Replicant ruminations.

Why did I watch Blade Runner yet again, when I know damn well that movie depresses me? Stupid. I think the relationship between Deckard and Rachael is horrifying when you take into account the fact that Deckard comes close to raping her earlier in the film. The fact that he could even consider forcing himself upon her clearly shows that Deckard did not consider Rachael to be his equal. Sadly, they weren’t equal—and romantic love cannot exist without equality. Did Rachael finally consent to Deckard’s advances due to her desire or her fear? It seemed like fear to me.

And yet I still love the movie. There should be a new Blade Runner comic series. Oh, so many interesting examinations to be made!



The nine.

“Can you imagine them doing this to black people?”

Oh God, I wish I could stop hearing those nine words. No matter what slight is being discussed, whether superficial or serious, the person discussing it never seems to be satisfied until he or she can utter that phrase. I must be living in some alternate reality, because everyone else seems to be living in a place where black people are treated with the utmost dignity and respect while every other group from redheads to Christians are horribly discriminated against.

If you have to utter those nine words, then your best bet would be to let someone else make your argument for you. Because if you looked past your own plight for five seconds, maybe you’d see that black people are also being treated that way. Perhaps you do not observe it simply because you are too caught up in your own problems and privilege to notice.

First off, the phrase makes an individual look spiteful—as if he or she were somehow jealous or resentful due to how well another minority group has been treated. Second of all, the phrase makes an individual look foolish, because any person with access to a newspaper, magazine, or television remote can clearly see that the dignity or welfare of black individuals certainly is not a concern to the larger social group—unless black people have fought diligently to make it a concern with their words, souls, and blood. Please stop making us your debate crutches. If our issues aren’t part of the conversation, why bring us up?



Reading rainbow, part two.

You’ve done your research. You’ve stepped outside of your box to write a story about a character that is of a different gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or ethnicity from your own. You’ve spoken to people, visited ethnic enclaves, and read religious texts. And you’ve created an entertaining story that you feel has represented all of the interesting segments of your character’s life well. And you’re swelling with pride as your graphic novel hits the stands.

And then the complaints start. Some fans think you’ve attempted to ridicule their culture with the character’s comments. Some fans think you’ve exploited their race with your homage to certain tropes. Some fans think you’ve painted their gender and sexual orientation in a bad light due to how you’ve chosen to depict the character’s romantic relationships.

You’re nervous. You might be used to fans bitching about ridiculous stuff such as how Superman’s logo should be drawn or how long it should take Wolverine to heal after being set on fire, but complaints about how characters of a certain race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender are depicted are serious. No one wants the difficult-to-shake reputation of being labeled a misogynist, racist, or homophobe. No one wants to offend when such important and inflammatory social attributes are involved. I think that people are so afraid of offending that they are actually afraid to create. They are fearful of stepping outside of the box. That’s disheartening. Sadly, there are no easy answers. You have to find a balance between accepting criticism from others and having confidence in your own work. After all, sometimes those complaints will not be valid—and sometimes you will have truly done something that was inadvertently offensive and harmful. Decisions will have to be made.

I wish an easy answer existed because I struggle with this myself. Do I avoid creating characters with certain attributes because they might be considered racial stereotypes—even though those characters are based on actual people in my life who possess those very same attributes? Am I reinforcing stereotypes or lampooning certain cultures just by sharing my own personal experiences? I don’t know. I’ve come to the decision that I should simply create what is in my heart and be willing to listen with an open mind once those creations have been shared. Is that the right answer? Not at all. It’s just the right one for me.



Reading rainbow.

I’m black. I’m African American. And I’m lucky in that my family is extremely diverse. We have members of many different economic classes. We have members of different sexual orientations. We have members that can “pass” and members who most certainly cannot. I’m privy to a ridiculously wide range of African American experiences.

I was raised in a neighborhood where most of the residents were Latino or Caribbean American. I would hear Spanish more often than English. And when I heard English, it certainly wasn’t in an accent that I was used to. My best friends were Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Trinidadian. Though I was ethnically an outsider, I blended in physically, which made others more open to sharing their cultures with me.

