Thursday, December 15, 2016

Die Hard and its Questionable Mainstream Status

If there's anything women don't have patience for, it's men condescending along gender lines. This winter, there's been a lot of specific feedback about men claiming that Die Hard is their favorite Christmas movie--Dana Schwartz has an excellent article here where she mocks a character performing this role.


Exhibit A: What people remember about Die Hard.


While I appreciate the immortal frustration of having to deal with condescending men, these articles also make me feel hot and itchy with rage. Not just because Die Hard is my favorite movie, but because this issue cuts at the heart of one of my least favorite things--Die Hard's misinterpretation as a Reaganesque police power fantasy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Creating Positivity in a Split World.

On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I fell asleep sometime after 1:30, which was the point where Josh and I turned the TV over to Futurama and decided to just find out in the morning. When Josh was woken up at 7:15, my eyes crept open just enough to see him go to the CNN page on his phone and read the headline: PRESIDENT TRUMP.

And how that headline made me and so many others feel is...categorically awful. For me and many other young-ish liberals, it has felt like we have been at the spearhead of a great wave of change. So many rights have been granted, protections given. We saw the truly astounding day where the Supreme Court granted marriage rights to all couples across this nation. To find out that, out of the people that voted, a full half of them either fully support a violent bigot or thought he was a better option than our first woman president (or a third party!), is devastating. We thought we were slowly but surely changing the majority, either by changing their minds or by slowly but surely overpowering the voice of those who would break us down. We stand on the precipice of a presidency with a man who has said many vile things, and our leaders have had to stand before us, smile, and tell us to give him a chance.

I have seen people on Twitter say that they understand what depression must feel like, every day, and I understand perfectly because I myself feel like I was transported back to late 2013, when I was in an abusive relationship, a shitty job, and wanted to die. It doesn't help that my birthday was Monday. I don't want to die anymore, but it's hard to do my job, right now. As a library employee, I consider it my almost-sacred duty to help everyone who walks through our doors as much as I can, but looking directly in the eyes of a smiling, triumphant Trump supporter made me realize the cost of my neutrality at work. I know people of color and LGBT people who can't hide their LGBT-ness must have felt this many times, but I have never before looked into someone's eyes with proof that they wish me harm, and had to smile, nod, and do what they say.

The summary of this is that it is very, very hard right now, and I have been looking for some light. So I indulged my indulgent side, and went to Facebook Live.

In case you're reading this in some internet archive in 2047, or you're not that into Facebook, Facebook Live is a function of Facebook where a user can stream whatever they're doing live, and the people on their friends list can watch and comment in real time. It's a really good way to engage with everyone on your feed. I've never used it before because, frankly, I hate being recorded. I never know what to do with my face and my voice sounds 1000% more scratchy and high than it sounds to me. But I turned the camera to something else--my LEGOs.

LEGO Dimensions is a video game where you can put RFID-enabled LEGO figures on a pad, and they will magically appear in your video game. The toys-to-life gaming genre is gaining steam, and I'm a LEGO fan, so I got into it. I love how LEGO Dimensions reflects the real-life flexibility that makes LEGO so special; each figure is a real LEGO piece, that can be taken off its base and treated as such, and the game is interactive, making you reconfigure and reconstruct things as you go along, as well as shuffling things around on your game pad to use special abilities or avoid attacks. It gives me that feeling of play that I had as a kid, of creating and using my imagination. Plus, it lets me have Chell from Portal and Harry Potter run around Middle Earth; that's a selling point right there.

So I went on Facebook Live and talked about my LEGOs. I think I talked for...about ten minutes? Like I said, I don't like my voice on recordings, so I haven't gone back and watched it myself. I showed off my figures, talked about the details I love about them, which ones I've gotten recently, which ones I plan to get soon (a new wave comes out November 18th! Excite!). It was blatantly nerdy and self-serving, which usually makes me feel worse about myself, but it was just so nice to talk about something that gives me joy, to create joy in myself by choosing to think about something positive.

A friend of mine even responded in kind. Malcolm, who also writes  (see here for some really excellent stuff), made a Facebook Live of his Disney Infinity collection, talking about why he likes his figures, which ones are his favorites, etc. He mentioned in the video that I had inspired him, and that felt really good, honestly. The idea that my positivity reached someone outside myself--that matters.

