Sunday, January 30, 2011

February GentleMonth: Livin' on Love

Ah, the birds and the bees. Little naked cherubs. Hearts and diamonds (thanks, DeBeers).  Love is in the air; it’s everywhere, and thanks to all this snow the northeast may find itself in a slight baby boom nine months from now.  But for now, for this month, These Gentlemen are going to tackle the L-word head on. 

That’s right boys and girls, GentleMonth is back, and all through February we’ll be discussing what is probably the most oft-discussed topic in the history of man: Luurrve.  It's okay, we'll say it first.

So sit back, relax, and let the love wash over you.  Gross, guys, not that kind.  Okay maybe a little, if that’s what you really want.

Love and kisses,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TG Goes to the State of the Union- I Mean GChat

B.Graham: State of the Union haay
ali d: Yeahhh
ali d: I should probably listen
ali d: But I have more pressing matters
B.Graham: audition prep?
ali d: werd

B.Graham: Aw that's nice
B.Graham: They're leaving a seat open for Gabby Giffords
ali d: Awww
ali d: That is really nice
ali d: I approve
B.Graham: Also everyone was assigned a bipartisan date
ali d: Like someone they had to sit next to?
ali d: Do they have to put out?
B.Graham: lol I don't think they have to put out
B.Graham: But yes they have to sit next to them

B.Graham: I wonder if [boyfriend] is in the room
B.Graham: I don't see any suits and sunglasses, but they have to be in there
ali d: Oh man, your boyfriend is so cool!
B.Graham: I know :D

B.Graham: Look at Boehner's face
Max Nova: He doesn't need a death mask. They'll just chop his head off and put it in a museum

Max Nova: I love all the fake-listening-faces the congressmen have

Max Nova: There are gangs in Colorado!
Max Nova: My mind is blown
B.Graham: Yeah man what else are they going to do out there?
Max Nova: meth
Max Nova: meth meth meth
B.Graham: Also: The Outsiders takes place in Oklahoma... don't let the boonies fool you!
Max Nova: Good point

B.Graham: Man I didn't expect him to draw that line [regarding undocumented students]
B.Graham: Yeah Obama!
Max Nova: I just don't understand how people can believe in a god who only likes Americans born in America
Max Nova: We're such a weird country. I don't believe in god and I like all people
B.Graham: I know

B.Graham: Ginsberg is passed the eff out right now
Max Nova: There's always someone who gets caught
B.Graham: Also justices can do whatever they want
Max Nova: They are not wearing anything under those robes
Max Nova: Except for freedom

Max Nova: Dear god, Boehner, just clap for the fucking gays you dumbass
Max Nova: oy
B.Graham: He can't; he might have to let go of his ass

Max Nova: This is where Boehner is supposed to burst into tears....
Max Nova: Oh shit, Scranton!!!
B.Graham: lmao did Boehner and Biden just pound it??
Max Nova: Possibly
B.Graham: I hope so

Max Nova: I wish I had Chilean Miners on my SOTU bingo. I'd be on fire
B.Graham: lol
B.Graham: Such a cynic
Max Nova: Bingo is America!

B.Graham: Ugh [Paul Ryan] had me until he started talking about the healthcare law
David Pratt: Yeah seriously. This guy.
B.Graham: Well not "had" me, but I was ok with it
David Pratt: His transcript is already up online so
David Pratt: I imagine he was just taking notes while the speech was happening.
David Pratt: And most of this was planned well ahead of time.
B.Graham: Yeah
B.Graham: He looks stoned

David Pratt: Nothing in this is actually reacting to the State of the Union.
B.Graham: No
B.Graham: Well what could he say? Obama was like, Yeah I love everybody
David Pratt: I guess that's their plan.
David Pratt: "This speech is gonna be pretty awesome guys so we gotta pretend it just didn't happen.”
B.Graham: lol
B.Graham: I have a crush on our president
B.Graham: I am biased
David Pratt: He's easy to crush on.
David Pratt: I don't blame you.

David Pratt: Okay
David Pratt: This stuff he's saying now is just rephrasing what Obama said.

David Pratt: And now stay tuned for Michele Bachman with the response from insanity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Hunger Games, Or How I Remembered I Love Reading

I waited about a week to write this post, because if I had written it moments after I set the third book down, like I wanted to, this post would look a whole lot less like intelligent literary commentary, and whole lot more like EEEEEEEEOMGOMGOMGOMGPEETAMELLARKOMGGG!!!!!  So I waited a bit, dialed down my fangirl, and now I can speak to you like a regular human being who was not raised by wolves or preteens.

Remember this post?  Well I found it. This series reminded me why I love reading, and reassured me that there do exist new books (or rather, authors) that can sweep me away like my old standbys can.  Needless to say, I highly recommend it. (It being The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, beeteedubs. Look it up.)

