Category Archives: Roars

Rants and roars by a bear

Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

I have been engaging in political discussions with someone who sits on the other side of the fence from me. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m pretty damn liberal.) She has been absolutely wonderful. She is usually clear and generally well-studied and doesn’t foam at the mouth. I love talking with her about this stuff, because I am learning from her. I am learning about the concerns and perspectives of the people on “the other side”—when they are thinking, rational people, rather than the ones that just repeat rhetoric, because that’s what someone else on “their side” said.

I’m also learning about myself. I’m learning that I do that. I’ve been doing all of it. I’ve been foaming at the mouth, and I’ve been repeating things people on “my side” said without doing any fact checking. I’ve been waiting for her to finish her argument, so that I could prove her wrong, rather than actively listening to the points she’s been trying to make. In short, I’ve been acting as horribly as the “Them” I claim are out there.

Sunshyne, thank you for your patience with me. And I’m sorry if for when I got too aggressive.

And here’s what I have learned from this incredibly humbling experience.

I have been so busy trying to be Right in the last few weeks that I haven’t been listening. I acted as if I thought her concerns weren’t valid at all, when the fact is, they are. Her concerns are every bit as valid as mine. I have absolutely no right to walk over hers—or worse yet, to walk over hers while announcing that I’m angry that people are walking over mine.

I have learned/remembered that angry people shout because they feel unheard. I do feel unheard. And I think she does too. People don’t share, and they certainly don’t concede, when they feel like they don’t have enough for their own well-being. This applies to food, this applies to money, and it certainly applies to attention.

The fact is, we live in a complicated society. There are a LOT of people here, from every walk of life, from every religion, every nationality. State and federal governments have the responsibility of protecting the rights of all of us—even the ones we don’t agree with. And that is what makes our nation great. We don’t have a theocracy. We don’t have one to rule them all. We govern ourselves. Together.

Part of this wake-up came about when she and I were discussing the Oregonian bakers who refused service to a gay couple on religious grounds. I spouted opinions. She spouted opinions. And then we both went and read the final filing from the court ruling, and really, my opinions on what the case were about were dead-wrong. Hers were off-based, too, but not nearly as much as mine. I realized I had fallen victim to “headline reading”. Scratch that. I chose to only read headlines, and since you cannot trust all of those guys who spout opposing opinions, because they’re all wrong, I only read headlines that seemed like they probably agree with me.

In an environment where you can Like, Share, Upvote, Downvote and Pin something with just one click, it’s becoming more challenging to do due diligence. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I just wanted to move on to my next headline. The problem was, the headlines were very, very misleading.

I know. Yellow journalism is not news. It never was. But that’s not what I’m actually here to say. What I want to say is I’ll be doing my best to do a little more reading and a little less shouting in the coming days. As old saw goes, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” (And, no, Mark Twain didn’t say it first. Neither did Abraham Lincoln. I know this, because I did my research.)

 

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On Men and Women

A few years (months?) ago, Wolf found out that I like Sherlock Holmes and recommended The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King, about his adventures later in life—and the apprentice he takes on. 🙂 It look me a long time to get around to the book, mostly because I had to figure out that while I have little time for reading, I’m sure in the car an awful lot, and have plenty of time to listen to stuff. 🙂 So I finally picked up the audiobook of Beekeeper, read by Jenny Sterlin, and slammed through it. (Is it possible to listen faster???) And then I picked up the second book in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, also read by Sterlin.

The book takes place in the UK in the 1920s and centers around a church/women’s rights activist center. Surrounding the mystery itself, there are wonderful world-building moments and discussions about the state of women’s rights during the time. It got me to thinking about how far we have come since then, legally and socially. But it also got me thinking about how far we still have to go. Continue reading On Men and Women

Let them eat chips

I’m starting to understand more deeply where my rage has been coming from. Oh, there’s the hormones, and the lack of sleep– and that awful heat certainly didn’t help. But there’s also so much mudslinging happening online right now. Everyone is accusing everyone else of having a horrible political agenda that is ruining this country! Or so they say.

