Lingua Mea Vita


A Feminist Graphic Genesis

After receiving a comment on my post on Victoria’s Secret underwear, I think I realize one of my goals in life is to make things better for the younger girls around me. I’ve always been attracted to feminism—not because I’m a lesbian (because I’m not) or because I hate men (because I certainly don’t) or because I listen to Ani DiFranco (…ok…I love me some Ani!)

(Actually I blame Geri Halliwell from the Spice Girls for making 8-year-old me run around screaming “Girl Power!”)

But seriously, let’s talk about Ani for a minute. She’s one of the biggest faces of third-wave feminism, and a positive one, in my opinion. Not only does Ani write powerful music, but she also writes poetry, runs her own label and is a mommy.  She’s got a song called “I’m No Heroine”, but I gotta tell you, Ani, you’ve got to face it—you are; just because you are human and have weak points like the rest of us doesn’t mean that your moxie should be marginalized in anyway. Much like another heroine of mine…

…And you’re probably thinking I’ve lost my damn mind. Ani DiFranco and Jerrica Benton? From Jem (the 80s cartoon)? For serious?

But let’s compare Ani and Jerrica’s strong points:

  1. Both of them perform music that they wrote themselves or with a band. Both creative types.
  2. Both run their own record labels—and had trying times getting to that place. Ani’s talked about struggles with big labels and Jerrica had that big bout with Eric Raymond in the first story arc.
  3. Both feel a sense of responsibility to the women/girls around them. Ani crafts inspiring messages in to her lyrics, while Jerrica runs a home for foster girls.

So how do I join Ani and Jerrica and making the world better for the women in the world around me? Well, what are my skills? I write well, I think I draw/paint well and I can make a bangin’ pistachio cake.

The cake won’t help me much, but I’ve been toying with the idea of a graphic novel. This will come to a shock to the people who didn’t know I like to draw (I’m really shy about it. This is something I’ll have to get over I guess.) Or maybe I’ll take it to an illustrator. I know for sure that I want to write a story that comments on the state of girls while introducing superheroines that are feminist friendly.  Wonder Woman is great, but there’s only one of her, and even she can’t make it past NBC.

(I heard that they cancelled it over negative reaction to the costuming. Is how Wonder Woman looks really that important? The show is called Wonder Woman—I doubt audiences will have any trouble determining who the show is about).

I think posting about the novel idea on here will keep me committed (my biggest issue with writing projects is committing to them). I’ve got a story outline done, so let’s go!

I’ve stated it. I believe it can happen. So let’s create it!

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Naming Your Children 101
May 4, 2011, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Misc | Tags: , , ,

I am so glad I didn’t put money on this.

Last month, my sister and I talked about placing bets on what shabadoo names Mariah Carey would bestow upon her twins. Neither of us are hardcore Mimi fans, but we do enjoy her occasional  absolute batshit public displays of crazy bouts of quirkiness.

We were absolutely sure that her children would have names like:

Muffin
Boo
Sugar
Kitten
Cupcake
Ribbon
Honey
Glitter
Charmbracelet

Or any other names of her songs and/or albums.

But it turns out Mariah named her little boy and girl Moroccan and Monroe respectively, (which is still pretty weird, especially considering Moroccan [her child] is named after the decor of a room?) but not as nearly bad as Little Bunny and Foo-Foo. The jury is still out on Moroccan for me (I can’t get the image of minarets and bazaars out of my head—why not give the kid a name commonly used in Morocco?), but the name Monroe is growing on me for the girl twin.

This makes me think of this great VlogBros video about naming your children. I think all pregnant women should watch this at least once (this and Pregnant Women Are Smug):

Hank Green’s Rules For Naming Your Children:

1. Say your baby name out loud
Hank gives the example of Andrew Peacock and (Droopycock), but I can give an example! I’ve met a Michael Dixon-Cox.
2. Name your child what you will call your child
He gives himself as an example. He’s always been called Hank. His name is William.
3. Test your baby name with native language speakers
Poor Harry Dong
4. Don’t try to be cute
Olive Green, Hiho Silva. I know of twins named Stormy and Rainy McCloud.
5. Check the most popular baby names and avoid them
Jacob, Isabella, Aiden, Jaden, Kaden, Hayden.
6. Spell your kid’s name like a normal person
Mykul, Kayt, Jaucshuwa. Also, Roazze (pronounced Rose).
7. Name your child a name
No word names. Hank gives the example of Satchel and Pilot. I’ve met a baby named Gnarls (named after Gnarls Barkley. I guess the mother didn’t understand the band name was a pun).