I could gush on and on about the characters and the story, but I’m trying to spoil as little as I can, and what truly fascinated me was their world.  So if you want everything to be a complete surprise when (WHEN) you read the books, stop reading now, but I promise to keep the plot points to a minimum.

The main character, Katniss Everdeen, lives in Panem’s District 12, in what was formerly called Appalachia in the former United States.  I imagine it’s been about 200 years since the fall of our current society, but it’s never explicitly stated. The characters simply don’t know this kind of information, as anything not directly related to either their district’s given function or glorification of the Capitol is not taught.  The twelve districts are each mandated with a very specific purpose for serving the wealthy, exorbitant citizens of the Capitol.  Starvation is as common in District 12 as plastic surgery is in the Capitol.  Sound familiar?

What struck me most was how vital television is to the everyday lives of the citizens of Panem.  Television crews are a constant presence in the series, but in a much more recognizable way than, say, 1984 or Brave New World.  The Hunger Games are essentially the ultimate reality show in which, as an annual reminder of the Capitol’s might, each district is forced to give one boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Capitol to fight to the death, for the viewing pleasure and horror of the citizens of Panem.  If, in the Games, a child proves to be interesting or likable, the viewing audience can sponsor gifts of food or medicine to help keep him or her alive.  If nothing interesting happens over a long period of time, ie. if no one dies in the course of a day or so, the Gamekeepers will create something in the arena to drive the kids together.  It’s grisly, and oh so human.  There is, of course, the constant reminder that everything in this world has actually happened in the realm of human history:  There are currently hundreds of reality shows on the air in which people are hurt, physically and emotionally, for our entertainment.  Ancient Romans made official sport (innumerable modern societies, unofficial sport) of watching conquered peoples, doubtfully any older than the kids in the Hunger Games, battle to the death.  But it is not this world’s relationship with our history that I found the most interesting; it was its relationship to our present.

Even in the ensuing [SPOILER ALERT: but who didn’t see this one coming] revolution, reality TV plays a pivotal role for rebels and the Capitol alike.  The most important battle fought is over the airwaves of the single Capitol-controlled television station, and in the heart of actual battle the main characters are most focused on winning over their viewing audience.  And there continues to be an unwavering viewing audience; in the middle of a civil war, in the middle of chaos, it is a given that people stay tuned in to their televisions.  In an increasingly image-based, privacy-less, information-barraged world in which kids are taught to market themselves from the moment they first set foot on the internet and revolutions are organized via twitter, this message hits home.  If we were to fall into anarchy tomorrow, you better believe the internet would be the last thing to flicker out.  Technology is our crutch and our ticket to freedom, our burden and our boon.

I’ll admit my bias: I have an affinity for young adult lit and social commentary, so this series was essentially written for me. But good luck not getting addicted to these books… and may the odds be ever in your favor.*

*Just read it. You’ll know what I mean, then.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Easing Into Pain

I didn't start feeling the tragedy in Tucson until last night. I don't know why it took me so long, but it did. And it took other people's words to do it.  Maybe I'm so used to hearing about it; so terribly used to only just getting emotionally past a national tragedy when another happens, that I'm numb.  According to The Toilet Paper (my most reliable source of interesting information), there were seventy-nine mass shootings (defined as four or more victims) in the United States between 2007 and 2009. Seventy-nine mass shootings in two years, in one stable, first world country.  That is so much bad news to take in, so often.  It's no wonder I'm desensitized to the plight of my countrymen.

I pride myself in being an overly sensitive person.  I can count on my hand the number of times I've killed bugs that weren't actively attacking me.  I don't hurt things or people, and when things or people are hurt, even if I don't know them, my heart breaks afresh every time.  Or it used to.  I would like to think it still does, because I feel it now. I feel the loss of those poor people in the Safeway parking lot, and for their families.  For the husbands who jumped in front of their wives, for the parents of that little girl at an age that I remember so well, for the fiancee of the young man, who can't even claim the badge of widow-hood.

It took others' words to do this to me, though. I was fully prepared to flit through the headlines like it was just another tragedy, as if something like that exists. Every tragedy is a complete and utter tragedy, and I almost forgot that, in the midst of my busy, fairly self-involved life.

First I read an account from one of my bloggers that I read regularly, Becca, and then I read our President's words in Tucson today.  Both shook me out of my indifference; one of them made me cry.  There is nothing I can do for these strangers in Tucson except feel their loss, and do all I can to send more love into the world, into the collective unconscious, and into my own daily life.  So I guess that is what I will do. And encourage you to read the same words I read, and do the same.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A World With Only Violinists

I haven't written in a while, but an article has been making the rounds about Chinese Mothers that merits a rebuttal.

If you haven't read it, do so now, it's worth reading.

A Chinese mother (who is also a law professor and author) writes about how strict she is as a mother. She defends how she only access As on her children's report cards, force them to play the piano (at one point to the point of child abuse), never allows them to watch TV or have boyfriends in high school, saying that this shows how much she and similar parents love their children.