The one that shocked me silent– not an easy feat– was the Doritos thing. Frito-Lay put together a specialty pack of rainbow colored Doritos, which were only available through one specific website. They are not going to any stores, and cannot be purchased anywhere but from that one site. All proceeds from the sales will be going to support an organization that is fighting teen suicides resulting from bullying. The offerings sold out that same day.

And yet some people were furious. Self-identified Christians (people whom I thought were supposed to love their neighbors just like their main dude did????) went to the Facebook page for this event and flamed Frito-Lay, saying that they were once strong Dorito fans, but they would never again buy these chips, because Doritos supported gay people. More than one was offended at some political agenda “being shoved down [their] throat[s].”

Can we take a look at that for a moment?  Continue reading Let them eat chips

Furious

I am angry. No, I am furious.

The problem is, I couldn’t figure out why. Oh, there are plenty of things to piss me off. I could list them for you, but I don’t think it would do me any good, and if you’re paying attention, you can figure out what some of them are anyway. But these are things that are simply part of being alive around other people. They’re not … fury-making. Well, maybe one of them is, but that still shouldn’t be enough to top me off like this. Continue reading Furious

Thoughts on Shaming

 

Within the last month, some lady thought she’d be funny by posting a video shaming fat people. She opened with some muttered comment about not aiming her video at people with medical conditions. This is just for the people who are willfully fat. She was crass. She was rude. She was “in your face.” And she got fired from a gig for her lack of respect.

While I am pleased with the fact that she was called out for her reprehensible behavior—shaming people never makes them better—the whole thing gave me a moment’s pause. She wasn’t talking to people who have medical conditions that cause weight gain. … Who exactly is that referring to?

I mean, clearly, she’s not talking to the people who take medications that cause weight gain. Or, you know, other stuff…? But what does that mean?

For example, about 10 years ago, I was taking care of my grandfather fulltime, and could not afford healthcare. I started having unusual lady problems that needed medical attention, but all I could afford was Urgent Care. I was told that I probably had PCOS, which can cause weight gain, amongst other symptoms. The Nurse Practitioner gave me a pill to fix the worst of the symptoms, and I went on my way.

I researched what this meant, and it made sense. I had a lot of the symptoms. “That’s it!” I thought. “This is why I can never lose the damn weight. I feel better now.” Because, you see, I had a Medical Condition. It explained so much! Now, when people gave me the eye, I could tell them that I had a Condition, and I could see them backing off.

When I was financially on my feet again and had insurance, I went to a doctor and asked for a diagnosis. We went through all of the tests, some of them quite painful, and I found out that I do NOT, in fact, have PCOS. Which means that I must just be a fat slob after all.

A few years after that, I was laid off, and once again without insurance. (All of this was before Affordable Care, you see.) I couldn’t afford COBRA. HELLO! I just lost my job, and you want me to pay you $500 a month IN CASE I get sick? I still don’t get that. Whatever. I started shopping around for health insurance that I could afford. And I got rejected because I was too fat. When I bemoaned my situation to someone I had considered a friend, he told me point blank that he didn’t think I deserved health insurance, although he didn’t say why. I’m guessing it’s because of my weight, though, because he had no way of knowing that otherwise my health is excellent. Blood pressure, blood sugar, all of my levels are within “healthy” range, except for the weight, which is, you know, visible. So what he essentially said to me was that because I was lazy in his eyes, I didn’t deserve to be healthy. Except that he didn’t have a medical license. For that matter, neither did the guy who rejected me for insurance.

