Ankh Speaks: The Day Job

So over on Middle Child Press, Ankhesen Mie explains why artists being unemployed is not a good look.

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I recently viewed a trailer for a film we shall not speak of here.  In the trailer, the protagonist is a struggling writer who totally sucksis having money problems because he won’t buckle down and get a damn day job.  He says that as a writer he has to “pay his dues”.

Some folks argue that the day job is the artist’s ultimate bane.  They feel they would be more productive if they didn’t have to go toil for someone else everyday.  They feel they belong with a cigarette and notepad on a park bench somewhere, watching the kids play like some child molester.  They think they’ll get more work done if they head out to the coffee house and surf the web for eight hours a day.  And then they wonder why their writing careers don’t go anywhere.

Mm-hm.  I feel the day job is the best way for a writer to pay their dues.  If you have a genuinely creative mind, you can use your job – whatever it be – as a source of inspiration.  And if you go the popular, cost effective self-publishing route – which I highly recommend – you have complete control over your own material which, last time I checked, is every writer’s dream.

Many cigarette smoking, coffee house writers are often seen as ignorant, naive, and idealistic.  The lack of a day job and the glamorization of the “starving artist” tends to keep them out of touch with reality.  They’re limiting their interactive circle, and by being financially negligent, they’re actually causing increasing problems in the long-term (starving artist ironically tend to have gourmet tastes in fashion, food, and furniture).

Fashion tip from Moi: knowing that your bills are paid and you’ll always have a place to sleep does wonders for the creative mind because even though you’re pretty tired at the end of the day, you’re not stressing out.

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Complexion for the Protection

This post was recently inspired by a discussion by my beautiful and brilliant internet wife RVC Bard.

When marginalized viewers critique arts & entertainment, we often look at how themes of race, gender, orientation, etc. are handled with the marginalized characters and the narrative. Obviously that’s understandable given how little representation we receive, and we understand the power of perception and how it affects minorities in real life.

However rarely do we ever consider how whiteness, white culture and white privilege play out in stories and how characters are afforded advantages and how certain dynamics play out simply by being white. More than that, but the audience perception and reaction to said dynamics differ greatly because of white privilege. Not surprisingly the astute will note many double standards at play. Because whiteness is considered the default, the norm, universal, it’s rarely examined or critiqued.

That is until today.

The following are white characters who could only operate as white characters because to do otherwise would result in a different story with a different interpretation from the audience.

Oh yes. I go there.

Preview This

“If you don’t want us to judge a story based on its preview, then don’t release the preview, because literally the only reason that anyone has ever released any previews of any story, in all of human history, is to get them to judge the story based on the preview. The only real point of disagreement here is that we’re not judging the story POSITIVELY based on the preview, and that we’re not pledgi

ng to BUY the story based on the preview, and that’s the fault of YOUR incompetence in creating the preview, because all we’re doing is judging the story BY THE SAME STANDARDS THAT YOU *WANT* US TO JUDGE IT. For as much as they complain about their own audience’s so-called “whining,” entertainment media hacks are the most unforgivably entitled spoiled babies in existence. “YOU DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO CRITICIZE IT UNTIL YOU’VE PAID US MONEY TO SEE IT, at which point we won’t care about your criticisms because we still have your money.”

Kirk Boxleitner

By Dennis R. Upkins Tagged

The Heterosexist Narrative

And my girl Ankhesen Mie comes out swinging, HARD!!!!!

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After battling the worst bout of writer’s block I’ve had in a while, I finally rescued myself by coming to one of my momentous decisions: no more stories where love is a central theme, and no more sex scenes (unless they have a comical edge).

It has nothing to do with being a prude or anything like that; it has more to do with the fact that romance as we know it needs to take a holiday.
I feel – and this is just my humble opinion – that as we are seeing a stubborn whitening of everything in media, we are also seeing a stubborn straightening of everyone.  In addition to the obsession of showing white people in romantic relationships, I feel there’s been an added emphasis on showing them in straight relationships.
In other words, not only is Hollywood pushing back against the growing number of people of color in this country, the country’s own origins of color, and the dominance of color abroad, Hollywood is pushing back against the increasingly visible and vocal gay population which is rightfully sick and tired of second-class citizenship.
I once criticized the virulent prevalence of (heterosexual) love triangles in media.  They were popping up everywhere and turning no one on.  Now, it seems, “romance” has become a shameless plug in which women in particular are reduced to mere love interests, reminding the audience that straight is great, so don’t deviate.
Now, if you’re wondering where this post is coming from, you have Nina Simone to thank for that.  First off, Zoe Saldana has no business portraying this woman.  I love me some Zoe, I’m glad she’s making her money and getting steady exposure, but despite her proud declaration of being a Black woman, Hollywood finds her “safe” enough to put in its movies, and thereby continue its quest to whiten damn near everybody.
Secondly, as Nina Simone’s daughter has pointed out, her nurse Clifton Henderson was gay.  The film intends to portray the last eight years or so of her life, and for some reason, the PTB feel the need plug in a romantic subplot.  So now we have a damn biopic being blatantly rewritten so as to once again pointlessly portray heterosexual romance – why does there have to be a romance in this situation at all?