An Argument for Fanfiction
April 24, 2011, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I was 12 years old, I remember reading an article about this new phenomenon called “fanfiction.” I specifically remember the article celebrating fanfiction writers, saying they were a breed of people with unmatched creativity who were able to take a  beyond a TV or movie screen or and into their own hands.

Fanfiction is  just one part of of a monstrous organized subculture called fandom (“kingdom of fans”). Trekkies are probably the best known and long lasting examples of intense fans. And while fandom is more mainstream now than in the Star Trek days, I’ve never heard a Gleek (“Glee”) or a Twihard (Twilight series) referred to as “powerful” nor are they credited with “unmatched creativity.”

There seems to be a line in fandom: If you watch all the shows/read all the books/go to the midnight showing at the movies and gush about the show/book/movie incessantly, that’s okay. But if you go to conventions, read and/or write fanfiction or wear  a certain scarf resembling a Gryffindor one, you’re taking it too far.

But why is it taking it too far? Especially when it’s the hardcore fans that marketers are targeting, not the lukewarm ones. I think the power of fandom, especially fanfiction, is severely marginalized as people severely underestimate the power of nerdery.

But the glory days of “unmatched creativity” are long gone. Now with crazy couples and Mary Sue characters and sex scenes worthy of a Vivid Entertainment movie, fanfiction has taken a turn for the…erm, awkward?

I know that a good chunk of existing fanfiction are fans writing horrid romance stories about  a couple from the series they’d like to see. Harry Potter comes to mind (Hermione/Draco, Luna/Draco, Harry/Draco). However, I think fanfiction writers are the main reason that Harry was paired with Ginny in the later books. J.K. Rowling knew what her fans wanted to see—it was all in the fanfiction.

And in the case of television, fanfiction can lead to a career. Some television writers start off freelancing, writing scripts for shows and sending them in. To write a successful script, it definitely helps to be a fan  of the show. You have to know the characters, what kind of plot would occur, things that a hardcore fan of the show would know.

Intense fandom can actually save a show (Family Guy, Jericho). It can create a new series based on a beloved favorite (Star Trek: The Next Generation). Sometimes, fandom can create a movie from a cancelled show (Serenity from Firefly). What do you think a “cult following” is? Intense fangirls and fanboys nerding out over their favorite thing.

So let’s be kind to extreme fans, especially fanfiction writers. They are shaping the future of your favorite media.



The 10 Necessities for Detroit’s Revolution
April 20, 2011, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Misc | Tags: , , ,

I’m taking a departure from words to talk about something that irks me: discussion of my hometown, Detroit (or at least, the metro area). Seemingly everyone has their own ideas of what will “bring Detroit back,” but these ideas suck since Detroit is far from being one of “America’s Comeback cities.” So here’s my list of what is best for Detroit (and yes, I think my ideas are better. Call it ego—whatever.)

1. Honesty
Detroit is fucked up. The crime rate is high, the unemployment rate is astronomically high and the city is ugly as hell. Detroit, (like every other city) has its positive points, but Detroiters shouldn’t use them to sugarcoat the really bad things. Yes, the theatres in Detroit are gorgeous, but that doesn’t excuse the blighted eyesores next to the Masonic Temple Theatre.

 2. To Face Forward
Detroit is like a pathetic, psychotic ex-girlfriend—clinging to better times and refusing to let go despite having some serious issues. It shows up in the city in all sorts of ways: from people clutching to the auto industry as a main source of employment to advertisers using tired Motown songs in their spots. Detroiters seem to have an aversion to things that aren’t familiar, which keeps the city from being modern.

 3. Youth
Think of the population of New York—how would you describe the demographic? Do the same for L.A. Now Chicago. Did young, single people come to mind? They drive the population of cities. Someone told me today that Patti Smith said that Detroit is the new place for the young, hip artist type. Clearly, Patti Smith hasn’t been to Austin, Portland, Seattle, Boston or even Atlanta lately.

 4. Hot Industry
Michigan was onto something with giving tax credits to film producers, but since the governor did away with that, Michigan (and Detroit) is left without a hot industry. For people to want to move to a location there’s got to be some glamour. No one is going to move to Detroit because they want to work for Quicken Loans (or even The Big 3). New York has fashion, LA has movies, Austin has music, Chicago has skyscrapers (Chicago doesn’t have a specific hot industry, but it sure looks like it does).  I personally think Detroit could have Art. The Detroit Institute of Arts is large and has pieces by van Gogh, Matisse, and Diego Rivera, not to mention the Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Heidelberg Project, and Banksy left his mark in Detroit.

