever baked last week. 
  • Giving my face a serious scrub-down, first by cleaning out my pores by squeezing  the gunk out (I'll admit fully, that's fucking gross... but there's something satisfying about seeing the little  line of dirt and oil slip out of my face) (although I've had a recurring nightmare where one pore has a... whitehead, I guess... that just won't stop and piles up like one long spaghetti noodle at my feet...), then using more than one cleanser, then my electric facial scrubber brush thingydo, then another, creamier cleanser, then a ton of moisturizer.
  • Painting my nails is kind  of relaxing, now that I'm not so terrible it ends up on the backs of my hands (seriously, this used to happen). 
  • Doing dishes. 
  • I've started playing video games again, now that I have a PS3, and yeah... it certainly feels good to hack and slash and strategize. Although the game for The  Walking  Dead had me in a sobbing mess on the couch when I finished it. I mean, holy poop, I just couldn't stop crying.
I'd like to take this time to say that while I do get stressed, I'm not falling apart. Summer sucks, but I'll be better when I'm teaching again and finishing my bureaucratic mumbo jumbo to GTFO.

But I think I'll have a bath tonight. Toodles.