Writing 101, kids: “love interest” is not a “purpose.”  It’s not a role.  It can be a minor aspect of a fleshed-out, multidimensional character, but not their entire reason for existing.  If they don’t contribute anything else to the central plotline, they need to be written the hell out.

And lastly, Hollywood needs to just friggin’ deal.  Gays, like folks of color in general, are here.  They’ve always been here.  They’re not going anywhere.  So let our gay actors come out publicly and portray themselves.  When the audience can see same-sex hugs and kisses that aren’t stiff or uncomfortable or very carefully rehearsed, it’ll lend movies a whole new level of credibility and respectability.  Stop orientation-bending already.

And lose the excessive romance.  We get it.  Heteros dig each other.  How nice it must be for them…when they’re not divorcing each other in shameful rates, or cheating on each other after a needlessly expensive but at least God-sanctified wedding, or taking each other for granted, or constantly fleeing the kids they spawned during their wonderful, God-intended hetero sex.

*yawn*  We get it already. What else you got?

Review: Folklore and Other Stories

 

So late last year I was chatting with my buddy Ankhesen Mie about her novella Folklore and I mentioned to her that I planned to purchase it. She insisted I wait because she planned to re-release it. I was already even more curious because this novella had already received some serious acclaim—Midwest Book Review, RAWSISTAZ Literary, APOOO Bookclub for starters—so how much more awesome could this book get?

 

I would soon find out.

 

Confession time. I was actually very reluctant to write this review. Not because the book isn’t phenomenal, in fact quite the opposite. I was so blown away by Mie’s prose, that expressing my amazement into words simply wouldn’t do this novella justice. Just the same, I’m going to attempt to do so anyway.

 

“Folklore”

When young Kazuya Kurosaki orders the disposal of a rival’s favorite, beautiful Amisi Ryan shows up with a “‘thank you’…from the dead.” Her priceless gift, an approximately four-thousand-year-old solid gold mask, lures Kazuya into a world of myth and intoxicating fantasy, and with each telling of an ancient tale, he finds himself drawn further and further away from everything – and everyone – he knows.

As a writer, I was floored by Mie’s craftsmanship. We’re actually receiving two juxtaposed stories in one: the myth behind the mask and the fates of Kazuya and Amisi. In fact the myth of the mask plays out in the modern tale with subtlety and nuance; a testament to Mie’s masterful skills as a storyteller.

 

I had to put down my iPad in sheer amazement of Mie’s story structure and execution. I would be putting down my iPad repeatedly in amazement. In hindsight with the repeatedly placing down of said iPad, no wonder it took me forever to finish this novella.

 

While I was first introduced to the Hirosawa Klan (which reminds me, I needs to see about them adopting me because they are that badass) in Mie’s novel, The Woman From Cheshire Avenue, they actually make their debut prior to that novel her in Folklore. And per the standard they delivered the awesome. But they weren’t the only ones. Without giving anything away Hirosawa rival Raiya proved herself to be a boss chick and shows why she’s not the woman to cross.

 

I was gnashing teeth when the story concluded. I wanted more. I had to find out what happened next. Leaving her audience wanting more, Mie had done her job.

 

While I knew I would enjoy the other two stories, I was certain they wouldn’t be able to hold up to Folklore. How do you follow such a strong piece?

 

I would soon find out.

 

 

“Echo”

Rory Zheng is a young traveler who arrives at Silver Wood Manor, an enchanting residence atop a mountain where he meets an array of characters. Among them are the mischievous old Irishman who designed the buildings and the chatty nine-year-old daughter of the beautiful, somber landlady of Silver Wood, whose husband is often away….

To unlock the mystery and history of the manor and its people, Rory employs some magic of his own: the art of storytelling.

While the action and excitement of Folklore hooked me immediately, Echo’s subtlety slowly, but nonetheless completely, grew on me. In a mythical and surreal world, it still had a small town/village feel to it where the characters were like family.

Silver Wood itself had as much atmosphere and character as the characters and the backdrop leant itself nicely to the story.

