Why This Internet Thing Works – For Me

I first got online in 1995, when AOL was sending those CDs to your house like you had joined a Columbia House for the Internet. I never officially learned to type (since I didn’t get that in school), but I was 15 and bored, so I got into chat rooms, and learned my own way of keeping up with the conversation without writing in l33t speak, or similar. That skill is one I still use today.

When my parents got divorced 2 years later, the friends I made online served as my escape from the weirdness in my house. I even ended up meeting one. I soon moved on to things like LiveJournal and OpenDiary, and made more friends and wrote out the very corniest, angsty, teen diatribes in my various blogs. (I think MySpace was the worst – I had teenage angst beyond my teen years).

But it wasn’t until I moved to Podunk, SC, 8 years ago, that I really learned how valuable this whole internet community really is for me. I didn’t pay much attention to formal blogs until I read a piece in B*tch about Carmen Sognonvi and her blog Racialicious. It just so happened that earlier that week I had read in the local paper about 3 teenage boys who had been arrested for “lynching” someone in a nearby town. (The SC definition of lynching is any act of violence by two or more people against another, regardless of race. This was not the definition I was familiar with.) That story shocked me, and I knew that I needed to have some outlet to read and talk with people like myself, than those I encountered when I first moved here.

From there, I found SO many blogs and I learned SO much. I never took any critical feminist or race theory classes in college (in part because they weren’t offered), and a lot of the discussions I stumbled upon were completely new. In a new place, semi-friendly place, the internet became my link to the “outside world”.

I devoured Racialicious, and from there found zuky (who’s now on tumblr) and resistance and SepiaMutiny and brownfemipower and shakesville and nezua and a bunch of others, really. Too many to count – many no longer write. I learned about intersectionality, I found out that there were waves in feminism (and that I am somewhere around wave 2.5 with womanist leanings) – oh yeah – I found out there’s something called womanism and hip-hop feminism.

I witnessed lots of disagreements – this is the internet! There were all kinds (feminist ones, anti-racist ones, womanist ones, scandals centering around one person or another [Marcotte, Schwyzer <I&II>, DiFranco, the Walkers]. But I saw how people helped each other pick up the pieces and regroup, and turn out the lights or move on as the case was at different times.

In the mean time, my life changed. My sister went to law school and took critical theory classes and we discussed academic terminology I still wasn’t fully familiar with, but now I knew the concepts they referred to (more than just those I’d already lived through). I went through all kinds of weird stuff at work, and gained crazy responsibility with no training or experience, and I heard about a podcast that sounded interesting. I don’t even remember how Blacking It Up appeared on my radar, but it did.

I didn’t have the energy to maintain a blog anymore, but listening to a podcast was just my speed, and TWiBIU hit the spot. I never could listen live, so when Google+ came along, and the community from the chat room migrated there, I joined. It was my only connection to a huge group of folks that I understood on multiple levels. An online family. I began listening less regularly over the last year, but still connect with folks on G+ on a regular basis. But the Trayvon Martin verdict last year had me shook, and though they were on hiatus at the time, TWiB did several live weekend shows. I listened and cried for two days, along with the many who called in. And if I never listen to another show, if I never get on G+ again, the community I felt a part of those days were worth it.

Living where I live, people often make comments about “that gay marriage thing”, or how “they’re letting boys in the girls’ bathroom in California”, or how the country is going to hell because of Obamacare. I spend a lot of time actively ignoring the news when I am around other people because I don’t want to get pulled into discussions I know will quickly devolve. My diplomacy skills have grown by leaps and bounds, but it’s still a tightrope walk.

Even the brown people here are conservative. I work with a black guy who has some serious issues with gays, an Indian guy who has issues with the poor, and a Mexican guy who doesn’t understand why poor people have kids. They’re all in their early 50s, but this is common even for young people.