A few years later, I started getting More Symptoms. I researched and ran to the doctor, and the conclusion we came to together is that I should not be eating gluten. Celiac’s Disease, once upon a time, was believed to only cause severe weight loss. If you couldn’t see a person’s bones, if they didn’t have the protruding belly, it wasn’t Celiac’s. But medical science marches on, and now they’re realizing that it can cause unexplained weight gain, as well. In fact, there are over 300 symptoms of the disease, and while there are symptoms that are more common than others, it is actually possible to have the disease for years without any symptoms at all. And because Celiac’s is such a complex disease, it takes an average—an average of 11 years to get diagnosed, which means that this could have been going on for years with me not having a clue. Who knows how long? And during that entire time, whether I was dieting or not, no matter how well I ate, or how much I exercised or didn’t, I was constantly losing nutrition and starving my body.

After diagnosis, I admit that I overate. Part of it was because I had an Excuse. Part of it was because I was desperate to feel normal again, so I devoured everything I could find that felt “normal”. Part of it was the Depression kicking in, from losing a huge part of my identity as a baker. At this point, I’ve pretty much worked through all of that and stopped overeating, but it’s going to be a while before you see any results, because I refuse—let me write that again for you to read: I REFUSE to go on a crash diet just to suit anyone else’s concept of what my body should look like EVER, EVER AGAIN. Instead I eat healthfully for my body and let it come into balance on its own.

So here’s my question to that lady, and to anyone else who feels the need to shame some random person on the street over some issue you know absolutely nothing about: Were you talking to the me that thought I had a medical condition, but actually didn’t, the me that HAD a silent and undiagnosed medical condition, the me that knew I had a problem but had other serious medical issues keeping me from dealing with the first, or the me that is doing the best that I can for myself, as I currently know things to be?

Just wondering.

 

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A Spy Like Me

Last night, I looked through a catalog of action movies, and I noticed something interesting. There must have been a couple hundred movies listed, and in that, I found four where there was a heroine instead of a hero. Including Barbarella.

You see,  I was trying to come up with how many movies I knew of about spies, in particular, which starred women, rather than men. I had tried to list them earlier in the day and had about for titles, out of the hundreds of spy movies out there– and I don’t mean spy movies with women in them. Shit, that’s almost all of them. I mean spy movies with a female headliner.

I remember, of course, the TV classic remake,  Avengers, but Emma Peel is part of a duo with John Steed. There was  Mr. And Mrs. Smith, but again, Angelina headlined with Brad. The French La Femme Nikita and Brigit Fonda’s remake from the early 90s, about a woman shanghaied into working as a spy against her will. Feds was about two women, but they were federal, not international (and technically, they were just students, not actual agents). And, of course, there’s always my girl, Black Widow… Oh, wait.

Where the hell are my lady spies?!?! Continue reading A Spy Like Me

To The Greener Grass People

I remember the first time I asked someone if they loved living in Los Angeles. My favorite film professor asked me what I thought of living here. I gushed for a moment: “I love the freedom and the cine-freaks everywhere. I love the Oscars– although not how they block traffic at my apartment. But the weather is awesome! I love… just… all of it. Do you like living here, sir?”

“No,” he said flatly. He then launched into a spicy tirade about traffic, overcrowding and shallow people– and that last bit was, I have to say, rather ironic coming from him. But I digress. I was floored. For the first time ever, this man, who walked on water in my world, was flat-out wrong. He made his living working in/with the film industry, for heaven’s sake! He lived in a film-lover’s Mecca! How could he not…?

I floated back to the rest of my life, solid in the knowledge that I had gotten the bonus points everyone gets just for visiting during Office Hours. He now knew my name (OMG! He knows my name!) and knew that I loved LA. I felt like I had made some social faux-pas for saying I that last bit and hoped he chalked it up to the enamoured passion of those fresh-faced kids with the stars in their eyes. Still, priorities: I would get the credit I needed to ace the class, so I was good. The moment was set aside. For a bit.

But the thing was, this happened more than once. I mean, only the one time with my favorite professor, but over the years, I have heard so many people bitching and moaning about living here. Oh, the traffic! Oh, the people!