I was sent off to private school. It was a place where a majority of the children were white and certainly not part of my social class. I began to see how the “other half” lived. And once again I was immersed in different cultures that were not my own—Anglo-Saxon, Italian, Jewish, Irish. And so I observed everything that my peers did closely, and then I immediately copied it. Why? Because I did not want to stand out any more than I already did. I wanted to be “normal.” Sadly, it was at the expense of myself. However, it did teach me to navigate a world that is a requirement for my livelihood.

Luckily, a return to my old middle-class neighborhood was able to undo much of the damage I had done while keeping all of the benefits I had gained. And after some gentle ribbing from friends of all backgrounds, I learned to switch dialects depending on the individual I was speaking to. I can’t say I’ve studied how to do this, because I don’t even think about doing it. It’s effortless. Instantaneous. However, with friends I’ve had for a long time, I tend to forget and speak to them as if I am speaking to family. Still, I was finally able to swim the cultural pathways of my life and not feel out of place or uncomfortable.

And then I fell in love—with an Asian man. Who brought a whole heap of cultures and experiences with him that I knew nothing of. But I was more than willing to learn. Why? Because I cared for him and I wanted to know about the things that had shaped him and the things that he enjoyed. And I’m glad I did. Because even though the status of our current relationship is murky at best, he brought new and wonderful things into my life. There’s no way in hell I would have willingly put squid in my mouth if not for him and that is like the best food ever. Ever.

So why am I telling you this? Because if I sit down to write, I don’t have to think about diversity. I don’t have to go back over my work to see if I’ve added the right number of minority characters. If I have a question about a particular American subculture, I can usually pick up my phone or photo album before I have to pick up a reference book. I don’t have to think about diversity because my life is filled to the brim with it.

And because of that, I didn’t realize how difficult reader demands for true diversity would be for individuals who only had intimate knowledge of the culture they were born into to fulfill. So, I finally understand that it is a formidable task. Of course, that still doesn’t mean that you should shirk your responsibilities and not do right by individuals who are different from you.



Random keystrokes.

Does participating in a certain fandom mean that you are less likely to enjoy what the fandom is centered upon over time? I notice that I haven’t been getting much enjoyment out of comics lately. Could it be that the more you interact with other fans, even if those interactions are positive, the more you become focused on the fandom itself instead of on the object the fandom should be focused upon? I wonder, because it seems as if what I talk about most I enjoy least. And what I enjoy the most is rarely mentioned at all.

I am damn near obsessed with both The Sims 2 and the Grand Theft Auto series. And yet I’ve never been to a video game convention. I can’t remember the last time I posted on a message board dedicated to either franchise. And I can probably count the number of times I’ve mentioned either game on this blog on one hand. I don’t talk about the stacks of books by Andrew Vachss and Michael Connelly sitting in my bookcase. No posts about my ridiculous dance music collection. I don’t go to dance clubs. I don’t belong to any Prison Break or Venture Bros. message boards.

I suppose the secret to long-lasting enjoyment is to share what you enjoy with as few people as possible. Wait, that sounds horrible. Let me think of another way to put that. No, on second thought, that sounds about right. Recommend what you like and keep it moving.



A marvelous idea.

Normally I don’t post comments I’ve posted on other sites in my journal, but I’m going to make an exception with this post because I find the topic quite interesting.

The topic? The mixed media crossover between CBS’s Guiding Light and Marvel Comics. On the November 1 episode of the daytime soap opera Guiding Light, actress Beth Ehlers plays Harley Davidson Cooper, a woman who is given special powers due to a freak accident. Cooper is a major character in the Guiding Light cast. Marvel has produced an eight-page story featuring Marvel characters and Guiding Light characters to celebrate the event, and the story will appear in the issues of several Marvel comics.

Soap operas have had wacky stories like this before. Many soap operas are known for having “fantasy moments” where they stick their characters in a completely different setting with new stories. They’ve had characters travel back in time to the Old West and visit futuristic underground cities. This is the first time I’ve heard of a superhero story though.

