The Girl in Black

Se necesita una poca de gracia.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Warning: Silly, girly rant to blow off some steam

So everybody who knows me knows that I ♥ Lush. A lot. So much that I was willing to drive to the Orlando International Airport (that's MCO for those who aren't in the know) to shop in the only Lush store in Orlando (as shipping from Canada is a bitch). It wasn't so much trouble really. It's about 10-15 minutes away from work, so I'm already out there every weekday. Plus there's the added benefit of inside knowledge about "Terminal Top Parking" which makes it a lot easier to get into the terminal than than regular parking garage parking. Sure airport parking costs a buck or two when you're in there over 30 minutes. *shrugs* Big deal. I'm already spending money, what's a buck or two more?

But then, Lush got smart.

They opened another store (finally!) in one of the malls in Orlando. Unfortunately, the mall they chose (or got stuck with, I'm not sure) is the Florida Mall. Have you ever been in the Florida Mall? It's dark, claustrophobic, sprawling, hermetically designed to keep you lost and wandering, and is full of tourists and people who apparently have nothing better to do with their lives than dress in what passes for urban fashion these days and be seen at this mall.

This mall has a hotel in it. A hotel.

What, is that your "Orlando Vacation?" Rather than be encouraged to spend money on trinkets and souvenirs at the theme parks, you'd prefer to be barraged by the crass consumerism marketing techniques of all kinds of retailers from high-falootin' department stores down to the cheesiest of kiosks? Well, I don't suppose I'd blame you. Theme parks overcharge you on the pretense of giving you "happiness" rather than a tangible product. At least in shopping malls you know that all they really want is your money, and they're not going to pretend otherwise.

But then again, if you're staying in the Florida Mall hotel, you're probably spending money at the theme parks anyway, and are expecting a lot of shopping to be done over your vacation no matter what. A hotel in a mall. It just doesn't make sense...

But I digress.

Anyway, after the "claim my new glasses on Black Friday" fiasco last year (the parking lot is perfectly laid out to ensure the same driving experience one gets when departing a concert or sports event in a motor vehicle - I have been to other malls on Black Friday and I have seen much better) I had sworn off of this mall for the most part. I deigned to only visit Nordstroms, as I don't care about the other department stores and can go in and out without having to set foot on the rest of the premises. (Although I did come to the important realization that Nordstroms doesn't sell a damn thing I want to buy.)

A guy friend of mine knew of this chink in my anti-Florida-Mall armor when he told me about the Lush store that had recently opened there. "It's by Nordstroms," he said. "And it's in the nice part of the mall. It's not that hard to get to." I was wary at first, but on the day I needed to go I was tired and wanted to get home faster. By prevailing logic, the Florida Mall is actually fairly directly on my way home, as opposed to 10-15 minutes out of my way. So I said "what the hell" and decided to give it a shot.

He lied.

He lied deliberately and maliciously to get me to wander around the mall. And I'll even go so far as to suspect that he knew I'd be walking by the Ann Taylor Loft right when they had a huge "sale" sign in the window. He made me buy those clothes that I absolutely adore. I know he did.

But all in all it wasn't the worst experience in the world. Once I figured out which department store Lush is actually close to I thought that perhaps getting in and out would be much easier. Until today when I went back. I had my game plan. I was focused on my mission. No Ann Taylor Loft would distract me today. In, to Lush, and out. It would be a piece of cake. And in a sense, you could say that. But from the department store I entered all the way through the corridors with the claustrophibically close ceilings and the pathways crammed to the gills with tacky, gaudy, ritzy stores and kiosks which caused the drooling hordes to stop and slow down wherever I wanted to get to until I finally reached my destination, my only thought was "God I hate shopping malls." But then I thought of other places that I do like to go to on occasion and I realized: I don't hate malls. I hate this mall. It represents everything that I feel is wrong with capitalism today, and has facilitated some of the most abysmal shopping experiences I have ever had (sometimes just by the effect on my psyche alone) and drains my spirit of the will to live.