5. Public Transportation
Subways, trams, and efficient bus lines are really indicators of a big city (name a major, happening city without them). Detroit is 0 for 3, and that’s because Detroit is clinging onto this old “Everyone-in-the-Motor-City-owns-a-car” deal.  The auto companies being based in Detroit does NOT make them cheaper. I think a lot of Detroiters would see public transport as an upgrade. (Luckily, there is a light-rail system being built in Detroit, but it runs to the northern ‘burbs. :/)

6. Food
I’m not talking about restaurants, because Detroit has plenty of great ones (Slow’s, Fishbones, Wolfgang Puck Grille, Xochi’s…the list goes on), but there are more stores of a liquor variety than the grocery one. Especially downtown, where they are creating cheap luxury apartments. Having a nice place is great, but you don’t want to have to drive further out into the city in a rough neighborhood  or 30 minutes to the suburbs to get to a grocery store. Yes, there’s the Eastern Market, but its barely accessible, with parking being so atrocious down there.

7. Whites
This isn’t going to make me popular, but the nail in the coffin for Detroit was White Flight. Whites didn’t feel safe post-race riot, so they fled to the burbs. Now black people don’t feel safe in Detroit, and they are contributing to the mass exodus. In this age, young people (who fuel major cities) want to live in places that are cosmopolitan. That means the city can’t be dark chocolate, but it can’t be vanilla either. I once saw a study that said white people won’t move to a largely black community unless there are Asians and/or Hispanics also there. For Asians and Hispanics to be there (mostly Asians), whites have to be present (as white communities are deemed “safer”) or other Asians and Hispanics have to be around. It’s a one hell of a Catch-22, but Detroit is lagging far, far behind.

8. Style
Regardless if a city is renowned as a fashion capital or not, the upwardly mobile have to spend their money somewhere. But where would they shop in Detroit? It needs the big brands: the Chanel’s, Valentino’s, and the Dolce and Gabbana’s of the world to open up in Detroit, so the wealthy can spend their income and subsequently produce the image of wealth. Other cities have upscale shopping, Detroit does not.

 9. Patience
People need to realize that even if Detroit does a major overhaul, it’s not going to happen overnight. It will cost a lot of money. It will be an investment. Companies and investors are afraid of Detroit and Detroiters. You’re not going to see a flood of faces from all over the world running to Detroit to pursue their dreams the day after the new Cobo Center or the light rail opens. These things take time.

 10. More Honesty
Lastly, Detroiters may have to realize that this revolution just may be in their heads. Detroit might actually go the way of Flint, it may die. It may never return to its pre-riot glory days as the 4th largest city in the U.S. and hotbed of opportunity. What Detroit needs is a lot of blood, sweat and tears from investors who are too afraid of a dangerous and quickly dying city. It’s good to have the hope and the fire in the belly, but if you have that as a Detroiter, make sure you are doing your part to make sure that Detroit gets back on its feet (and that means doing more than just talking about how awesome Detroit is to your non-resident friends).



BBC Book Challenge — Great Expectations

I will pretty much do anything Oprah tells me to do. I guess in my case, I’m lucky she asked me (and her other millions of viewers) to read Charles Dickens books rather than pimp my young body out for oodles of cash. But Oprah wouldn’t ask me to do the latter. Oprah loves.

Since both A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations happen to be on the BBC Book Challenge list, I figured I’d tackle one of them for my next book-to-read.

And ladies and gents, there is a reason why Charles Dickens is uber-famous.

Great Expectations is incredibly readable! Well, dur, yeah, it’s readable…it’s a book. I mean that Great Expectations is an easy read, in terms of flow and language, even by today’s English standards. For those intimidated by the looming cloud of “Dickens language” should have no fear. Take it slow at first, you’ll get used to the language really quickly to realize that “w” is pronouced like “v” and that this book has more plot twists than a Kevin Spacey movie.

So needless to say, major spoilers in the plot summary.

SUMMARY (a rather long one):

We meet six-year-old Pip. We learn that he is an orphan, he lives with his brother-in-law, Joe and his sister, Mrs. Joe. We also learn that Joe is mild-mannered and Mrs. Joe is a raging…witch. I learn that there is no way this story is told through the voice of a six-year-old, despite it being in first person.

Pip is lounging around in a cemetery, visiting his dead parents when he comes across a big, scary hulk of a man. He tells Pip to get “wittles and a file” or he’s going to sick “the young man” on him. Pip, like any child, is afraid of anything he doesn’t know so just the prospect of the “young man” is enough to get him go back home, steal some food from his mean sister and a file from his blacksmith brother in law.

