Why Media Matters (but it’s really very little to do with media)

May 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

The typical nerd pursuits have seen their universes shaken up a lot over the last few years. It’s not all been bad, but there’s a lot of push back against the changes. The Hugo Awards drama has driven a world between the writing world. Video games have seen a virtual war between a more progressive side and a kind of old guard. Comic books have suffered numerous issues with the inclusion of minorities and women and the hiccups that these changes cause. Media in general has been shaken up when it comes to race, sexual orientation and gender.

Exhibit A: Captain America fucking up the day of some criminals while flying

These aren’t the most important subjects in the world.

Baltimore is has been the stage for riots for the last few days. There’s an election coming over the horizon. The Middle East is still on fire.

And yet I can’t stop coming back to these things because they’re in my life everyday. I’ve grown to appreciate comic books and I grew up with video games and fantasy fiction. They’re a part of who I am, but not who I am. For so many people these things are an integral part of their person and that’s why passionate fights come out of the changes.

This has been written about extensively from both sides of all issues. If your mind is already made up one way or another I’m not going to be able to change it, but I land firmly on the side of the progressive in every case. Companies have realized that appealing to a wider audience can get them the big bucks and doesn’t have to be hokey or pandering. What’s wrong with that?

I’ve been black my whole life. It’s not the kind of thing you can wake up one day and realize or suddenly become, but I haven’t always understood why women had issues with being seen in a sexual light or why gays deserved any rights. When you come from a state like Texas it’s easy to get inundated with the culture. It’s really in all American culture. You don’t understand why the poor don’t just “get a job and work harder” and maybe you think “sexual harassment is something cooked up by women to give them an excuse to get special treatment”.

These things are baked into the clay we’re molded from and it’s hard to chip away at that mindset. A kind of cognitive dissonance is at play too. Being black and thinking that I deserve to be afforded the same rights as anyone else while not thinking the same about women or gays requires a little bit of mental gymnastics. We think of ourselves ahead of others. We consider our own problems first.

We get mad at women because we feel like they owe us their bodies and their time simply because we exist and we’re asking for it. We feel like gays are different or without God and therefore should be looked at as subhuman.

It’s hard to remember when the switch clicked in my head. I remember the steps to get there: reading testimonials by women who had been looked at like juicy steaks their whole lives and felt up by men they trusted. Or getting so angry at a friend who I claimed to be in love with when she didn’t return my affection that I cut her out of my life. Or finding out how many women I cared about and knew for years had stories of sexual assault. Or getting to know gays as people and finding out people I knew were gay and there was nothing wrong with them. It didn’t make me feel any different about or around them.

I’d say it’s maturity and growing up, but then there are those twice my age with the mindset I had at sixteen. And it’s easy to slip back into the old habit of thinking badly about someone solely because they’re different than you.

The culture around us is built on a foundation of cultures from all over the world and attitudes and mores that are centuries old shape the world we live in. Even when you’ve realized the truth, you’re immersed in the lie and it’s hard to keep believing.

That’s where the comic books, video games and other media come in. Media is often our first interactions with some things. We see Asians on television and we figure they must all be like that; it’s easy to think that people are like the races in Lord of the Ring. Well, it’s easy to think that about people who aren’t like you. All blacks are athletic, love watermelon and crime. Asians are bad with women, but good at math and science. Hispanics are somehow both hard working and lazy. Liberals are degenerates who hate America. Conservatives are sexist bigots who love war. Gays are fashionable, nosey and annoying. Women are bad at math and emotional. Feminists are man hating lesbians.

I can go on like this all day.

For a long time we’ve seen these things played out in media. We’ve had them hammered into our heads in print and seen them run their course on the screen. The country has only started to come around from a lot of the older ones in the last one hundred years or so and it’s been a slow battle. The progressive attitude toward characterization of the “other” in media has got to grow up, because it’s where a lot of the kids being born now will get their first taste of the world out there and where a lot of us reinforce our worst fears and best realizations about people.

