Monday, August 31, 2009

Why I Love Comic Books

My love of comic books, as many of my loves in life such as scifi, history, Watership Down and armchair philosophizing, is a result of who my father is. In oh so many ways, I am my father's daughter, despite us never having a real conversation my entire life. He had been a huge comic book fan and collector as a child and we still had an enormous box full of comics sitting in the area of the basement we wittily called "the back."

This was a cardboard box only slightly shorter than a refrigerator box and though it was chock-full of a variety of comics, it was only half of what my dad had collected over the years. Unfortunately, his little brother's gerbil ate through half of them, which is why were were never allowed to own anything smaller than a guinea pig.

Reading was the escape from reality I turned to when I was inside the house and had to stay there and I would literally lose myself in whatever I was reading, which was anything I could get my hands on. After I discovered the big box of comics in the back, I started going there to curl up with all the random shit my parents had acquired over the years and read through the comics one by one.

He had Sad Sack, Superman, Justice League, Batman, Dr. Strange and tons more random adventure and sci fi story collections. Sad Sack was one of my favorites because I could identify with getting kicked around all the time and the army situations seemed so absurd to me that I couldn't help but laugh. Superman wasn't really interesting as a character, but I loved the drama that surrounded him trying to keep his secret and it was interesting to read stories that were about him as a kid and teen to see how they changed up elements of his life. The Justice League didn't really leave an impression, but Batman was kickass with all his gadgetry. Dr Strange was probably my favorite and was my first exposure to the idea of astral projection and interaction with the spirit world to combat the ills of the planet, which I thought was awesome. The adventure and scifi stories were pretty hit and miss, but I think that's where my emphasis on first person narration came later when I first started writing short stories.

But even the lamest comics had a leg up on the books I read, because they had pictures! I've always been a visual person. I think in pictures/moving pictures and the bright colors set off by dark inking were like a buffet for my eyes. The way I see the world and draw is ridiculously influenced by comic books, most clearly seen in the drawing at the top of this post which now belongs to my little nephew.

I'd get lost for hours in those images, which even in the lamest adventure story, were still pretty kick-ass and had all sorts of impressive made-up monsters in them. Sometimes there were even adventure stories about strong women, which I loved. My favorite was the woman who lived in the jungle with the big cats and was their leader. She ran around with a spear and defended the jungle from poachers and what-have-you.

My love of comic books spilled over into loving cartoons, certain anime, web comics and, of course, other comic books that later would capture my imagination like Sam & Max: Freelance Police, The Sandman series, Watchmen and more. I love the ridiculousness of comics, free from the pretension that often ruins books that would otherwise be really awesome to read. I like that people use this less "serious" format to discuss and explore everything from the craziness of human DNA to completely imagined landscapes. And, of course, even if the story sucked, at least you had some interesting pictures to look at.

And that's why I love comic books.

Related posts:
Jackie Ormes: The First Female African-American Cartoonist
Megan Rose Gedris: Lesbian Comic Artist Extraodinaire
Frank: The Trippy Cartoon Whatsit

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy "Women's Equality Day?"

Today is the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Which was fabulous, because before that women pretty much didn't exist as far as the government was concerned. But what strikes me as odd is that the government declared this anniversary "Women's Equality Day," which I, of course, take issue with.

If it isn't obvious why, well then I'll tell you: it's because women receiving the vote still does not make them equal to either our government or our society. We still don't get paid as much as the boys, we barely got another woman put on the Supreme Court and we sure as heck are the minority in our representative bodies.

So I'll celebrate the heck out of the 19th Amendment, but equality is something I'm still waiting to come around.

Related posts:
What Women Can and Can't Do
What Makes a Feminist?
Kansas City's REAL First Ladies

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Monday, August 24, 2009

LOVE ME Photo Essay Shows Pain of Poverty, Abuse

Via Jezebel, I became aware of the LOVE ME photo essay by Maisie Crow. Combining issues of poverty, abuse and gender, LOVE ME tells the story of 17 year old August (not her real name) in Ohio. The images themselves are incredibly powerful, and are made even more so by the chilling commentary that shows the difficulty and brutality of August's life, even on the photos that, at first glance, seem simple and apparently peaceful:

August sits between the legs of a family member
who attempted to rape her four years ago.