Comyna and Subira were a lovely and refreshing lesbian couple. It’s not often I see two queer characters of color anywhere and both characters were handled with respect and class. The Liangs were a riot and Hannigan was a hoot.

While Rory and Lara are the two main characters, I found myself not only being invested in them but becoming just as equally invested in the supporting cast members.

Once again, I was gnashing teeth when the story concluded. I wanted more. I had to find out what happened next. Leaving her audience wanting more, Mie had done her job.

Two separate stories had done this, there was no way she was going to pull off such a feat with the third one.

Or would she?

 

“The Collection”

The divorce between Jason Rang and his filthy rich, soon-to-be ex-wife Mireille is actually going well. Or at least it does until Jason lets his new fiancée Maribel actually meet Mireille. Invited to Mireille’s newly inherited mansion (fully furnished with all manner of beautiful shirtless young men), Jason and Maribel find themselves lulled into a sensual world where they learn that sometimes – but only sometimes – an entire divorce proceeding can be just another lovers’ quarrel.

 

Of the three tales, the Collection was most certainly the most experimental. As a writer, I’m usually good about analyzing story structure and anticipating where the narrative is headed. This story, I honestly couldn’t get a read on. There was lot of backstory that was shrouded in mystery. The characters reacted in unexpected (but completely plausible) ways. The conclusion was satisfying, even though the mystery was never fully resolved.

The story ultimately proved to be entertaining, complex, surreal, and more enticing than I’m comfortable admitting. And while I was left wanting more, it was an intense ride and the perfect way to end the book.

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In each of the stories, Mie consistently brings the highest level of quality to her work. Quality that is distinctive. She gives the most detailed description in settings, design, locale, attire, personal style, even the smell and tastes of the meals being served. These are worlds that she’s excited about and clearly in love with and it translates well in her stories. She wants her readers to have the same experience exploring her worlds as she does.

Folklore is also an example of experimentation done right. Mie knows her craft inside and out. She knows the rules and can bend them and break them to do some incredible feats. In fact she seriously needs to consider changing her name to Niobe or Trinity because I witnessed some  jaw-dropping Matrix style maneuvering in her writing.

Said experimentation also lent itself nicely to the plausible deniability of the supernatural bent in the stories. Each story possesses a hint of speculative elements but it’s rooted in enough ambiguity that it allows the reader to interpret the text how they see fit.

But more than anything I thank Mie for the escapism. It was refreshing to read a book where the main characters were people of color. Three dimensional, complex complicated people of color.

It was a joy to see a same sex loving couple (possibly two and if you’ve read Echo, then you know what I’m talking about) who were portrayed with respect.

It was refreshing to see a diverse set of strong powerful women whether it was Lara, Raiya, Mrs. Liang, or Mierelle.

I especially enjoyed reading these worlds where POCs are wealthy and privileged and accomplished. Silver Wood had a Latino mayor, a world renowned Asian photographer, and a rich young academic. It’s a tragic reminder that more stories like these aren’t being told and yet it’s refreshing and hopeful to be reminded that someone is.

Of course now Mie has made the worst mistake possible by allowing me to read Folklore. Now more than ever I’m a huge fanboy of hers and if she thinks I’ve been pestering her before about when her next books are going to be released, she hasn’t seen anything yet.

If this review is any indication, Folklore receives five stars. This book is what the kids would call  FLAWLESS VICTORY.

Enter The Mountain Lion

 

For many reasons I no longer believe in coincidence. I think that most things happen for a purpose.

As most of you are aware, I’m a hardcore Apple fan. While I owned iPods for years prior, in August of 2009, I was happy to purchase my very first Macbook Pro. A year later I would purchase an iPhone and some time after that I got the iPad.

I don’t say this often about products but Apple has improved my life immeasurably with its value from its products. Be it writing, art, other business endeavors, personal use or entertainment, Apple. More than that, I’ve always been impressed with the fact that the company doesn’t rest on its laurels but continues to evolve and improve.

Since 2009 I’ve operated on the Leopard operating system. Four years = 4 decades in computer years. Which is a testament to the awesome that is the Mac because it shows that I haven’t had the need to update or upgrade my system because it’s so awesome.

However I noticed certain programs was no longer compatible because I was on an outdated platform. So this weekend I’ve been upgrading up to the latest platform: Mountain Lion.

For you non Mac people, jumping from Leopard to Mountain Lion would be like going from Windows 2000 to Windows 7. I’m skipping Snow Leopard and Lion altogether.

What’s with the cat theme? You would think the Thundercats owned Apple or something.

The verdict?

I swear it’s like buying a brand new computer. The existing features have improved dramatically, the computer is faster and the newer features are slick and impressive.