I think it’s a great way to reach a new audience. Unfortunately, companies need to have something to sell to that audience once they have their attention or else it’s pretty much a waste of time. What does Marvel have right now to offer the stay-at-home mother who wants to forget about the pile of laundry and her screaming kid, or the homesick college student who wants something comforting and familiar, or the tired working woman who wants to zone out with a romantic fantasy before the night shift starts? How about the female viewer who wants a damn good romantic story and a heroine to root for? Marvel has some amazing books, but for the most part, those amazing books feature power fantasies for men and boys. And the books that don’t are for a much younger audience than the one watching soap operas. Does Marvel even have a romance comic geared towards grown women? Why not? What about an action comic that stars a woman and features a heavy dose of romance? If I worked at Marvel, I would have had something lined up to sell to these women. Maybe a Dakota North series or something with Friday Foster. Hell, even Daughters of the Dragon or She-Hulk could have been slightly retooled to fit.

But something tells me the women who watch soap operas will be reading manga romances and books like 12 Reasons Why I Love Her long before women interested in soaps will ever really be courted by Marvel and DC (not counting CMX/Vertigo/Milestone). Manga and independent comic companies already have the daughters and little sisters hooked, and they don’t have to change their product all that much to snag the mothers and older sisters too. Nor do they even have to change the place where they’ve set up shop. After all, women are in the manga/graphic novel section all the time. Someone has to go in and drag those kids and teens out of Borders.

Still, I think it was a good idea that will get the women watching soaps to think about superheroes. And once they do a little research, they’ll see that Marvel has some fabulous superhero books that are geared towards their husbands, boyfriends, younger siblings, and kids. And while they’re buying comics for all those other people, maybe they’ll drift a step or two over and buy some indie and manga books for themselves.

Also, many of the old cast members from B- and C-level nerdbait shows like Mutant X often go on to star as heartthrobs in soaps. Those actors can be wonderful marketing tools if used correctly. Someone should look into that.



The goods.

I’ve spent way too much time being grumpy and complaining about things that are wrong with the world. Tonight is all about the good stuff.

The Wire: When I say this is the best show on television, I mean it. And it isn’t because the show has had its fair share of eye candy throughout its run either. This is a program with an amazingly talented cast. It is a program that tells a fascinating and complex story over the course of each season, and manages to shed some light on the many intersections of race, class, politics, and crime while doing so. This is not your run of the mill cop show, folks.

The Venture Bros.: The show’s creators could have easily rested on their laurels and been pleased with the fact that they had created a hilariously entertaining cartoon filled to the brim with sarcastic wisecracks and bizarre plots. But they had to take it an additional step further and load it with some of the most amusing and bemusing pop culture references and tributes ever seen. Love it.

Four Four: I deleted all of my gossip blog links around the time that Shameless Media Whore #325 took Minority Photo Op #5786, and felt much better because of it. But I continue to read Four Four. Though, honestly, Rich Juzwiak’s blog is a hell of a lot more than a mere gossip site. The man tears into pop culture like a rabid dog into raw meat. He’s smart, funny, and he’s a hell of a music critic too. So there.

“Devotion” by Ten City: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is the best song in the universe. I am convinced that Byron Stingily’s voice on this track is a gift directly from God to me. We’re talking a religious experience here, people. The song is that good. I think I love it so much because it reminds me of the days when dance music still had a heart and soul. Every time I listen I get butterflies. Each and every time.

Snickers: The ultimate junk food. I had one yesterday and I swear my mouth had an orgasm. Whoever invented this candy bar was brilliant. Brilliant! It is every possible guilty edible pleasure all rolled into one. The sweet and creamy taste of warm chocolate! The intense pleasure of biting down on crunchy, salted peanuts! Feeling the weight of thick caramel pooling in the center of your tongue! Oh, so good!

Adam Warren: Some swoon over the words of Warren Ellis. Some get giddy over the faintest line drawn by Jim Lee. For me, Adam Warren is my last bastion of fangirliness. I simply adore every iota of this man’s work. Every piece the man produces is like a postcard from the future. And the future is fun, fast, and overloaded with information.

Go. Visit. Enjoy.



Curse you, SOAPnet!

I have to stop watching One Life To Live.

It’s not because it’s a soap opera. I truly believe that quality soap operas can exist. Just because OLTL is a soap opera, that doesn’t make it bad. Of course, it is bad. I know it’s bad because I make up alternate versions of the episodes I watch in my head. Now, I don’t write fanfiction; I haven’t done that for years. Even so, entire scenes of dialogue run through my head. And not just dialogue! Blocking too!

Do you know how annoying that is? My brain is doing work that I will never get paid for! And I can’t make it stop unless I refuse to watch this show.