By contrast, the Lush store in the mall is laid out a little nicer than the Lush store in the airport. It's a little brighter and less cluttered. It doesn't matter so much to me though, the aesthetics of both stores work just fine, and the products are so cool that I don't really care. And you know what? After the soul-dirtying experience of having to wade through a sea of psychic sewage of information overload and too many people, and having to fend off inescapeable, overly large and brightly lit attacks to my eyes of "BUY NOW," I think I'd rather take the extra 10-15 minutes, pay the 1-2 bucks in parking, and have a much quieter and more pleasant experience in the airport.

A quiet and pleasant shopping experience in an airport? I think that says a lot.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Feeling sad and powerless

Alito confirmaiton seems all but assured.

There was talk of a filibuster. They said that they could. But They're not going to.

He wants an up or down vote, because He knows He will win. He doesn't care.

Does anyone?

The people who are supposed to represent Me are failing Me. If They had teeth and balls They would put up a fight. They would at least try. They aren't.

We created systems to keep any one person from becoming an emporer. We were supposed to be fair and balanced. No one is to be above the law.

But He doesn't care. He wants to play Jesus and Cowboys. And so He will.

I am but one, and small in large matters. I set My charge upon Them to protect Me, My rights, My freedom. That is My power, the power to ask of Them to do good for Me. And with a smile and a lie He and His people moved in, telling Us They care from one side of Their mouths, and damning Us with the other.

What does "Pro-Life" mean save that a child must be born whether a mother can give it a good life or not?

What are checks and balances of power in government if not a farce to keep Us quiet?

What is "fair" and what is "balanced" save empty rhetoric on a one sided ruse of objectivity?

And who will stand up for Me now? If You will not go to battle for Me, than who will You go to battle for? If You will not stand by the principles You say You have, what principles will You stand by?

I am but one, and My voice feels so silent.

Do You feel as powerless as I?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yay! I learned stuff about Canada today!

Okay, yeah, so I got caught up in someone else's election hijinx, but this is really funny.

Note: All links in this post will open in a new window unless you're using Firefox and select the "open in a new browser" option when you right click.

I heard this on All Things Considered today. Go here, scroll down a little, and on the left look for the link that says "liberal attack ad about Harper and military presence." Watch it. Doesn't it make your skin crawl? Attack ads suck.

Okay, now go here, and watch Rick Mercer's parody of the Liberal attack ad about Harper and military presence (courtesy of cbc.ca, who is nice enough to put up clips from the Rick Mercer Report).

Now that is funny. At least, to me it is. It made me laugh more than anything else today, and that's what counts.

And to be fair, Mercer did a parody for the Conservative Party too. At least, that's all that I found in my little bit of Googling. Well, that and The Subliminal Party, who have a very well written note about how voter apathy and television has shaped politics (and then you can watch some more parody ads. They're all over the net). Yeah, they're talking about Canada, but in relation to America I couldn't have said it better myself. Guys, you go with your bad selves!


What I learned today:

Canada's House of Commons is cool. There are 308 seats that can get split up between four parties:

The Liberal Party - They've been in charge for the past 13 years, and are more slightly-to-the-left of moderate than what I think we would classify as "liberal" in the States. (And no, the Democratic party doesn't really count as "liberal" like the right-wing propoganda machine wants you to think.)

The Conservative Party - The guys jockeying for power right now. An American living in Canada told me that they're more moderate than the "conservatives" that we have down here. Apparently in a recent poll about 90% of them would have voted for Kerry?

The New Democratic Party - Socialists. Dirty, pinko socialists.*

Bloc Québécois - Quebec. You know, the province in Canada that speaks French and wants to be its own country? Yeah, apparently this is the party of Quebec, by Quebec, and for Quebec. People running for the entire country's Parliament campaign and get votes only in Quebec, a party that exists only in Quebec, and yet it gets 75 seats out of the 308 in Parliament. Sure, they're left-wing like the NDP. They're labor-friendly and all that stuff. But their main focus? Sovereignty for Quebec. So, um, why do they want to participate in the government of a country they don't want to be a part of?

The neat thing about all of this is that since your party needs 155 seats to make up a majority, which can be tricky, you wind up with "Minority Governments." Rick Mercer explained it best today when he said "Okay, so imagine if George W. Bush is president and can do whatever he wants...so long as Ralph Nader agrees."