August shows bruises left from a neighbor grabbing her.

August said she wasn't hurting her dog by doing this.

August and her ex-boyfriend fight in her parents' kitchen.

August smoking with her mother.
She began smoking young after an uncle gave her first cigarette.

All images are copyrighted by Maisie Crow. These captions are my own, based off of hers.
You can see all the images of the continuing photo project on Maisie's website.

Related posts:
Depression in Children
Women Bear the Brunt of Hunger
It's Not Sex When It's Rape

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Yoga for Strength

(really, my biceps are more impressive when I flex.
But it's a hell of a time trying to take a picture of yourself that way.
By the time I got one I was happy with,
my arm was all exhausted from flexing for 15 minutes. Lame!)

I haven't talked about my passion for yoga in a while so I figured it was time I give an update. I have continued doing yoga daily for many months now and the benefits just keep pouring in! Right now I'm especially intrigued with the way it has made me incredibly svelte, slender and strong! Also I've gotten some crazy-fabulous muscle definition. I haven't been this strong ever and it's amazing how easy it's been to become this way. I have calves like I always wanted to have and never knew how to get. SQUEE!

Plus, it rocks knowing that everyday I am getting physically stronger. For whatever reason it psychologically makes me feel stronger as well. So when I'm faced with problems I'm less likely to freak out and more likely to approach it as an opportunity to grow and learn and get stronger. I also feel like it's helped me be more focused and it continues to be a major component of what keeps me calm and happy.

It's also made me much more aware of my bodily needs. Previously in my life, I'd get caught up, for instance, with working on the computer and only eventually realize that my bladder had been KILLING ME for the last hour and I really needed to get off my ass and pee. No way something like that is happening now! But more seriously than that, I really have never been this in touch with my body and how it functions and the little ways I can help it function optimally. I've always been ridiculously cerebral to the point of neglecting my body, but now I am motivated to take care of it, knowing just how awesome it makes me feel and how it can help me achieve goals too.

There just ain't nothing bad about yoga! And I like how the poses continue to evolve for me in feel and experience as my body changes and adjusts and lengthens.

It's exciting to me to be at a point where I don't do it for pain relief or stress relief, but just because I love having it be a daily part of my life and it brings me happiness. I like having positive goals to work towards much more than negative things to avoid. It makes everything seem nicer.

Also, please take a moment to check out Eat Well and Prosper, the new group blog I've joined. I'll mostly be showing off how spoiled I am because my boyfriend makes the most delicious food for me all the freaking time.

Related posts:
Yoga for the Ass and Thighs
Yoga Is Miraculous
The Best and Worst Stretch in the World

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seen Around Midtown: Roanoke Neighborhood

The Roanoke Neighborhood is just blocks from where I live. It's got a park and the neighborhood itself is park-like with huge old trees and greenery and flowers everywhere. It's a nice place to take a stroll and it's the closest place for me to go to get nearer nature (which is the best de-stresser for lil ole me). And it's also got some sweet architectural interest in the big-ass rich ppl houses there. The pics below are some I've taken on my many walks around there. Hope you enjoy!

As always, if you're interested in seeing other pics I've taken around town and my other artwork, visit my DeviantArt page.

Related posts:
Seen Around Midtown: Norman School
Seen Around Midtown: Whimsical Neighborhood
Seen Around Midtown: PBR Painted Ads

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Plastic Jellies & Summer Memories

I recently purchased a pair of used jellies that are almost identical to my favorite shoes from childhood! Every time I look down while I'm wearing them, I'm instantly transported to the creek behind our house and the woods where I spent most of my summers.

The woods behind our street where the creek ran through are more my "home" than the house I grew up in. Escaping the home was something all my siblings did as often as possible. The easiest way to do this was to run out back and spend time in the woods. I spent most of my summers there to the point where they all kind of run together now.