So the online community I have fashioned for myself, while it has changed and always will, is an enhancement of my home. My refuge. And my connection to the world. It challenges me, teaches me, makes me laugh, cry, think, and sometimes even change.

I am more aware, more accepting, and more educated than I was. I am better. Because of this internet thing.

put your war clothes on

After a basically funky month, I am tired.  Work has been busy and bananas, as I lost an employee today, after the most bizarre manner of resignation I have yet observed.  Not that I have the most experience.  Anyway, I had to travel for work, and ended up in New Orleans during the week before Mardi Gras.  That’s actually kinda fun.  And I got beads.

went for work - came home with beads.

Got sick on the plane ride home and it lasted through the beginning of the week.  Really, I’m still occasionally coughing now, so I suppose it’s lingering.  Anyway – because I needed so much sleep at the beginning of the week I was completely behind on my Blacking It Up/AfterBlack listening this week (I’m still not done).  So a lot of news got to me in a short period of time.

And apparently it broke me.

In fact, I’m not altogether sure I wasn’t already broken earlier this year when my idiot friend proclaimed on FB that she doesn’t believe in Civil Rights legislation.  But then there were 20 GOP debates, Newt dogwhistling everything, Santorum considered an actual real candidate, Arizona’s taking text books away from children, Texas wants to end affirmative action, and mother-effing Virginia literally wants to institute state-sanctioned rape in order to limit abortions.  Yeah.  Trans-vaginal ultrasounds involve the insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina.  There is no medical requirement that this (by definition) invasive procedure be performed prior to abortion.  It is simply a law the VA state legislature wants to mandate for any woman planning to get an abortion in the state.  Regardless of whether the woman wants the intrusion.

Coerced vaginal insertions = rape.

Just so you know.

This war on women isn’t even underground anymore.  It’s freaking blatant as anything.

The racism hasn’t calmed down either, though.  Some doofus called Whitney a stupid n-word, and two different racist videos from doofus high school students have been in the news this week.  Not to mention the Linsanity business.

Newt’s moonbase is actually starting to sound good, right about now.  Cuz Earth has too much crazy to be sustainable.  Speaking of sustainable – I almost forgot about the Cult of the Green Dragon.  Sigh.

Thanks to TWIBIU for keeping me informed.  This was kind of a depressing news week, though…maybe next week I’ll eat candy and dream about unicorns or something.

BET Awards ’11: This Time Mary can Sing!

I am SO happy Mary J took singing lessons, or whatever she did to be able to perform live.  The first time I saw her singing well on stage was about…. 4 yrs ago now?  Y’all remember how she used to be: pure studio artist.  Now she’s singing with Anita Baker – who has always been the real deal.  Her voice is still like butter.  I love Sweet Love. (“With all my heart I love you baby..”)  Anyway, Mary did a lovely opening, and she looks good.  An all-white, skin-tight catsuit with not a hint of anything out of place – 40 is SO the new 30.

Kevin Hart being the host seems apropos of nothing to me, since I’m not a fan and I have no idea if he’s even doing anything right now.  I must say though that his entrance to ‘6 Foot, 7 Foot’ with a group of child steppers is the most impressive things I’ve ever seen him do.  He kept up with those awesome kids.  (He was also about 6inches taller than them…)  He’s right about Ne-Yo though, he needs to leave the hat on.  Hart hit Busta, Jamie, and Puff in all the right places.

Taraji presents Best Male R&B Artist to Chris Brown.  That remake of MJ’s Human Nature straight up sucks.  I like some of his music, but he’s about to go in the R. Kelly stack of musicians that I cannot financially support do to poor life choices.

PS – note to ALL tv shows: I don’t care about what people are live-tweeting.  I don’t Twitter.  I don’t care about what people are saying on FB unless they’re my own friends. (sometimes, not even then)  But if I’m watching your show, I don’t need internet updates.  wtf?