Positivity is elusive, right now. For those of us invested in the rights of LGBT people, in people of color, in immigrants, in women's bodies, there's going to be a long, hard haul to prevent rights from being taken away. People keep comparing Trump's election to that of Hitler--saying that his campaign of fear will turn into a totalitarian administration that will devastate minorities. If that is so, it is our obligation to resist this insistently, to speak out intelligently on every issue, to support organizations who have greater power to hold the line. But I am increasingly realizing we also have an obligation to positivity, for ourselves and others. I don't think we can last long in our resistance if we subsist on our own anger and fear; an administration may subsist that way, but a resistance requires that we choose every day to join it, and we will find our breaking points if we go too long without the nourishment of hope and joy. We must live happy lives, and with our activism demand the happinesses that we and others are denied. We must remember that the world has good if we want to bring that good to the fore.

I'm going to keep reaching for positivity, as well as change. I hope we can reach it together.

Come talk to me on Twitter @yipp33kiyay.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Videodrome: Disney Fanvid Madness

Videodrome is a series of blog posts I'm considering making wherein I talk about various videos of every stripe, because fuck it, I have the ability and it's not like I'm here to make money, folks.


"More than a memory | (non)Disney Valentine's MEP" is a fanvid (fan video) that crosses all over the animated children's film universe, pairing characters in what seems to be essentially random groupings. The creator, AiraSora, puts a lot of work into even having these characters appear in the same shot, much less to construct a narrative of romance between each pairing. This video is fast-paced, apparently throwing a shitton of pairings at  us in celebration of Valentine's Day, so your mileage may vary on whether you find any of these pairings romantic or whether you can remember any of them. I'll admit to being charmed by the Nani/Prince Charming pairing; when I watch these sorts of videos, I base the merit of the pairing on the merit of the plot the vid creator has constructed, and the story of a white prince falling in love with Nani when she's halfway through a dog door is delightful.

I think this video serves as a good, albeit over exaggerated, example of what fanvids are made for. A fanvid is made, generally, to either express appreciation for a franchise or to create a fake, generally romantic scenario. A large and growing aspect of fandom is the act of shipping, where a fan finds a cute couple (or threesome or foursome, etc.), obsesses over them, and produces fan works about the couple. This couple does not need to have a single basis in reality, and that's what often makes fanvids interesting. Because fanvids take footage from the franchise they're a fan of and remix it to create a new work, the video maker cannot decide that the characters work in a coffeeshop or are stuck in a hot tub, because the footage doesn't exist. They have to work with the footage they have to create a narrative it wasn't intended to create, and it's brilliant the way vid creators go about doing this.


I'll be frank with you: I cut and run from this one once a woman romantically kissed a child. That's gross, man, don't do that.

There's a dedicated community of video makers on Youtube dedicated to this particular subgenre of cut-and-pasting animated characters into new stories. It's more advanced in some way than normal fanvid making; the ways they succeed as well as fail in making characters look like they exist in the same universe is something really outside of what's normal for the average fanvid. In a Supernatural fanvid, Dean and Castiel's thousand-yard stares will be reinterpreted to be in the other's general vicinity; in these videos, characters are manipulated into kissing, and often. In the above video, several characters are also animals and have magic powers. It takes a few watches before you can make the leaps of logic along with the video maker, but the fact that the leap can be made is a testament to how well these video makers understand narrative.

These videos might not be enjoyable or especially watchable to people outside of this particular video making community, but I am obsessed with watching them, to see what they choose to portray, what movies they take apart and sew them back together. They use a shitton of cheesy iMovie filters to cover the lighting differences across films, to change hair colors, to create overdramatic moods. They use flashing, pulsing crossfades more than any human should be allowed. Every character becomes everything, from an innocent virgin to a rapist, and they live in half-worlds between properties that don't feel like real places, only amateur backdrops to the drama unfolding between creations that were never meant to touch. Video makers have only the videos that have already been made in reality to work with, and in this particular community, they prove that it's no barrier to their imagination. Anything is possible in their worlds, and frequently, there's already a video about it.

Talk to the author on Twitter @yipp33kiyay.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Demons in the Internet: my article for The Mary Sue

I wrote an article for The Mary Sue about an episode of Buffy. It lives here. Warnings for me talking frankly about the Ex of Doom.