I don't know if I can make you understand how deeply my life was affected by my siblings. We weren't allowed to play with other neighborhood kids or to spend much time with our approved church friends, so we were stuck with each other and we created our own microculture. In the woods, nature provided us with the comfort and acceptance we didn't find anywhere else in our lives.

We spent days and days and days under those trees and in that mud and water because it was where we could be our real selves without fearing repercussions and dream of a life where we felt free. Most of the joy that existed in my life back then was because of those woods. It's no wonder I grew up to be an environmentalist when I feel more at home in nature than among people.

It's just one big full circle: being in the woods wearing jellies leads to being an environmentalist and buying used so that I wear jellies and work to save the woods.

Related posts:
Detox Your Summer (How To)
All Hot and Bothered
Ninjas Are After Me

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Southern Accents and Attraction [Guest Post]

Please enjoy today's guest post from a feminist blogger I recently started reading: RMJ (aka Rachel McCarthy James) writes about feminism and stuff at Deeply Problematic.

A post over at The Jaded Hippy has some interesting thoughts on racism in sexual attraction:

In a racist, sexist society can our sexual attractions ever be value neutral? Is it REALLY just a "preference" when white people aren't attracted to people of other races?

My conclusion? No, not really.

Knowing what I know now about society, social indoctrination, whiteness, etc. I can no longer think it's a coincidence that white men tend to be the ones I find most sexually attractive.
This post made me consider my own pattern of attraction (which is not particularly static), specifically my fondness of Southern accents. It's something that I've recently but intensely developed, and it poses an odd contradiction: it's not exactly race-based, but it is a response to my identification with the patriarchy and my need to fit in to the (shallow) South, where I recently came to live.

In focusing part of my attraction on speech patterns, I'm regurgitating the dominant paradigm of my current surroundings: men around me and the man I'm with speak this way. Southern accents are reinforced as positive and desirable, a mark of masculinity and honesty:

And I can't any longer ignore that these traits also, though not tied to skin color (what most commonly think of as THE racial indicator) are most certainly tied to dominant narratives about "real men" and that those narratives are strongly informed by whiteness.
However, it's not as simple as this problematic identification. A Southern accent is a disempowering feature: it causes the speaker to be seen as uneducated, unintelligent, and dull-witted. One study found that a Southern accent increased a job applicant's chances of being passed over or paid less. A few years ago, I held this view - it was one thing that I didn't particularly like about my partner (whose Southern accent is very strong) upon getting to know him. This was not a reflection of J, but a reflection of my more recent life in the Midwest: as I am now conditioned by the patriarchy to appreciate Southern accents, I was then conditioned to reject them.

(There's also the question of the blue-collar exotic, but I won't get into that here.)

It's kind of a moot point. Since I'm happy in my relationship with an accented man, I'm not going to try to make any shifts. But I'll certainly be a little more critical the next time I'm watching Lost and become entranced by Sawyer.

Related posts:
Perception and Reaction to Racism Not Equal
Continuum of Acceptance
Tony's Take on Racism in the KC Area [Guest Post]

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Depression in Children

A new study shows that children as young as 3 years old can be affected by depression... and once more science says something I coulda told you already. I don't remember anything before when I was three years old, but here's my earliest memory at that age:

Mom and dad were trying to punish me for something they didn't like about my attitude and since I didn't like being hurt by being spanked and didn't think I was being bad, I was physically struggling to get away from them. That led to them deciding that dad would sit on my head while mom spanked me. I will never forget the feeling of my father's ass pressing my face down into their bed, feeling as if I'd never get enough air again, while my mom hammered away at my ass with the huge paddle they had.