Wait. WHAT?!? “Reed Between the Lines” with Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal Warner looks like it could actually be good.  Like a “Cosby Show” for the 21st c.  I only worry because it’s on BET.  This is the kind of show that should be on network tv. Continue reading

all the single ladies?

how come only Stacey is smiling?

Apparently I’ll watch anything with Stacey Dash in it.  Even if Lisa Ray is in it too.  I am watching Single Ladies, y’all.  It’s also probably because it’s summer, there nothing else on, and I live in the South so it’s still 80 degrees at 11pm and NObody wants to be outside in this weather.

I DVR it, because there’s too much I have to fast forward through to watch it live.  Basically I only care about Val (Dash) and her store.  I don’t like Lisa Ray on GP so that was already a hit against her.  Then her character is a former video…vixen…with no appreciable skills, looking for a rich man to keep her in the lifestyle to which she wants to become accustomed.  IMO, her only redeeming trait is being friends with Chilli.  I didn’t have anything against the girl who plays April.  You know I actually thought she was black for a second?  Yeah.  I was fooled.  Then it just started seeming to me as though she was trying to be the stereotype.  And I can’t tell if it’s the actress or the character.  But I still tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Until she said she was cheating on her husband.  Her husband spends much of his time singing her praises and talking about how much he loves her, and she’s cheating?  So now I ffwd through all the scenes between them.

Val is ok, though.  She’s the center of the show, but not always the center of attention.  She makes some bad decisions, but at least she’s a designer and into fashion and pretty awesome in that way.  So far, she doesn’t spend every episode centering the world around herself, or doing highly embarrassing things.  So I like her.  She is sometimes a little willy-nilly with the cookie, but that’s fine for VH1.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

No one will ever make a show about my life (unless it’s a sitcom – my life could actually totally be a sitcom),  and I don’t expect tv people to really be trying to…That said, who are these people that they’re making shows about?  Is this real on any level or pure fiction?  Cuz it feels like PURE fiction.  And if so, that’s fine.  But then we can all be clear.

The drama seems so stereotypical and forced at some points, with the obligatory gay friend there to give some tough love with a snap.  I guess I’m just disappointed because Queen La is producing the show, and this sucker is no Living Single.  Not in the least.

Is this one of those times where you support the crap so that next time they make something better?

the hook brings you back

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
Well that’s alright because I love the way you lie ~ Rihanna (Love the Way You Lie)

does RiRi look like she's been crying?

I heard this song the first time a few weeks ago, and being an appreciator of RiRi’s voice, and susceptible to hooks, in general, I kinda liked it.  I’m a reluctant-at-best Em listener…so I wasn’t an actual fan of the song.  Didn’t hear the whole thing the first time – I suppose I had to get out of the car for some reason.  But the hook was most of what I heard.  Melodic and sultry, the way Rihanna is, what’s not to like?  Most of the time I’m into the music/beat of whatever anyway.  Not that I don’t appreciate great lyrical content – believe me I do.  That’s actually why I’m writing.

Because I think this song is supposed to be marketed as some kind of anthem for survivors of domestic abuse – people who “give as good as they get” in physical altercations in the relationship.

Now I know we said things, did things that we didn’t mean
And we fall back into the same patterns, same routine
But your temper’s just as bad as mine is
You’re the same as me –

The video depicts a couple that fights and makes up fiercely.  In a house that burns on the outside, but seems mostly livable on the inside.  Some folks think it does a good job of demonstrating the dysfunctionality of violent relationships.  Some folks aren’t touching that with a red apple.  Megan Fox is in it, and donated her money from the vid to a women’s shelter for domestic abuse survivors.  That’s nice.

But tonight is the first time I watched the video, and while I’m sure I’m one of the few who hadn’t seen it, I still don’t think the visual overwhelms or undoes these troublesome lines:

Next time? There won’t be no next time
I apologize, even though I know it’s lies
I’m tired of the games, I just want her back. I know I’m a liar
If she ever tries to f****n’ leave again,
I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire –
Eminem (Love the Way You Lie)

I just can’t get over those lines.  Having Rihanna sing the hook to this seems in particular poor taste.  I could see the hook in another context, but in this one – no.  NO.  I’m under no illusions – there are relationships like the ones depicted in the video out there.  And the video doesn’t seem to glorify that life too much…  But the lyrics.