Some people argue that in a multi-party political system (where more than two parties have actual power in the government) nothing would ever get done because the government would be constantly overthrown by votes of no confidence and the like.

Um, what did I just say about the Liberal party being in power for 13 years?

I would have to say that in Canada, things have gotten done. Am I wrong? I mean, you know, there's a country up there that seems to be doing pretty well for itself. They make policies, they meet with other foreign officials in a "hey, our countries should be buddies" sense instead of an "oh god, please help us" sense. They've got plenty of laws and policies. And they've only been on the continent as long as we have. I wish we had more than two dominant political parties too.

I know I'm glossing over a lot here, so if anyone has a dissenting opinion or wants to point out anything I've missed by all means have at it. I'm just a person who uses Google and Wikipedia to do backup research on the fly while writing posts. In the immortal words of Radiohead, "I might be wrong."

* PS- I mean no disrespect to socialists of any stripe. I believe I have some socialist leanings myself, and would definitely place myself left of the middle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I...I'm writing comic strips again?

Don't get your hopes up, but I got a jolt of inspiration last night, and realized that my life really is funny enough to make comic strips out of. This was fueled by looking at my old strips and going "You know what? I was pretty good after all." (Curious? They're over here.) And a random writer/stranger making the effort to contact me didn't help 'neither. (Which reminds me, I need to write him back...)

And now, instead of having an amusing boyfriend, I have a whole group of amusing friends to write about. I may even branch out to four panels instead of three... Woah. I'm gettin' kinda crazy here. Maybe I should settle down. *grins* I still wish other people thought that they were as funny as I do. That whole "Cathy" comment from a few years back still bugs me. And it's very frustrating to get "they're so cute" comments more than anything. Grr.

I also got myself a sketchbook like I used to have years ago. It feels good. I've even done some drawings in it! I didn't realize how much I missed it, and I have the Batgirl Meme to thank for all of it.

Thank you, Batgirl Meme, for giving me the inspiration to draw again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Is there anybody out there to tell me what went wrong?

So I've been listening to the news on NPR a lot lately. I even finally became a public radio supporter during the last drive. I saved public radio! Yes!

I've always preferred the NPR news shows to any other format. I found it refreshing to not be constantly bombarded by television's talking heads and advertisements. I rarely find reading the paper to be interesting. And I've always felt that most of the media has some sort of agenda. But more often than not I've found that NPR is just good background noise. It's better "company" than television, and occasionally I can pay attention and learn something about what's going on.

The "background noise" concept has bugged me on and off, though. It's important stuff they're telling me (usually), and I just let it float through my head half the time. Why didn't I get as drawn in as I had with television?

This morning it hit me. Public Radio isn't telling me what to think. There aren't any adjectives describing how "horrible" or "wonderful" something is. Judgement and opinion are reserved for editorials and interviews. The anchors let the stories and the guests do the talking. They do run little music clips in between stories that sometimes reflect the mood of the piece, but unless it's a particularly and obviously sad story the clips tend to be more amusing to me than anything else. Their listeners respond with their opinions on the news coverage, and these opinions get voiced on the air! NPR wants me to decide what I think about what's going on!

Only, I've been so used to the usual flash and trash of the television news media that I don't know what to think about anything anymore.

Did I ever? Does anyone anymore? How many people really make up their own minds? Most of us succumb to suggestion. Just look at how many people honestly believe that Fox News is "fair and balanced" simply because they tell us so. Look at how any television news anchor throws in opinions and descriptions for the sake of having a personality on the air. It has the same effect as canned laughter in bad sitcoms.

I don't think we don't know anything anymore unless someone tells us what to know, and this is a travesty of human accomplishment. It's the blind leading the blind for the sake of a little more entertainment and excitement to compete with all of the rest of the razzle dazzle media out there. It's become a mental prison of our own making, and I'm making a break for it.

And just to make it clear, "liberals" aren't the only ones getting their news from NPR either. Two of my respected family members are Republicans, and they listen avidly to not just the news, but a lot of the other shows as well. They donate money too, more than I have. I don't think it's just the "liberals" listening, I think it's really the "smart people" listening. The people tired of all the rest of the crap out there, the ones tired of being beaten over the head. So you know what? I'm going to sit back with my french press coffee (because we don't all drink lattes you know), and I'm going to listen to my public radio, and I'm going to start thinking for myself again.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Batgirl heard 'round the world!