Later, Pip feels guilty for stealing the food that his sister planned to serve for Christmas dinner (though he can’t stand anyone invited to dinner, with the exception of Joe). She notices the food is missing at the same time the police show up at the door, asking for help in investigating the whereabouts of some convicts. Joe, one of the dinner guests, Mr. Wopsle, and Pip (for some reason) all go out to investigate. The convict is revealed to be the hulking man who demanded the wittles and the file. He takes the blame for stealing the food from Pip’s sister and the file from Joe and his taken away.

After this, Uncle Pumblechook (another one of the dinner guests) takes Pip to Miss Havisham, the old, wealthy, town nutjob who sits in the dark in an old wedding dress and veil. Miss Havisham has an adoptive daughter, Estella, who is very pretty, but very mean. And despite Estella mocking him to no end, Pip decides that he’s in love with her.

Miss Havisham invites Joe to see her at Satis House (her mansion of sorts). Joe reveals to his wife that Miss Havisham paid him 25 pounds (which is apparently, a ton o’money back then) and she no longer needs Pip. So Pip starts to work with Joe, along with Orlick, the king of the temper tantrum.

After some time, Joe gives Pip a half-day off to see Miss Havisham, and of course, Orlick, thinking like a child, decides that it’s only fair if he gets one too. When Joe refuses, they get into a fight and Joe fires Orlick. When Pip comes home, he sees that his sister has been beaten and the audience is lead to believe that Orlick is behind it, though the police in the book don’t confirm it.

Biddy, Pip’s childhood friend, moves in with Pip, Joe and his sister, taking on the responsibility of Mrs. Joe’s nurse. Biddy has the hots for Pip, but he, after all this time, despite her never really being kind of him, is still carrying a torch for Estella. He then receives a large sum of money from an unnamed benefactor. The conditions? He has to move to London, buy new clothes, and become a gentleman.

And of course, Pip wastes the money and his sister dies.

Pip also thinks that Miss Havisham is the person behind the money and that she wants him and Estella to marry.

(Pay attention now, this is where the plot starts to twist)

  1. Turns out, Miss Havisham isn’t the benefactor. She didn’t ever want Pip to marry Estella. Estella marries a Bentley Drummle, a man that pip doesn’t even like.
  2. The benefactor is a man named Abel Magwitch, who reveals himself to be the hulking, “wittles and a file” man from the cemetery. He became rich after he escaped the clutches of the police in Australia
  3. Turns out, Abel Magwitch is Estella’s biological father.

Pip and Magwitch plan to leave the country, but before that can happen Pip is nearly beaten to death by Orlick. After that, Magwitch is arrested and dies in prison. All of his money is surrendered to the government, so Pip is left broke and in debt.

Joe kindly pays off Pip’s debts without him knowing. Once he finds out, he goes back to the village to thank Joe and propose to Biddy. Turns out, Biddy and Joe are getting married. Whoops!

So Pip leaves the country, becomes wealthy, and pays Joe back eventually! That is that!

WHY IS THIS BOOK RELEVANT?

I read somewhere (probably Oprah’s website) that Charles Dickens was the first “celebrity”. People from all over read his books and lauded him for his extraordinary talent. Charles Dickens is still kind of a celebrity to this day, his work is considered the gold standard in literature. As it should, the plot elements of Great Expectations can be easily molded in modern America (as it was in the 1998 movie with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow).

But outside of being the first celebrity, Charles Dickens ushered in writing in the first person (which is probably why I found it so easy to read, most literature these days seems to be written in the first person). Dickens also introduced the use of the plot twist long before M. Night Shyamalan.

All in all, Charles Dickens was the innovator. He made literature personal by basing his characters and plots off his life experiences and he kept readers engaged with the plot twists. Somehow, 150 years ago, Charles Dickens created the formula for the modern novel.



Why Sucker Punch Was a Pleasant Surprise

I’d just about had with Zack Snyder. I want to laud him as one of my people—one of my  graphic novel reading, SyFy channel marathoning nerds who live to be taken away to alternate universes where colors are saturated, theme music sweeps as you walk into a room, and slow-mo shots are abundant.

But time and time again, Zack lets me down. All I can remember from 300 is a woman’s freakishly long nipples and Xerxes striking a pose on his throne. Somehow, Zack managed to suck the very breath of Watchmen, cutting out the good stuff to dazzle my eyes with gorgeous cinematography. And then there was some crap about owls.