I don't want to repost it, honestly because I want to give my original post web traffic and justify the shiny $20 they paid me for writing it, but I'll talk about it a little here.

Writing this was easy; having it out in the world was hard. I had a panic attack the day it went up, actually. The Ex would find it, he would find me. He would try to talk to me. It's horrible enough that LinkedIn keeps trying to tell me that I should friend him; the idea that he might have any inclination to turn my way fills me with a cold, sweating dread. I don't want it in the same way I don't want to be stung to death by bees.

I'm lucky to currently have a kind, warm boy who understands all of this, and understands me. But it's still hard, to be so afraid. It used to be that I thought about the Ex every day, that my thoughts would be a constant undercurrent of anger and heartbreak. These days, I can go days without thinking about him, but he creeps in in unexpected ways. I get a song he wrote stuck in my head. I remember a thing he does. My good, sweet boy innocuously asks why I have a random string of numbers in my e-mail address (it's my birth year and the Ex's birth year, a thing he insisted on). It's weird how I can delete all the pictures of him from my collection, and move on, mostly, and he can still linger in my life. I wish this wasn't how it was, but I think I'm dealing with it pretty well, considering.

Overall, I'm not the girl who was with him, anymore. That's what's worth remembering.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I Might Have A Chronic Illness And I Feel Fine [Updated]

I've been tired recently.

Actually, I'm always tired, and have been for as long as I can remember. I need at least 10 hours of sleep, I say, in order to function properly. I never wake up well, and go to sleep and stay asleep like the dead. Whenever anyone asks me how I'm feeling and they're talking to me before noon, I smile a little and say, "tired." It's been a part of my life since I stopped taking Adderall and Concerta (AKA barely legal amphetamines) for my ADD.

I listen to a podcast called Interrobang, which is an excellent podcast where two people talk honestly about what's making them frustrated. It's more therapeutic than you'd think. Anyway, last week I listened to their episode "From Being Super Tired to Successful Communication."  One host, Travis, is having a baby any day now, and he was talking about the idea of "overtired," which is when a baby is tired, but doesn't have the mental capacity to understand that they can solve their problem by going to sleep. They then become so tired they're uncomfortable, and then they can't sleep, which causes the baby to melt down because they're miserable and nothing is fixing it, and the parent has to step in and try to force the baby to be comfortable and thus asleep. The other host, Tybee, replied, "I feel like that sometimes, too, with my thyroid issues," and talked about becoming so tired she became extremely emotional.

I felt like I needed to pull my car over to the side of the road. Holy fucking shit, they were talking about me.

It felt like my past had reorganized itself in front of my eyes. I'm not crying in the Publix on a regular basis just because I'm a wimp. I don't feel terrible all the damn time because I drink Diet Coke or I don't exercise enough. Well, maybe I do feel terrible because of all those things, but here it is, this concept that this could be something that was not simply how I was, but something going wrong. And I don't have to keep living like this.

The doctor says it's probably either a thyroid issue or pregnancy. Pregnancy is unlikely, since I just had my period, and also this has been going on for at least a year and I don't think I'm magic like that. I'm worried in a very dark part of my mind that it's thyroid cancer; my very best friend has had thyroid cancer and I think the universe would love that horrible irony. More likely, though, is that my thyroid is probably just broken in some way. That makes ironic sense, too, since I've had a lot of people assume or discover that I am broken, over the years.

Unlike when I was twelve, when the ADD diagnosis made me feel like a freak for not being able to fix myself, for being broken, I'm glad for the idea that I might be broken. I don't have to keep trying to fix myself on my own.

UPDATE [Nov 2, 2016]: I have a vitamin D deficiency. I feel gypped.

Talk to the author on Twitter @yipp33kiyay.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Banned Books Week, Library Censorship, and Common Sense

So, I work at a public library. I'm not a librarian; you get that title only upon completing your Master's, although most library employees will reply to "librarian" just to save time. I work full-time creating programming for teenagers, in a big, decently well-funded, flourishing library system, and for this I'm extremely fortunate. I see my job as an extension of an institution that does some of the greatest good there is to do in communities.

Not everyone agrees.

This week we've gotten on the national news for choosing not to buy the graphic novel version of a book that has previously been released, and acquired by us, in a variety of other formats. The reason this made national news is because the book is critical of the Democratic presidential candidate. In an example of truly bad timing/incredible irony, Banned Books Week starts September 25th. This is exactly the kind of press you don't want, as a library.

Now, all of this could come back to bite me in my professional ass, so let me preface: I'm offering my own, private opinions here. I don't think my opinions have any place in my workspace, which I do my best to make a welcoming place for everyone. My library is not responsible for my dumb thoughts.

Besides, I don't want to really talk about politics or right or wrong. Saying that we have been slandered might be a bit much; to say that we have been misrepresented by all the news outlets that have repeated the story seems to be true. Choosing not to buy a book can come down to any number of reasons, from "I don't think it'll circulate well" to practical reasons like money and what exactly we can get from our suppliers. We have, like many larger library systems, a complex policy system in place regarding what books we can acquire, from where, and what can be done with donated books. We have a lot of good responses to a lot of people who have a lot of beliefs about what we do that are being fueled by the kind of close-but-not-quite purposefully inflammatory statements that make my skin itch.

The beliefs about libraries is, really, the part that gets me. I think the most common consensus among the comments I read on these articles is that librarians are all old, liberal lesbians; the next most common was that there's always a homeless man pooping in the corner. I was genuinely surprised by that one. A homeless man, pooping in the corner? Always? It's true we have a lot of homeless people in libraries, but it's for the same reason that you run at the gym instead of around your neighborhood--why do what you do if you can do it someplace with central A/C and wifi?

You can imagine how the other common threads went. We are controlled by liberals who want to destroy everything. "The brown shirts are out," "soon they'll be burning books," etc. Of course we don't burn books; we throw them in the dumpster. More people should throw away books, actually. I've contracted at least three serious illnesses from mildewed, blood-stained, fluid-covered books that people just won't throw away, because the spectre of Fahrenheit 451 flickers in their brain. Most information is immortal these days; you can't take anything away by occasionally putting a book out of its misery.

(I'm genuinely not kidding about the diseases. If you leave a library book out in the rain or your cat pees on it, please, for the love of everything. Write down the title, throw away the book, and tell the library you need to pay for it. Our immune systems will thank you.)

I think it's easy to tell from my dyed hair and public profession and bisexuality that I'm a liberal. I admit openly that I don't know anything about financial issues and generally vote on social issues and keep my mouth shut about things I don't know about. And I generally don't go where conservatism lives. It's just not a place where I would feel comfortable, and I know many conservatives wouldn't much like me. But reading those comments was like stepping into a shadowy other-world, not only a world deeply ill-informed about libraries, but also a mirror reflection of the one I'm used to. It seems like everyone is concerned about the wrong people controlling us and screwing us over; we just disagree on who those people are.

So while my knee-jerk reaction was to align with my liberal self, as a library employee, here's what I want to say:

Please come. We would love to have you. We would love to circulate as many anti-Hillary and pro-Hillary and Hillary Duff titles as we realistically can. We don't buy books sometimes, and it is not censorship, and you are free to talk to our board of directors if you think it is. We do buy books sometimes, and we will never remove them from the shelves if they offend someone, unless we are truly terrible at our jobs. Homeless people abound, and mostly they sleep, play internet games, and apply for jobs. This is also true of literally every other library demographic. We have storytimes and teen read-ins and craft projects and a Wii and DVDs and movie nights and books, books, and books. We do our best to be what every human being needs when they walk in, and if we're not, we'd like to know. We're here for you.

Please come. If there are any homeless men pooping in the corner, I'll buy you dinner.

Come talk to me on Twitter at @yipp33kiyay.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Introduction

Exhibit A of void-screaming.



I think everyone has an itch to write, in the same way that everyone has an itch to speak, to tell others their story. I think it comes from being sentient beings--while realizing your own existence is great, and language is great, it create an inherent yearning for a connection, to reach out to other people and touch them with your self-ness. It all comes from wanting to not be alone, in our own, self-centered ways.

That's my best guess at why I'm deciding there needs to be a place on the internet for my silly thoughts. I don't have a lot of urgency or professional need for this; I want to be a published writer one day, but I'm currently working full-time at a library as well as going to grad school two nights out of seven. I'm also planning my wedding and volunteering at the local natural history museum, so frankly, I don't have the time.

But I want to have the time, you know? I want to write. I want to scream out into the void, with the vague hope that the void will scream back.

Or at least, talk to me about fanfiction.

--Cindy