Not a pleasant memory and I was terrified that my parents would kill me after that. I was also incredibly depressed, something that was THE defining fact of my life until just last year. It affected all realms of my life and especially my relationships, which were few and far between. Being able to trust others was nearly impossible and since I couldn't trust people enough to ask questions about the things in life that didn't make sense, I had to muddle through as best I could and it was incredibly difficult. For most of my life depression kept me from opening my mouth in 99% of situations when I had something to say. reported:

Among initially depressed children, 64 percent were still depressed or had a recurrent episode of depression six months later, and 40 percent still had problems after two years. Overall, nearly 20 percent had persistent or recurrent depression at all four exams.

Depression was most common in children whose mothers were also depressed or had other mood disorders, and among those who had experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of a parent or physical or sexual abuse.

My situation certainly wasn't helped by growing up with a depressed mother AND physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

I'm glad that people are becoming aware that children aren't invulnerable to emotional hazards. I think anyone who thinks otherwise must've forgotten how to be a kid.

Related posts:
For Once, Happy Birthday
Anxiety and my Genetic Inheritence
Living with Emotional Blackmail

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Eve, Revisited

"Forbidden Fruit"

You are what is female
You shall be called Eve.
and what is masculine shall be called God.

And from your name Eve we shall take
the word Evil.
and from God's the word Good.
Now you understand patriarchal morality.
-Judy Grahn

I will never not be shocked when I hear women say something like "stupid Eve! ruining it for all of us!" when they complain about their periods. I cannot understand how deeply they buy into that bullshit when it's scientifically proven that the pain one feels during menstruation is due to the fact that the lining is ripping off of your womb and falling out your vagina! It's not because of some mystical "curse." That would hurt whether or not you ever heard the Genesis story.

It saddens me what hatred and anger women can have for Eve when it's so misdirected. What they should be pissed off at isn't some mythical woman who takes the blame for all humanity's failures, but at a culture who systematically tells women we are crazy, weak, stupid and lame for having perfectly natural physiological and physical responses to a necessary biological function of our bodies.

What they should be mad about is being marginalized for being a woman instead of being supported as part of the the cradle of our civilization.

What they should be mad at is this culture still refusing to widely disseminate images and information of women's complete reproductive or muscular systems because women's bodies are still treated as "indecent," so you can't even find out what's going on in your own body without really hunting for the information.

What they should be mad at is this culture that treats any difference between genders as weaknesses inherent in women instead of simply the natural order of things or two complimenting sides to the single human coin.

The gendered social interactions in our culture truly anger and horrify me. But nothing I have previously said on the subject is as clear and succinct as this post on rape by Fugitivus (found via Hoyden About Town), where she clearly lays out how women's issues, bodies and voices are attacked daily:
Women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:
  • it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (”mean bitch”)
  • it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (”crazy bitch”)
  • it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (”stuck-up bitch”)
  • it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (”angry bitch”)
  • it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (”bitch got daddy issues”)
  • it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (”dyke bitch”)
  • it is not okay to raise your voice (”shrill bitch”)
  • it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (”mean dyke/frigid bitch”)

If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”

Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all.

Women who are taught that a display of their emotional state will have them labeled hysterical and crazy (which is how their perception of events will be discounted) will not be willing to run from a room disheveled and screaming and crying.

Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.

Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.

And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn’t truly raped. Because she didn’t fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no, after a while.

These rules for social interactions that women are taught to obey are more than grease for the patriarchy wheel. Women are taught both that these rules will protect them, and that disobeying these rules results in punishment.

So fuck the rules. Follow your heart and don't let the bastards grind you down.

Related posts:
Another Bloody Women's Issue Post
What Makes a Feminist?
It's Not Sex When It's Rape

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Westport Courtyard: Now and Then

My baby found Kansas City, Missouri: An Architectural History, 1826-1990 at the library and pointed out that they had a picture of the courtyard right outside the front door of where I work from the 70's! There was no way I could keep this to myself, so I went and showed people at work, and wouldn't you know it: my boss used to be taught by the guy who wrote the freaking book! The way life is so connected continues to boggle my mind.

Enjoy this comparison, I know I do:

In '78, this courtyard area (behind current day one80 at the corner of Westport & Pennsylvania Rds.) included shop fronts, apartments and office space. Sorry about the quality on this. It's a scan of a horrid picture I tried to make easier to see in Photoshop.