It became a puzzle that I’d pull out every so often. Like a Rubic’s Cube, I’d poke at it for a few minutes, twist it around, and then put it back on its shelf, because I still hadn’t solved it. Why would anyone– especially someone single– be living in a town they hated?

I have a little bit more perspective now than I did back then. I now know that sometimes Life takes us in unexpected directions, that sometimes we end up in places we’d never have imagined ourselves otherwise. There are considerations: financial, emotional, familial, communal. And sometimes, we get stuck. I’ve been stuck before; I get it. And most of all, moving is scary terrifying, not to mention a pain in the tuchas. In all of my travels, over and over, I kept hearing the phrase, “Leave my [family / friends / lover / job / favorite museum / poker group / whatever] behind? I could never do that.”

And that’s another thing! Stop saying that. Stop saying you could never. If you were violently sick everytime you ate a bagel, you could give up bagels. You might not like it, but you could do it. If someone you love to the moon and back were miserable Doing The Thing, you’d find a way for them around Doing The Thing. If you were offered a million dollars a year to live in Alaska, you’d… have to think about it really hard. (It’s cold up there, but then again, with a million dollars you could buy a lot of space heaters.) People make difficult decisions all the time, and usually, it’s because they feel they have to.

Where was I? Right. Moving. You could do it if you felt you had to.

Yes, traffic in Los Angeles sucks the big one, but it’s the same in Atlanta and Chicago, and it’s worse in San Francisco. And don’t even get me started on driving/parking in Manhattan. If you want the benefits of living in a big city, you’re gonna be dealing with traffic, just like everybody else.

Yes, there are shallow people in Los Angeles. I mean, you know, they congregate here in a much greater concentration than anywhere else that I can think of, because they all think they’re going to be the next producer/director/star. But really, every great city has its shadow side–that one bit that all the inhabitants kinda grin sheepishly with a shrug when you point it out. But the flip-side of L.A.’s shallowness is that this city is engrossed with beauty, and as such, there is beauty everywhere, both man made and natural– and often in the same person. Hello!

Maybe it’s that L.A. is an acquired taste. When you first come, all you see is cars and gray. And the Hollywood sign. It can be a little depressing. (Except for the Hollywood sign.) Actually, there’s a lot that can be crazy-making about this place. Perhaps it’s only a place you can love if you grew up here– and have no doubts that while my parents did not raise me in California, this is definitely where I Grew Up. But after a while, you can see past the gray to the mountains beyond. There’s a survivalist’s grace in the native vegetation. (YES, we have plants that grow out here natively.) And there’s a chillaxed attitude among even the most high-strung inhabitants, which eventually even the transplants adopt. (Or they leave.)

I still think the weather is gorgeous, although all the recent climate changes have me concerned for the effects we are experiencing here. (Really, more rain would be nice. If any of you have an In to get us any extra, we’d really appreciate it!) We have growing seasons all year long. Like, outdoors! You can get almost everything you need for your Thanksgiving Feast at a locals-only farmer’s market! Christmas and New Year’s too! (Except for the requisite can of cranberry sauce, because the stuff from the farmer’s market doesn’t have the ridges from the side of the can.)

And citrus trees are in everyone’s back yards, so you can have lemons, limes (helloooo, margaritas!), oranges, and grapefruits any time you want. And avocados: they’re dirt cheap here! Although I’m still hard-pressed to understand why anyone would want an avocado. Or a grapefruit. Still, if you like ’em, they’re everwhere here.

Los Angeles is a leading city when it comes to protecting the environment, because we have to be. Have you seen photos of this city in the 80s? And the pace is somehow slower for a big city. If you’re late to work because of traffic, everyone shrugs it off (because they only got in two minutes before you), and life goes on. People stroll down the street– if they’re walking at all. (It’s hard to live here without a car–not impossible, but certainly challenging.) But there’s no hustle. And I mean that in both senses of the word– pedestrians take their time AND there are very few pickpockets, because barely anyone actually uses sidewalks.