I also find it provident that of all the times I could’ve updated my computer it would be the weekend of the anniversary in which I first purchased it.

Updating my Macbook has been one of the most exciting weekends of my life.

God I need a life in the worst kind of way.

In any event, Mountain Lion rocks. And to celebrate I’ve been rocking out to this video. I may or may not have been doing some of the dance sequences:

2012 Olympics

 

Random Fact #29: In my youth I did gymnastics off and on and that’s definitely the one sport I wish I had pursued heavily.

Now I’m not saying Gabby Douglas is a real life bonafied superheroine, but Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl started as a world class gymnast.

And Gabby can clearly rock the purple and yellow and a cape and cowl. Just putting that out there.

 

I haven’t kept up with the Olympics, save for the gymnastics and of course the men’s swim meets for obvious reasons.  😉

 

 

 

And How Was Your Wednesday?

Chick Fil-A

So up until yesterday, I was pretty much done with the whole Chick Fil-A saga. Others had said what needed to be said, and I had moved on.

That was until yesterday.

I wasn’t aware of this Chick Fil-A support day from Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (that should’ve been your first clue you were on the wrong end of the argument right there), but I had several people yesterday come out of the woodwork to track me down to tell me that I’m going to hell, that I’m a sinner and I’m an abomination to God. And of course the second I actually defended myself, they cried about how they were oppressed because how dare they express their opinions and have to deal with others doing the same.

This Chick Fil-A has actually been a blessing in disguise because many so called friends and loved ones have shown their true colors and have proven to be following anything but Christ like love.

So a few points.

1) This isn’t about religion. Contrary to popular opinion Christian and gay are not mutually exclusive and there are countless gay Christians doing God’s work. So if you’re using a Bible as an excuse to discriminate, pick another one.

2) This is not about the First Amendment. Chick Fil-A is well within their rights to express their views and their opinions. However, free speech works both ways. So when you discriminate against a group of people who are met with bigotry and violence on a daily basis, don’t act shocked if they express their first amendment rights and speak out also.

3) This isn’t about gay marriage. At least not solely. This is about a company that purports to believe in “Christian values” but has given millions of dollars to hate groups.

4) I had enough on my plate to worry about, but now that real life peeps have made it a point to be vocal about discriminating against me as a person, I’m gonna be that much more vocal about speaking out.

5) You have the right to eat at Chick FIl-A if you so choose. You have the right to believe that gay marriage shouldn’t happen. However, you can’t have it both ways. So upon eating at Chick Fil-A and knowing the issues, you are making it clear that you support a company that supports discrimination and if your gay son, friend, co-worker, etc. are angry with you because of it, they are entitled to do so.

And finally as stated previously:

if you support a politician, a religious belief, political party, an ideology, or A RESTAURANT that:

a) co-signs on discriminating and oppressing the rights of minorities.

b) actively denies the existence of said oppression

c) all of the above

Do not be shocked or offended if said minorities don’t want to have anything to do with you or your bigotry.

If you believe that LGBTQs shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military, shouldn’t be allowed to marry, shouldn’t be allowed to raise their kids, shouldn’t be entitled to the same basic rights and liberties that cis straight heterosexuals take for granted, and/or you support candidates who actively work to oppress LGBTQs, you don’t get to get mad if LGBTQs don’t want to deal with your garbage. And not even LGBTQs. Don’t forget there are plenty of straight allies who have LGBTQs for children, siblings, loved ones, who they will give their lives to protect and defend.

And spare the Bible thumping, because last I checked Jesus was about love and wasn’t about hate. Many of you straight Christians need to be taking notes from gay Christians (yes they do exist) because they’re out there living the Word and doing God’s work more than you ever will.

Furthermore I’m gonna also give “Christian” homophobes the side-eye because most of the same religious fallacies they used to justify oppressing LGBTQs are the same arguments racist white “Christians” made justifying slavery and denying blacks Civil Rights.

See for you, it may just be abstract ideas or political beliefs or spirited debate. I’m not a politic, nor am I 3/5 of a human being. Those politics determine whether or not I can serve in the military or whether or not I can marry someone outside my race or if I even have protection under the law.

Let me also be clear. You ARE ENTITLED to your opinion, your beliefs, however warped they may be.

What you ARE NOT entitled to is my space, my friendship, my time and my energy. I reserve that for people who respect me (all of me) as a human being.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t support oppressing a marginalized group and then expect to be loved by them unconditonally. So if you’re drinking the Kool-Aid that is say Fox News or co-signing to a former child actor from an 80s sitcom turned religious bigot, don’t be shocked or outraged if some of your best friends ARE NOT black people.