The author mentions in the beginning that this style of parenting isn't exclusive to the Chinese and that all Western parents aren't failures. And there's not necessarily something wrong with parents driving their kids hard (if nothing else, Western parents dominate this when it comes to sports).

But there are some gaping problems:

A world of violins is a terrible thing. If the world consisted solely of parents like the author, it would be a world where children only played one of a few instruments. In this frightening world, everyone is going for a very small number of very specific brass rings. Sure, you'd have millions of absolutely world class violin players. But a parent of this model would ever let their kid play viola or bass, because they would essentially be saying "my kid's not good enough to play first violin" and to this writer, that's not good enough. And that's the end of string quartets. If you keep pushing then you wind up with no novelists ("Who would ever let their child study something a frivolous as literature?") no rock music, probably no modern art, etc etc.

The parents aren't all setting a perfect model either. In the article, the mother mentions getting in an argument at a dinner party about her guests. She also mentions that her children never had any play dates. That doesn't seem particularly fair, does it? Shouldn't the authors parents' be ashamed? She could be writing more articles and books when she's just sitting around at dinner parties and her kids are at home memorizing math formulas.

Denying failure won't make it not happen. By preventing their kids from ever experiencing the kind of things that will happen to everyone at one point or another (failure on a test, be it literal or symbolic, love and heartbreak, communal success) you are setting them up to flame out when they've left home. Here's a little Westernism that my parents taught me and my sister: "You can, and should, drink alcohol with a meal. The two go together." Too many households treat their kids as if the merest touch of alcohol on their lips will lead them straight to Gomorrah. It won't, but everyone will drink at one point or another, or have sex at one point or another, or rebel at one point or another. It's not bad parenting to prepare your children for adult life. It's good parenting.

The underlying subtext of the article is - "Fuck everyone else's kids." By only tolerating your children as the best at everyone, you wind up going down a slippery slope. It's this pervasive attitude of "I can do it, why can't you" or "I've gotten this far with only so much support, why should anyone else have more" that is poisoning Western debate about things like health care. Just because you've gotten yours doesn't mean that everyone else should be left behind. NOT EVERYONE IS THE SAME.

I could on and on, but you get the idea. Not everyone is the same, and parents endlessly pushing their children won't lead to a utopia. It will lead to a miserable world that I would not want a part of.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New B

I blogged last year about my love for New Year’s; the starting over of it all.  I made my resolution; I sort of kept it.  I say sort of, because how do you really measure “be aware of the time I’m spending?”  I have some great memories from this year, and I think I made more active decisions this year, regarding life choices.  Sooo okay I’m going to give that one to me, what the heck. It’s a new year.

I am 55% excited and 45% terrified about my resolution for this year.  It’s simple, concise, easily measured, but it’s also one of those mythical BIG STEPS INTO ADULTHOOD that could make or break my spirit if I don’t succeed. 

I am going to finish all my started projects this year.

Okay looking at it on paper (screen?) kind of takes away from the drama, but this is a Big Deal.  It came to me, as if in a dream, a few weeks ago when the realization basically punched me in the face:  I have never finished anything that did not have a specific deadline. In my entire life.  

I have sewing projects from the 6th grade, originally meant for friends that I moved away from but to whom I now hardly speak.  I have two novels (short stories? er, free form poems?)  that I have not touched in over three years.  I have scrapbooks, frames, a Rosetta Stone, pictures, and sewing alteration projects galore collecting dust in the closet in our second bedroom. I hardly finish my meals; I always seem to have something terrible rotting in the fridge that I was totally going to reheat/bake/chef my little heart out, but never got around to it.  I currently have five black bananas in my freezer, just waiting to one day be reincarnated into banana bread.  If I can ever wrench them from the shelf, that is.

I’ve been told that I am this way because I am an artist; I have too many huge ideas and a too short an attention span before the next big creative wave.  And I totally bought into it, for years, bought into the whole “messy artist” persona: the absentmindedness, the clutter. But that kind of thinking does me (and the neat freak* who somehow persists to love/live with me) a great disservice.

My little apartment holds twenty-four years of big ideas, projects, and life-changes gone unfinished.  Where does that put me, in the grand scheme of things, when the only artist I know of who truly gets away with unfinished work is Tupac?  And I mean, I feel pretty good about the quality of work that I do, but I am not Tupac.  This is something that I know.

So this year I am finishing projects. All the ones I started long ago, and all the ones I will start in the future.  Maybe along the way I'll learn how to manage my time, or how awesome it is to actually finish stuff.  Though I have to admit, those two foreign concepts sound a little crazy to me. But I am excited. And I am about to get real crafty. 

Finished products from B.Graham? I hope the world is ready.

*I feel I should mention that he read this and insisted that the "freak" bit is an untruth.