The lyrics in the verses are the meat of any song – and these verses only speak from one POV – that of the man, in power.  The lines accuse the woman  of having a similar temper/being the same way.  He begs her to stay, and admits that his promise not to be violent again is a lie.  And then threatens to kill her.

Except, since this is a one-sided tale, we get no indication that she really does give as good as she gets.  In fact, in the video, Ms. Fox does indeed lash out quite a lot – but there’s a point where it looks as though she will be raped by Mr. Monaghan.  There is no point that I remember that looked as though she would rape him.  So it seems that she has quite a good reason to leave.  Excellent even.  Maybe one side of the story and an ending where everyone burns is enough to demonstrate the awfulness of domestic violence.  I would’ve liked someone to be led away in handcuffs and someone to be shown in recovery.  But that’s just me.

Either way, this is not the kind of song I can listen to over and over.  Not something I want to hear on the radio.  And yet somehow, it’s made it to No. 1 on the BillBoard Hot 100.  Am I just officially old now – completely disgusted by lyrics about killing a partner for trying to leave a domestic abuse situation?  Or is this seriously a sucky way to ‘address’ domestic abuse?

shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

Have I mentioned how awesome my bday month has been?  There were, of course, the gifts – and the friends – and the homemade red velvet cake – all delightfully spread throughout the month to give a special savor to March, this year.  Shoot, even Psych got in on the act, saving the best episode this season (Mr. Yin Presents) for my actual birthday.

It began in February, when I inexplicably went on a book-buying frenzy [a few times a year it must be done], and randomly picked up a slim, dark blue, hardcover with a simple cover art and an intriguing title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  I hadn’t heard of it, but read the blurb, and paged through to get a feel for the writing.  [This is how I choose all the books I read.]  The blurb grabbed my attention, immediately:  “Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop.  Forced to move to a new and strange city, with her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin,  startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have – but it’s so rare that I come across a book with a biracial heroine …umm…I can’t even think of another one right now – but maybe I’ve read one…I’m sure I have…I think.  Anyway, I read this book (this month) and really enjoyed it.

The style of writing make the book an easy read, even with some heavy stuff going on – and I have to admit there was a moment when I put the book down and just cried.  That’s not normal for me.  I was crying on behalf of the father, and I couldn’t stop.  So there I sat, in the Ford reading room, as I waited for my car’s oil change/checkup to be completed, crying over a book.

There are a few similarities between the protagonist and I, considering we have white moms and black dads, and our parents met in Germany.  But this girl who fell – while I see some aspects of myself in her, her story is miles apart from my own.

I remember growing up not-quite-white.  To borrow a quote from Thea I just saw tonight:

I definitely got the “the world will be yours message!” from my white mama. Imagine how confused I was when it didn’t work out. But I digress.

This is exactly the message I got.  The message Rachel’s mama started out believing.  The message Rachel started out believing.  I’ve been muddling my way through this race-crazy world ever since I landed on solid ground.  My head sometimes still likes to take off for the clouds, but it’s different now.  When I was little, sometimes I would actually forget I was brown.  And I wasn’t prepared for the way the world worked.  I’ve always been optimistic, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and willing to be friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me.  This often lead to overlooking comments, or the trends of who my friends’ friends were.

Our ideas of what life is like – what our lives will be like – are so shaped by the pictures we get from our parents, and mine was no different.  I imagined great and wonderful things – a possible presidency even, prior to understanding the hellacious nature of the job.  And really, when I was very young, most of what my parents focused on was teaching me that no one could keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do, just because I was a girl.  We didn’t really talk about color in our house until I was older. And even then, it was only dad, saying that he wanted to prepare us for things that mom hadn’t had to go through – for a world that would see us differently that it had seen her. But by then I was unreceptive, largely because we hadn’t talked about it when I was younger, and I was inclined to disbelieve comments about prejudice inherent in the system.