I dunno if you heard, but everybody's been drawing Batgirl! :-D

I already did it and stuff, but I'm gonna share it here too, 'cause I'm proud of it and this has been a fun thing to be a part of. So there! *grins*

It's Batgirl! Yay!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Unsolveable Philosophical Quandires

I was talking with a friend of mine last night about gaming. He was telling me of a myriad of political systems (or somesuch) that could be involved in their setting, and how their characters would relate to them all. Ultimately, it got so complicated that they said "Screw it, we'll make our own damn political system."

To which I replied "Sometimes the most complicated things are ultimately simple."

He paused for a minute, and then said "That's a very Buddhist thought."

Amused by this, I then painted a visual picture for him that I have had in my mind's eye for many, many years (as I am wont to do with people on occasion).

"Take a dot," I said. "Put a few more next to it, and then add more. It doesn't matter, maybe horizontally, maybe vertically, maybe diagonally." My eyes lit up, my expressions went manic and wild. "But keep adding dot after dot after dot and suddenly you don't have dots anymore, but you have a line. And then you take that line..."

I finished it there, but it's how I see things a lot of the time. Infinite complexities leading to infinite simplicities leading to infinite complexities again and so on. And when I apply it to human existance, things get very complicated indeed.

The talk of "feminism" yesterday and my apparently Buddhist thought patterns have conicided in my thoughts again, and I am reminded of the difficulties of reforming society. We as "women" want to be seen as "just people," you see. And if I expand that thought further, to encompass all other cultures and demographics, when it comes down to it we're all "just people." We have a lot in common, and we all want to be treated with respect (however we tend to define it).

To me respect means nothing short of being seen as an equal, and being given no special or restrictive social treatment on the mere basis of gender, skin color, immediate cultural/class background, etc. Now, granted, respect must be maintained. If an individual wants to take out a loan on a house, for instance, and they have an absolutely horrid credit record of their own making, they should be treated as someone who could be termed a "deadbeat bum." And conversely, if an individual has been a loyal and stellar customer with a meticulously spotless credit rating, they should be given the best terms on a loan possible.

But everyone should be given a fair chance at the start.

However, the problem with everyone being "just people" is that we have the potential to lose certain important parts of our identities. Diversity is the spice of life, and such a wonderful thing to have. And certain "just people" have grouped together over time to form little divisions of identity separate from the whole of all the other "just people" people. I have mentioned before, I think, how poignantly this hit home when I began to learn more about Jewish culture from my ex boyfriend. I was completely flabbergasted at how there was an entirely different culture and way of life living conicidally with my own, and that the general way I was raised (with a somewhat Christian backing) was very much not the way that this other culture existing comfortably in our society raised their children. I felt terrible that I had never truly understood what it is to be Jewish until then. At times it's a very special thing.

And how could I expect anyone to give up the culture that they have been born with, that has shaped them in some way whether they went with it or against? Or the societal subculture that they identify with? More than that, there are certain inherent differences in gender that I fully believe are naturally occuring (only unfortunately exploited and exacerbated by societal conditioning). There are things that make me different from men both physically and psychologically that I want to be recognized, not ignored.

If we take away the larger structures that we identify with, then who exactly are we?

But back to the infinite complexities again, each culture is made up of lots and lots of "dots." And each overlaps with gender, causing so many other complex patterns of dots. And sometimes these larger cultures and genders want to define other entire categories of people as inferior. Women are placed on pedestals. "Minority" cultures in every country have to deal with debilitating prejudices against them. Misunderstood subcultures are sneered at by the mainstream, and vice-versa. Why can't we just forget about all of that and be people?

But some people don't want us all to be "just people." When women fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980's, those who were against it started making statements of "Oh, women won't get any separate treatment at all! You'll have to share bathrooms with men and everything!" And like most of us raised in American society, we recoiled at the thought. Surely, because of the differences of our genders we should have "separate but equal" bathrooms!