And as a cine-freak, you can see any kind of movie you want on the Big Screen. Last year, Honey and I went to see Raiders of the Lost Arc at the Egyptian Theater– a classic movie palace decked out in the gold-trimmed elegance people only dreamed of in the 30s. (Similar opportunities happen pretty much every weekend all over the city.) And there was Indy, in all his cinematic glory. It was so fascinating to see him larger than life once more. For one thing, I never realized how truly of-the-seventies that movie is!

Seriously, this town rocks. If there were one thing I’d change, you know what that would be? Oh, Genie Of The Lamp, my one wish is that the people that bitch about living here would go back to their greener grass. The world needs happy people, and I’m tired of the whiners bringing their psychic grime to my city. Besides, if they all left, that would fix our traffic issue.

 

Photo by ME!

The Bantam Weighs-In on Ultron

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? I’m a girl. Of course, my definition of “girl” is female human somewhere between the ages of three and 203. Before that, you’re in “baby” range, and after that, well, you’re probably a little too rusty to be sassy enough to be a proper girl. (I have a similar definition for “boy,” just so you know. Equal opportunity offender, that’s me.) I’m also an American film buff. You can read that either way, really. I was both born in the US, and I appreciate US films. OMG! I LURV the summer blockbusters. Big, esplody, and corny = AWESOME!!!

As you can imagine, I was really looking forward to Avengers: Age of Ultron. I mean, really really. Marvel has been doing a fantastic job with the franchise! (Except for that whole no-female-super-movie thing. And now the no-Black-Widow-merchandise thing. What’s up with that???) Finally, finally! The complex characters that have evolved over generations of comic book culture are being treated with the respect they deserve.

The first Avengers was phenomenal, having been helmed by one of my favorite active directors in Hollywood today: Joss Whedon, who had a rocky start in film, shot to amazeballs while writing and directing for TV, and has steadily climbed the Hollywood ladder since then. Of course, one of my favorite elements of his body of work is his consistent track record of strong, kickass, female characters– characters, which I felt were starkly missing from Age of Ultron, also helmed by Whedon. (?!?!?)

It was shocking, really. A bit of a slap in the face. In the first Avengers movie, Black Widow, a mere-human assassin/femme fatale, has the training and know-how to go toe-to-toe with the strongest meta-humans Marvel has introduced to our world. Like, she is a serious threat to anyone who crosses her; she’s even able to outwit the wiliest of trickster gods. And in the second movie, she is fairly firmly in the role of Girlfriend. I mean, you know, a Girlfriend who has a kick like a mule and rides a motorcycle and isn’t scared of facing the end of the world. But really, her role in the movie was Girlfriend. Where was her Kickass Moment?

I left the theater feeling sad for my missing Black Widow. And quite frankly, in the entire movie, there was very little character evolution at all (male or female), which is a necessity. (You can stretch that shit out way longer in a comic book, but even in those stories, characters grow and change.) Dare I say, the most interesting character to watch evolving is the crazy robot. And, you know, James Spader is AMAZING, so his robot was amazing, but when the bad-guy-robot is more interesting than the heroes, somebody needs to check into a storytelling 101 class.

But I don’t blame Joss.

Let’s take a look at history.

1. Joss has always written strong story arcs about strong women. Even in his ensemble pieces, women are just as strong and capable as the men. They are part of the team; they have never needed to be coddled. Buffy, Willow, Tara, Anya, Cordelia, Fred, Zoe, Kaylee, Inara, River, (do I have to mention Echo?), and Black Widow from the first Avengers: even the girliest of these girls knows how to kick some serious ass and can hold her own in male-dominated professions. Joss has been promoting the strong female character since the beginning of his career! Hell, that is the cornerstone of his career. He is NOT the enemy.

2. Age of Ultron is the first Marvel movie that is, as Honey puts it, soup-to-nuts under the Disney banner. Disney has a very long, sordid history of minimizing the roles of female characters, even when the whole movie is supposed to be about her: Look at Snow White, who saves herself by cleaning house for seven smaller men, and finally getting kissed by a powerful prince. Or how about Cinderella, who saves herself from her awful life by wearing shiny shoes. (Let’s not even get into the erotic symbolism of a man sliding a shoe onto a woman’s foot, thereby turning her from a scullery maid to a princess.)

They have gotten better in recent years. Calhoun and Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph are getting there, but even still: Calhoun is a gun-toting, testosterone-laden soldier, who  ends up marrying someone significantly shorter and more effeminate– like they wrote a male character and decided to switch the gender at the last minute. Vanellope is a tomboy and a child, with an inference that someday she’ll grow out of this phase of hers and take her place as a beautiful and proper princess. Disney seriously doesn’t know how to write kickass females.

3. The  studio system does NOT give final cut to the director. Like, ever. And let’s face it, while I don’t know the particulars of this deal, most of the time, the producer and/or the studio gets the final cut for the theatrical release. Not the director. That’s why it’s such a big deal to get a DVD or Blu-Ray of director’s cuts. Hello, does anyone remember the Bladerunner debacle?

4. It took Marvel months to tell the original Age of Ultron story. Months! Across multiple titles. And here they are, trying to jam all of it into two hours. It couldn’t all fit. But they tried…. I feel like this movie was a reverse Hobbit, which was one-and-a-half movies too long for its story. Ultron would have been a stronger story if they had taken a little bit more time to tell the tale right. You know, like how Joss would spin a yarn across a season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, or you know, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., rather than the way Disney jam-packed so many wacky moments into Alexander and Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that they forgot to story.

5. There are rumors that Joss has a director’s cut which adds at least an hour and a half of deleted material. How much you wanna bet that’s the other half of the movie, which knits everything together and fills in some serious character gaps for, you know, all the characters?

What it comes down to is that a known control-freak studio, which consistently ruins good stories and turns every female into a simpering version of herself (Brave was Pixar, which was NOT owned by the Mouse House at the time of its production, remember), had full power to wipe its weird, four-fingered gloves all over this movie.

Now, explain to me again why we are blaming Joss?

Dear fellow aspiring professional writers,

There is nothing so disappointing as picking up a book you cannot wait to read, and setting it down before you even get to Chapter One, due to bad writing.

Don’t get me wrong: I completely see why so many writers have turned to independently publishing their books. It is NOT easy to get noticed by a major publisher unless you’re already published. And with all the new software and avenues to reach readers… why not self-publish?

I say go for it! I say, get your best work out there. But I also say you should give your best work its best shot, and I promise you that 9 times out of 10, your best shot is a helluva lot more than your one friend who knows how to spell and all of your very supportive and well-meaning friends who don’t know how to string a narrative together and have no interest in writing anyway. Continue reading Dear fellow aspiring professional writers,

A Tale of Two Oxygen Masks

I have been riding in airplanes since I was a small child; at first it was under the eagle eyes of my parents, and when I was deemed old enough, I got to be my sister’s chaperone when it was just the two of us flying together between our home and our grandparents’. It was a big deal for me, because I was responsible for her well-being. (Teens are big into taking on responsibility, you know.) For that reason, the first thing I did was teach her how to read her ticket, and how to find her connecting flight. That way, even if we got *gasp!* separated, she’d be able to find her way around the airport and get to her flight. She picked it up in no time, and was an instant flying ace on her first try!

But that first time, when we got on the plane, and I was still feeling the full weight of my awesome responsibility, I realized that the boring safety speech I had always ignored before take-off was actually important. I needed to know what to do in case there was an emergency. I even made Squeaky pay attention, too, so that in case we got separated, she’d be able to take care of herself.

Continue reading A Tale of Two Oxygen Masks