I finally started catching glimmers of de facto life in seventh grade, when my best friend in school – a fellow nerd – and I were talking about people in our class we thought were cute/we’d like to date.  He suggested a 10th grade boy for me, because he was one of the only two brown guys at school [the other being in K4]. (I decided not to mention my crushes on guys that were actually in our grade.)  Then, when I called a friend from my first yr in college and she told me they’d brought another brown girl into the program to replace me/fill the quota, I laughed.  She didn’t.  She told me she was serious.  But I was just scratching the surface.

I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.  Nothing like real-world demonstrations [i.e. The School of Hard Knocks] to speed your education in the ways of privilege. And being able to talk about issues with my dad [even though his feminism is full of holes] helps me get perspective on a lot of things that I’m just beginning to understand.  But I’m still optimistic.  Hopelessly.

And I notice the girl who fell has got two long braids just like I used to – and I’m glad my daddy was there to catch me when I fell.

carnival of me

I’ve been woefully unmotivated to write, recently.  A host of reasons have contributed, not least of which the fact that I didn’t get to talk to my best friend for longer than I ever have since I was about 4 yrs old.  Never underestimate the meaning of friendship.

I’ve been following the various race@school debacles happening at UCSD and now Missouri and I don’t really have much left to say.  Other than the succint: “Post-racial, my eye!”

I actually wasn’t super-concerned about the thing at Missouri, even though they’re pursuing it as a hate crime.  But I realized that may have just been due to my own lack of context.  I spoke with a coworker about it and he was very upset.  He told me that he remembered his mother picking cotton – as her job – when he was a kid.  He also remembered her not being able to go to work one day because the Klan was burning the fields.

It’s kinda crazy to me that this stuff was happening in the last 50 yrs, but I suppose it should be, considering what’s happening today.  We haven’t come as far as we like to think we have.

My work-spouse has been gone for all of one week and I barely know what to do with myself at work.  Besides work.

Having a buddy sure makes a difference.

Speaking of buddies, I found out that a very old friend will be moving away.  Far enough that it’s likely I won’t see him…much, if at all.  We’ve been through all kinds of things together so even though we’re not as close now as we once were, it stings that he’s leaving.  Some more unenlightened acquaintances liked to imagine that we would marry.  This is highly unlikely, but I suppose I should never say never.  One of us could have a stroke and become a different person.  You never know.

Since the olympics have been on [and I’m not into the winter olympics], I’ve watched a bunch of movies.  My recommendations?

Amreeka: a great story about a Palestinian woman and her son who move to America right around the time “shock’n’awe” starts.  Realistic, but still fun, with a great heart.

Mame: Definitely read the book first [Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis], and then enjoy Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur, and Robert Preston in a musical that may have you singing along the first time you watch.  Lucille Ball *makes* this movie – and she’s at her most attractive here, I think.

Dakota Skye: indie rom-com ostensibly about a girl, but also a lot about the boys she likes.  Still, how cool would it be to actually be able to always tell when someone’s lying to you?  This one was right up my alley.

Phoebe in Wonderland: indie with some big names [Felicity Huffman, Bill Pullman, Elle Fanning (Dakota’s lil sis)] plots the story of a family with two precocious little girls.  Phoebe is enamoured with the story of Alice in Wonderland, and as the movie unfolds you begin to understand her.  Excellent!

I loved them all, and wouldn’t rank them…except for maybe Dakota Skye.  That was more of a guilty pleasure for me, but I still really liked it.  Everything else was fantastic!

I love how specific netflix is with me, now that they know me, my #1 recommended category is: Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead.  =)