These groups aren’t homogenized. I know a woman who is a math genius. I know a Conservative guy who let me borrow gas money when I needed and has a teen daughter that he dotes on and used to bring to play Dungeons and Dragons with us. I know a really hood black guy that loves his comics and treats women with the utmost respect. I have a gay cousin that loves him some Jesus and I have women who are among my best friends…the whole point to this rant is that we don’t need to take what people are as who they are or all they are.

Bad people exist in every group, but there’s a lot of good out there and if we just stopped being so quick to judge we’d probably see more of it.

Now, I promise I haven’t smoked anything and I’m not drunk. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of making the mistake of pointing to a whole group as bad as anyone else. And to me this whole battle over media culture is bigger than the characters and fandoms housed inside of that culture. We need to all work for that.

I don’t think I’ll change any minds, but I hope I do.

Comics and Photos

April 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

A friend of mine convinced me to try mainstream super hero comics. I’d kind of done this before, but it never took. This time I started with Batgirl, which I’ve talked about in the past. I decided to read Marvel’s All New X-Men, which has been a really fun ride. It’s odd to know so much in passing about these characters and read a story with them that’s been running for a few years.jean2343

I think I’m going to keep this comic book thing up and find something else to read. So far my favorite characters are Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde, unfortunately they don’t have many storylines out there. When I was a kid and the old X-Men show was on a lot of it centered around Jean, which is why it’s funny to me that she’s been so underused (and for a while was dead) in current comics.

I also wanted to update my whole picture practice. Here’s one of the latest things I took. I’m mostly not posting these because they’re pretty goddamn boring.

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That bokeh, though.

Photo Days

April 24, 2015 § 1 Comment

After some recent photography work I’m convinced that I need to work on using my camera to the fullest potential and making use of what I have with me. Too much light, not enough light: those can’t be my excuses anymore. It’s just tiring having to miss shots because of it. So I am planning to use my camera once a day (with no flash if I can) to take a picture of something…anything around me.

Started yesterday and got something that’s not super interesting.

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It was kind of gloomy outside and I wanted to preserve that. The camera I will be using is a Canon 60D and all of these images will be shot in manual.

Sometimes the old ways aren’t better

March 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

Like it or not, one state in the union has brought back death by firing squad and, as liberal as I seem to be, I’m super fine with it.

Here’s the thing: if we’re going to kill people we need to make sure to do three things. Make it affordable; Leave the body in a state where the organs can be donated; finally, we need to make sure that before we kill anyone we’re absolutely sure that they did it. Seriously, a lot of cases have been high profile lately for coming up being false convictions. One man spent thirty-nine years in jail only to be awarded one million dollars after he sued the state.

Really, we need to make sure as few innocent people go to prison as possible, but that’s another story.

So, Utah is going to be kicking it old school with shooting squads, but there’s one important question nobody is asking. Why the fuck are we using actual people to fire the bullets . I mean, the state goes through this weird tradition where they issue all but one man real bullets. The person who doesn’t get bullets is firing blanks, but no one knows who that person really is. This is meant to give them a clear conscious about killing someone.

My problem with all of this is more that you’re wasting time trying to figure out how to have people do something that no person actually needs to. Meet this thing:

sci_fi_weapons_2a

What the fuck is that thing? I don’t know either. It looks like it could be automated and there’s a camera up top. If you can program robots to catch balls and recover from being pushed you can give this little tank robot facial recognition software and program it to shoot someone in the face. I doubt the robot will ever feel guilty or know what it is doing. It also wouldn’t get cold feet and botch the shot, hitting vital organs that could be donated.

All of this talk about the men pulling the trigger just pulls to me that law makers are still thinking with old fashion mindsets, not because they want to dispatch of people quickly, but because they’re still so set on doing everything the old way.

Holy Cover Controversy, Batgirl!

March 20, 2015 § 2 Comments

VbZ1OyfOver the past several days there’s been a manufactured scandal brewing at DC over the variant cover of an upcoming Batgirl book. I use the phrase ‘manufactured scandal’ because there isn’t any real merit to the problem that a lot of these people are having. At the moment the only DC superhero I follow is Batgirl. The new creative team and their book is kind of near and dear to my heart. I’ve read all of the New 52 Batgirl stuff, but it wasn’t until book thirty-five that it felt like they were trying to make Batgirl a character not trapped in the shadow of her mentor.

The book’s cover can be found anywhere online, but I won’t post it here. It’s been posted to death all over the web. Despite people are claiming fans are upset about it, I haven’t seen anyone who reads the comic complaining about it.

The creative team behind Batgirl (Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr) pointed out that the cover wasn’t in line with what they’re doing with the book. So, why is it that the artists behind the meat and potatoes of the story have input that doesn’t matter?

tumblr_nin3b5xM1P1rxvh4oo1_1280And the three of them are right; Batgirl lives in a much more lighthearted and colorful side of Gotham. The plots have dropped a lot of the melodrama and woe-is-me bullshit to have more fun with. Fun was something missing from the first part of the New 52 Batgirl run.

Then what’s the problem exactly?

There’s this push around the web from the old guard of niche groups to claim they fight for artistic freedom of speech, but only as long as what the artist is creating falls in line with the status quo. When an artist is willing to fight audiences for their right to put their creation out there, that’s alright. But if someone puts a cover on your book that you don’t like you shouldn’t have the right to have it taken away?

The whole thing doesn’t seem fair to the artists or the people they’re creating the work for.

Meanwhile, across the road at Marvel artists have taken their precious page space and used it to take shots at sexism in books like Thor. Of course people have a problem with it even though it’s what the artists want to do.

All of this fuss over the cover isn’t really an issue at all. The comic book team didn’t want it. A lot of fans didn’t want it. I’m actually in agreement with the ‘didn’t want it’ school of thought, yet people who probably aren’t even reading the book are telling everyone else what they should have to look at or what should be stuck to the front of their book.

If you really respected artists – aka the people behind the story and drawing inside of the book – you’d see this is a non-issue and that they’re the ones benefiting from it.

Artwork at the above taken from Babs Tarr, check out her stuff at Babs Draws.

Forum Feeling

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

AstleyFeaturedThere’s a special time of year where I get the need to join some writer’s community. I can never maintain a presence on them for too long and while I’m there I’m not even sure why. An old forum that I used to be part of is still up and I popped in to check and see if it was ripe for my return.

See, the thing is that I was banned from this place about six years ago. Usually that would keep me away, but I’ve moved a few times and would use a name that I’ve never used anywhere else to make it harder to connect the dots. The only problem is that when I checked in on the place it was like looking through a portal into the mid-1990s.

People were having to be taught the internet as if it were this new beast. Forum posting and forum etiquette might as well have been daring, unexplored territory.

They might as well have been the Congo River from Heart of Darkness.

Their ignorance toward tech and internet norms is what caused my banning years ago. I posted a link to a Rick Roll site in a discussion thread and some old man complained that it frightened him and he turned his computer off to stop the virus.

Someone thought Rick Astley’s haphazard gyrations were kin to malicious script.

I was ready to go back to that place, maybe have a little fun with it. Pretend to be something I’m not and only post pieces of writing which would be outside of my normal realm of doing things – I wanted to push my boundaries with it, but do I really want to push my patience with them

Forums used to be one of my favorite things online. There was a time I lived for them. I was there when the old Nintendo of America forums fell; before the word forum was even used to describe what we had called a BBS. I was on Maddox Mania back when Maddox himself might pay an actual visit. And at one point I even though it worthwhile to pay the five dollar entry fee for Something Awful .

I love the idea of forums, but often the execution is the same for all of them. Internet hardmen ( but, honestly, what else could I have expected from Maddox Mania). The forum exists in kind of this gray area for me: on the one hand it’s a great idea and I’d love to like it, but in reality it’s always too hot or too cold and never just right.

Old

March 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago I turned twenty-nine. Though I feel like I should think of myself as old it’s just not really sunken in yet. I still want to look ahead as if there’s so much time to do what I want, but at the same time I think that I really need to make sure that I don’t squander the time I have.

I don’t know if it’s natural to feel this way. When do you start to feel old? The first time someone calls you sir and means it in that way? The first time that you hear the newest song and think or say “back in my day”?

Maybe I’m not the type to do those things or to feel like other people define me like that. I guess we’ll see.

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