Today, this courtyard area is the kitchen entrance of one80, the front of "my" office and the backside of Jerusalem Cafe (that's their circular staircase). Look how that tree grew!

Related posts:
Seen Around Midtown: Painted PBR Ads
Local Attorney Is Immortal!
Crosstown Station and some Random Local History

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Liberian "Barbies" Have African Figures, Clothing

After the other random discussions we've had here before about Barbies, there was no way I could pass up this story! Liberian Cora Taylor purchases Barbie-like dolls and customizes them to be more "like her." Her first step in this process? To use a hot glue gun and cotton balls to enlarge the dolls' busts and booties.

Next she cuts their hair off so it can be covered with a headscarf and designs and sews each outfit separately. Each doll she creates has a completely unique outfit made out of traditional lapa cloth.

"Lapa is a brightly colored and patterned cloth commonly sold in markets and by tailors everywhere in West Africa. Across the continent in East Africa, similar cloth is called kitenge. These days much of the fabric is manufactured in China, although it is still called “African.” Taylor makes miniature outfits out of the cloth to dress the dolls. She's bothered that the dolls aren't more "authentic" (her words) but she sews away anyway." (Source)
What do you think of these "Barbies?" Does their culturally-based uniqueness change the way you think about a typically American doll? Does it make a difference to know that Cora lived in the US for many years while Liberia was at war? What do you think of a woman making a brand her own this way?

Related posts:
Barbie Power
Barbie, Served Hot and Cold

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Monday, August 3, 2009

American History XX

Suggested soundtrack:

"We are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die.
The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrows,
is always a measure of what has gone before."
-Alice Walker

why do Americans
hate to sit next to each other
if you have 8 park benches and
18 people
10 will stand up
10 will stand up and stare past the pigeons
who never sit by themselves
1 ant plus
another ant make a community but
200 million Americans make one large ant eater
climbing up to the sandia caves I
thought about our ancestors
how scruffy and strong their
toes must have been, to scrabble in those rocks
I cannot do anything with my toes
even fingers grow only o harpsichordists

we have already forgotten
what mattered about them
the anthropologists who stripped the caves
of all nonessentials
being unable to resurrect
their simplicity and their
make busy diagrams of bones and broken dishes

did they go barefoot in the snow
did it burn them
I believe
they held on to each other with their toes
we are not allowed to go barefoot
it is no longer allowed to be snowing
there was a time the dead looked dead
you could tell them from the living
a man who began to perish in those caves
need not wait half a century for it to finish
there is something to be said for not living indefinitely
nowadays a man who puts a bullet into his head
is liable to be breathing 10 years later
suckled with needles and tubes
and the clinical curiosity of strangers
there was no capsule in that time
to protect them from love or violence
and if a neighboring tribesman
zonked you on the head and
ate your brains
it was a meaningful sacrifice
you would have done the same
nobody I know has tried to eat a medal of honor

I would crawl up the cliff face to meet the old people
but I having died 7 times already
except for the grace of
should have been laid long ago
on the rimrock
to burn in the snow
they had no need for childless women
as we have not much need for mothers
what we need are more park benches
and fewer pigeons
who do not sit by themselves

we who have no darkness
to build fires in
shall go on lopping off the animal parts
we cannot use anymore
until we are shaped like craniums
God will notice the world rolling
with eggs
who cannot reproduce themselves
my ancestors
I would crawl up the cliff face
to meet you
but my toes are misshapen
we are all born with shoes on
- Judy Grahn

I take strength from the struggles of women in the past who grew stronger in the face of adversity rather than wither away. many times when I've felt the task before me was insurmountable, I touched the place in my mind where frontierswomen, suffragettes, immigrants, feminists, activists, witches and martyrs lived and I think, "heck, if they can do that I sure can do this." And I do.

Point being: the past is only as dead as we let it be.

Related posts:
Anxiety and my Genetic Inheritance
Kansas City's REAL First Ladies
Babes in History and Fiction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

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