But now I look at it, and I find that I think that because of how this culture brought me up. "Men and women are different. We should not have to deal with each other's basic bodily drainings/excretings, because that involves 'private parts,' and 'private parts' are bad." Why did we have to think this in the first place? What's so wrong about men and women pissing and shitting in the same public restroom? And yet, because it's been twenty six years that I've held this conditioning, I am loathe to change it midstream. (This also brings into question many, many notions and definitions of "privacy," which I won't get into here.)

If I am not a "woman," what am I?

If I am not a "single woman living in a one bedroom apartment with two cats," what am I?

If I am not an "artist," what am I?

If I am not a "Marketing and Media Coordinator," what am I?

If I am not an "American," what am I?

If I am not "mainly from Florida," what am I?

If I am not "forced to live in Orlando," what am I?

If I am not a "regular patron at a certain local coffee shop," what am I?

But if I am not a "person given the same equal treatment and basic opportunities that every other human being on the planet deserves," what am I then?

Where does it stop? Where does it begin? What point on the moebius strip did I come in on? At what point to I get off? And does it just keep going on and on like that? All that exists has always existed. All that is born has always been there and has always ceased to be. And yet we have taught ourselves to see time as linear, that our actions have purpose and are means to an end. The segments we see are framed with "start" and "finish." But in reality we're all just the same amalgum of energy, forever moving and still, doing what it does constantly, no linear purpose in sight, simply there.

And with a philosophical view of existance like that, it's really hard to get anything done at work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Feminism" yet again...

I put that word in quotes because all at the same time I find it both limiting and empowering. But anyway...

Thanks to Scott McCloud's LJ feed I read about a recent sexual harassment issue in the comics industry. He chose to link to a thoughtful summation of the discussions that followed, rather than any news itself, and I find that somewhat interesting.

Heidi MacDonald links to many takes on women in comics, and women's portrayal in comics, and the outrage and disillusionment therein. She makes comments on it, but then she takes it to a much larger scale and makes the valid point that it's not just an industry specific problem, but an underlying societal problem.

Still, I wonder how productive it is to disperse a group's focused outrage and spread it out over the whole of modern culture?

The problem is indeed overwhelming, and it's gone underground.

"I've been reading a lot lately about the 'failures' of feminism. A New York Times article on women who got a top-notch education just so they could to be homemakers raised many questions, including this long round-up that suggests that in some ways, women are going backwards. Maureen Dowd actually has a point, I fear."

The "long round-up" is a link to a column by Linda Hirshman about how many well-educated women are making a choice to be a mother rather than a professional. It touches on a lot of things that I look at and shudder in my own life, and ultimately feel bad for. All the girls I know who are around my age who are married and/or have children. Something about them, what they chose...it bothers me. Something about any woman my age who has a child bothers me. "I'm too young to have children!" I think to myself. And yet, my "childbearing years" are getting into full swing.

But MacDonald's linking is a blessing and a curse to me. On the one hand, Hirshman's column is important. It has outlined in sharper detail some of the things that have been bothering me about being a woman lately. But it also distracts me from thinking about the apparent lack of respect for women in comics.

But even that apparent lack is something I've not witnessed firsthand. The closest I have come is reading a book by Dave Sim that rants and rails against women and portrays them as evil things who eat the brains of men. It disgusted me, filled me with rage, made me question the motives of my male friends who enjoyed Sim's work after having read the book in question. But I never met the man in person.

I could use the example of my college professors' advice when I mentioned that I wanted to put together an anthology of female sequential work. They suggested that asserting myself and others as "women in comics" made us just that, "women in comics" not cartoonists devoid of any special treatment due to gender. In a way it made sense. I didn't want to be a "woman cartoonist" I wanted to be a "cartoonist that is a woman." And despite my current lack of productivity, that's still how I see it. I don't want to be a "woman doing something" I want to be a "person doing something."

But thinking on it, their argument diluted mine. I gave up on asserting myself through my gender, and that is a very fine line to walk. If I assert my "minority" status too much I risk being a zealot. But if I don't stand up for what's right, I risk losing all respect from my peers.
The internal argument became too much for me, and I got down off of that specific soapbox.

And now I must ask again, by taking a specific problem and widening it to encompass more than the initial focus, will these injustices get the attention they deserve? Or is this a holistic problem that must be attacked from all angles?

The war for my individuality is still being waged from without and within...
 
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