But I decided to give Zack a third chance and see Sucker Punch (mostly because I saw the soundtrack on iTunes and was really curious/intrigued. FUN FACT: The opening song, a cover of the Eurythmics Sweet Dreams, is sung by Emily Browning who plays Baby Doll in the movie). And guess what? Sucker Punch didn’t suck! Not nearly as much as 300 or Watchmen or The Legend of the Googly Owls or whatever the hell it was called.

Sucker Punch had all the elements of a Zack Snyder film: the breathtaking cinematography, stunning action sequences, a soaring soundtrack/score full of glory, and copious amounts of slow motion—but it had something the others didn’t: an original storyline that was easy to follow! Given, it wasn’t the greatest storyline (it would’ve been amazing for a game), but a clear story was present.

Zack (yes, I’m referring to him by first name) actually wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay for Sucker Punch unlike 300 or Watchmen. This may be why the story for this movie actually makes sense.

Either way, I felt like I was the only person in the theater going to a Zack Snyder film for a story (especially when there were fighting scantily clad women).

I did have a good time enjoying the graphics and saw so many visual cues that reminded me of other movies and directors, I started to think of Sucker Punch as a giant shoutout to other directors who are known for their visual cues (minor spoilers):

The Initial Dance Scene — M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender
The Map Dance — Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorius Basterds
The Fire Dance — Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings
The Knife Dance — George Lucas’ Star Wars

There were a couple of other little references: the girls’ landing poses were a little Matrix/N’SYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” And the number of girls, the font and styling on the poster, and Baby Doll’s costuming, especially at the end, was so reminiscent of Sailor Moon.

I left the theater impressed, though I’m not sure if it’s because I prepared for no story and prettiness. I will recommend it to those who inquire about it (and I will definitely recommend the soundtrack which features remakes/mixes of one of my favorite Beatles songs (!), a Queen mash-up (!!), and songs by Bjork (!!!!) and my favorite person Emiliana Torrini (!!!!!!!!). Dig it.)

All in all, go see Sucker Punch. Zack even tries to inject a good message in the end.



Lyrical Analysis — Sia, Playground

Sia Furler is one of those singers that always seems like she’s hanging out in the shadow of someone “bigger” than herself— Beyonce and Christina Aguilera have both name dropped her as an “inspiration” (and probably thanked her in the fine print in their album jackets). Sia’s song “Breathe Me” made it’s way into trailers for weepy movies after it made every viewer of the Six Feet Under series finale (me included) bawl their eyes out back in 2005. I like Sia most for her collaborations with Zero 7: “Destiny” a.k.a. that song Lacoste used to play on their website and “Somersault” a.k.a. the only love song that doesn’t make me sick.

So it’s clear that a lot of people in the music industry want a piece of Sia. Why you may ask? She’s a got a tiny, but powerful voice (think Aretha Franklin meets Nelly Furtado; listen her tear into Zero 7’s Distractions here. Aretha-Nelly kicks in around 3:25), but her skill as a songwriter (especially lyrically) stands out as ever so crafty and bubbling with cleverness. For example, her song “Playground” from the album, Some People Have Real Problems:

Those distracted by the catchy-cool lyrics of the song may not notice that this song is more of a poem, mocking the concept of “cougars” or old ladies chasing young guys. The chorus goes:

I don’t want to grow old
Bring me all the toys you can find
You don’t want to grow up
You can be my partner in crime

At first blush, this could sound like a woman trying to keep a love innocent, but when put with lyrics like:

I’ll be sure to write you from the war
Put your guns away it’s tea time
Water bombs and tea towel tired moms
Looking for a little me time

and

Let’s play chase
Let’s put make up on our face
You can catch me if you can
We can make a secret place

the chorus suggests that this could be sung from a point of an older lady trying to seduce someone much younger. She mentions “the war” and “tea towel tired moms looking for a little me time”; the war could mean the difficult love lives of older women, who are often “tired moms”. The playing chase and putting make up on your face—that’s pretty self-explanitory. Women cake themselves in makeup to be more attractive, or chased, especially as they get older.

Add all of this on to the fact that they album is called “Some People Have Real Problems” versus “Kiddie Love Stories”, I personally think Sia Furler is mocking the cougar lifestyle.

I could be reading way too far into it, but I do think that Sia is a clever enough songwriter to put a sassy, fun song with a interesting veiled meaning to it. She reminds me a lot of P!nk in her early days, the girl with catchy songs and take-no-shit type vocals. Take a listen to Playground, and see what you think for yourself: