Friday, November 20, 2015

Errant Vegetables In The News

I love Huffington Post. No, I didn't include a link. Yes, that's on purpose.

Not because it's an example of fair journalism (they aren't), nor because of the quality writing (it often isn't), nor because the site is so full of integrity* (definitely not).

*this is a site that doesn't pay any of the writers. At all. They offer "exposure" instead...because bloggers, journalists, writers: we can all make a living on free exposure, right?

Hmm. I wonder what exposure tastes like, if that's the grocery budget?

Anyway, I love Huffington Post because they have the best headline writers.

Examples from today (all in the same section):
  • What Science Is - And How And Why It Works
    • Oh Neil deGrasse Tyson...I
  • Yes, You CAN Wear Red Lipstick, And Here's How
    • because the basic functionality of how a tube of lip color works is beyond most adults, apparently?
  • How To Successfully Navigate a Threesome
    • Again, ALL IN THE SAME SECTION (Science!)
      • Interestingly, this one pops up (haha) in the Women and Divorce sections as well. Hmm.
  • Can You Think Yourself Into A Different Person?
    • Are you attempting to invade someone else's brain and take over, like a body snatcher? WHY THE FUCK would you want to do that?
    • Clearly, I'm doing meditation all wrong if this is a thing.
  • The Latest Science On Having a Rewarding Christmas
    • Sigh
And my #1 favorite for the day:
  • Here's Why You Should Stop Scaring Your Poor Cats With Cucumbers
    • do I really need to say anything here? REALLY?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Updated for Clarity: This post is rated R for graphic imagery.

It has been brought to my attention that this post is an emotional response in itself. I disagree, and as such have added clarifying points at the bottom.

I usually warn when it's not a funny post. This time, I'm warning for a different reason: I have an excellent imagination.

Truly, this is not a post for children or the weak stomached.

Refugee: a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country,  in a time of political upheaval, war, etc.

And, simply because I think a dictionary that includes the defined word in the word's definition is lazy:

Refugee: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster

I'm disappointed and a disheartened, and I've waited to say anything to see how things play out in social and mainstream media. After the last few days, I am convinced that the venom I've seen recently stems from deep seated irrational fear that media is only fueling. Where is the THINKING?
Rule #1 in war propaganda: dehumanize the opponent, because it's easier to dismiss the horrors done to fellow humans if you don't consider them people. Are you falling for it?

For those of you adamantly against bringing refugees into your country, state, city, neighborhood, or home because they're "terrorists", I would like you to take a few minutes to imagine something.

Imagine that your neighborhood was bombed.

Think about what that smells like: smoke, hot stone/asphalt/metal of melting cars and buildings. Burning trees.

Burning flesh.

Think about what that sounds like: the ringing in your ears if you were close to the blast. Wailing sirens. Crackling fires. Crumbling buildings. Screaming and crying of the injured, both people and animals, or of those who've found parts and bodies.

Think about what it feels like, the physical shock of the blast itself, I mean, as it knocks you off your feet (if you're lucky) or shakes your building and covers you in debris. Your HOME is gone. Not only is YOUR home gone, all your neighbors' homes are gone, so unlike a horrible house fire where you can still find shelter locally, there IS NO SHELTER LEFT. There is no safety. You have nothing left: no money, no possessions, no car, no way out.  

Let's not even begin to imagine what it might feel like physically to have an arm or leg blown off.

Think about what the taste of mustard gas must be like (oh, did you not remember that there are multiple reports of chemical warfare being used against soldiers AND civilians in Syria?). Mustard gas burns everything it touches: skin, lungs, eyes. Death by mustard gas is blinded burning suffocation. 

Imagine you're injured in the bombing: burned, broken, bleeding, and instead of the ambulance with EMTs to save your life you're greeted by someone with a gun who's sweeping the neighborhood to be sure everyone's dead. What do you think about in that moment before the bullet hits?

Imagine cramming your entire family into a room, hiding from terrorist fighters in the streets, wondering if the next shot will come through the wall and kill any of you. The constant, ever present knowledge that you can't protect your spouse or children, that death is waiting outside every second.

Think about your family, your children, your friends, your colleagues: EVERYONE you care about living in a place where this happens every day.


Imagine wondering if your son or daughter will die before dinner today, because you can't safely get them out of the area before the bombs or guns show up.

Imagine being hungry enough to eat rats.

Imagine what it's like to bring your family to a camp that is supposed to help only to be raped. Repeatedly.

Imagine what it must be like to know your sister was captured as a sex slave and sold and resold, knowing she'll likely die within a year.

Does this disturb you? Do you feel sick to your stomach? 

Have you considered what those reactions might mean if you consider fear versus compassionate response?

And because it was brought to my attention that this can be misconstrued as an emotional response, let me be clear. THE POINT HERE IS TO THINK ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONAL REACTIONS. I see a lot of commentary in both regular media and social media that is so clearly a knee-jerk fear response: what if terrorists come along with refugees? What if refugees take all our money/jobs/resources/time/energy? What if we ignore other populations in favor of refugee assistance?

What if someone's religion/culture/situation scares the shit out of me and I have no REASON to want to keep them out of my life, but I FEEL that way? Does it mean I must be right?

The point of my imagination exercise above is to show that there are multiple ways of thinking about this: if you can step back from your own emotional response, maybe you can consider another's situation. Compassion and empathy can be (and should be) a conscious choice. You can feel afraid and be compassionate. It is possible to be compassionate and still pay attention. Safety and kindness aren't mutually exclusive. If the refugees were the same religion as you, or the same color, or wore the same wardrobe, or liked the same foods/hobbies/culture as you, would you be so afraid?

And to the argument that we (I assume that's the United States as a country and a nation and a population, since I've seen "we" used interchangeably for those representations) should help the situation by stopping war? Well, I say good luck to you, and by all means please fix it. And it's a massive cop-out - strategic solutions can't solve tactical issues. I would refer you to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. There is NO WAY for a population to "fix" a "problem" (let's stipulate I find war to be bigger than a "problem", ok?) if said population is in constant fear of their/their families' lives, if said population has to choose between physical survival and safety, if said population is consumed with the IMMEDIATE need of staying alive.

Refugees aren't running from situations in which they can fight back. They aren't soldiers trained for war. They didn't bring this onto themselves nor do they deserve what they got simply by being a certain religion, nationality, or sex. They aren't terrorists: they are the targets of terrorists. These are people literally living in hell who have no resources, nowhere to go, and all they want is to raise their families in a safe place.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Series Review: The Original Sinners (Tiffany Reisz)

"Romance is beautiful, it's a gesture, it's a walk in a park with a pretty girl. Love is ugly sometimes. It's a crawl through a war zone to save a friend. Romance whispers sweet nothings. Love tells painful truths. Romance gives an engagement ring. Love takes a bullet." - The Queen, Tiffany Reisz

Tiffany Reisz doesn't write romance novels. She writes about love. If you're looking for the Shakespearean "everyone gets married" romantic comedy or the Disney fairy tale "happily ever after" you might find parts of it here, but I guarantee those parts won't be typical or easy. 

The main character, Nora Sutherlin, is a professional dominatrix and erotica writer. The love of her life is a Jesuit priest. Her boss, best friend, and occasional client is the king of the BDSM underground. Oh yes, the empty shells I describe here were enough to pique my interest when I read the first book, The Siren, but they are only shells in this sentence. The intertwined lives, loves, experiences, and pasts of her characters are so fully developed you can't help but keep reading because even when they're total jerkface asshats they're fascinating. 

They are unapologetically complex humans who happen to live in text instead of New York. By definition, their complexity makes their stories complex, vivid, painful, and exciting.  Set against an extremely detailed backdrop of the BDSM scene and carrying a decidedly Catholic undertone (the author is billed as "dropping out of seminary to become a smut peddler"), the back cover copy could just as easily indicate a scintillating erotica tale. 

I mean, what's naughtier than including the Church and BDSM sex clubs in intertwined, overlapping worlds for your characters? And there is a lot of explicit erotica, make no mistake. But unlike many of the books labeled "warning, explicitly hot!" in the Romance section of Barnes & Noble, the sex scenes fit within the world. These are not books based on loosely connecting dirty moments with a flimsy story. Reisz explores all the corners of love, pain, and healing by putting her characters through cringeworthy pasts and blushworthy (ok, also often cringeworthy) situations: erotic and otherwise. 

I'm not going to lie: some of the scenes are horrendously uncomfortable to read. Some of the scenes are horrendously uncomfortable to even think about. There is darkness and real evil (the sort humans do to each other) in the story arcs that Reisz faces head on: this is not stuff for the faint-hearted. There are no limits, and your only safe word as a reader is to put the book down. 

If you can. 

Also (because I'm a stickler about terrible writing) let me just say how much I wish this woman would teach a writing class. If you read all eight novels in a row it's easy to see her skills' progression. The tight, clean writing and vivid imagery starts out strong only gets better. The quote at the top of this post is one of the best things I've read in a long while.   

This is not fluffy feel-good reading or mental junk food. Oh, but it's so, so fantastic you find yourself reading every possible short story on her blog and buying the next book in the series the day it's released. I don't buy a lot of books anymore: usually I stick with the library unless I'm so enamored with a character/world/story that I know I'll re-read it. I own every book in this series. 

I read the final installment, The Queen, in a night (and have the bags under my eyes to prove it). So yes, if you want a real BDSM erotica tale and/or if you just want a fucking excellent story with characters you can't help loving and hating all at once, read The Original Sinners series.

Start with The Siren. The list, in order is here