Overactive imaginations stop being fun when you’re an adult and you realize that you’re not getting one red cent for all the crap taking up space in your head where grocery lists and train schedules should be. I should have a kid so all this stuff will be worth something.



A girl like me.

Go watch this documentary. It’s short and powerful. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

The doll test? Heartbreaking. And the saddest part is, that as bad as I feel watching that little girl slide that black doll across the table, I feel even worse knowing that I made my mother feel just as angry and as frustrated as I feel right now.

I can’t even imagine how horrified my mother must have felt, watching her daughter wail and stomp her feet in the department store for all to see, just because she was not going to purchase the white Barbie doll that her daughter so desperately wanted, but was going to purchase a black Barbie doll for her instead. The first one ever made. In 1980.

And I distinctly remember being so very angry with my mother, because I wanted a doll with long, shiny straight hair, and she had given me what I considered to be a substandard replacement. The black doll had a short Afro, and in my eyes, that made the black doll ugly. Hideously ugly.

I threw such a tantrum that my mother decided to purchase both the white doll and the black doll. And when we would play together, she would play with the black doll and I would play with the white doll. And after a few months of mistreatment (preschoolers don’t make for very good caretakers) the white doll began to look dingy and ugly. And I shyly asked my mother if I could play with her doll, which had remained well cared for.

My mother handed me the doll and told me that I could play with it, as long as I remembered that the doll was very special and deserved to be treated as such. And I did remember.

Of course, that was the last doll I had that ever looked like that. Because when Mattel started to make black Barbie dolls with the long shiny hair that I always wanted, I promptly forgot about both white Barbie dolls and black Barbie dolls with Afros.

I think my mother worked very hard to teach me that my brown skin was beautiful. And that must have been extremely difficult for her when she could not offer herself as a beauty role model due to her own light skin. Plus, she had to work against not only what the mainstream culture was constantly telling me, but also what the men in my family were telling me by consistently choosing fair-skinned black women as girlfriends and wives.

But I got it. Despite what everyone else was telling me, my mother’s message finally got through. I only wish that she had told me that my hair was beautiful as well. But no one would tell me that—ever. Instead I was told that my hair was wild. Untamed. Ugly. Repeatedly.

Of course, people did tell me how pretty I could be if I would just “do something” with my hair. Which then kicked off my lifelong affair with pressing combs and hair extensions—but no relaxers though. That would cause hair loss and breakage. And the only thing more “unfeminine” than nappy hair was nappy hair that was short.

Sigh. Humanity hurts.



Swag.

Let us talk about my awesome new acquisitions. First up, I got a pair of sexy sensible shoes. Do you know how hard it is to find sensible shoes that are sexy? Damn hard. I am so in love with these shoes that it should be a crime. They were on sale too. Forty-four bucks. Normally, there’s no way in hell that I would pay that much for shoes since I always wait until Macy’s has its 65 percent-off sale and then I load up. But I needed shoes. All I have are sneakers and boots. Sneakers aren’t sexy and boots aren’t comfortable.

Next up? I got a pair of headphones to replace the broken ones on my MP3 player. What’s with all the white appliances and electronics nowadays? Nothing I have matches because I never buy anything at once. I have a white computer and monitor and a black keyboard and speakers. It looks completely ridiculous. It bothers me since I am almost mental about things matching.

The third acquisition? Blade Runner on DVD. Yes! It’s the director’s cut though. I’m not happy about that. I heard that version is more violent than the original. I’m pretty much a gigantic baby when it comes to on-screen violence—except when it happens in a cartoon. For some reason I can gleefully watch some of the most brutal cartoons ever made and not be troubled in the least.

Last but not least? Mask Market. Whoooo! Andrew Vachss is cooler than Batman, people. Y’all just don’t know! I’m totally ripping through that book tomorrow.

I am still refusing to buy new clothes until I lose weight. I will wear the same damn outfit every day for the next year if I have to. I mean it!



Hey! Hey! Hey!

Look who finally figured out how to blog from the office!

Me! And it only took me a bazillion days. Well, not literally a bazillion. It’s going to reach a hundred degrees today in NYC and the brownouts have already begun. But as long as I have some semblance of air conditioning, I will remain happy. And so I am happy.

I’m so happy because I get to complain about the awful Target logos splashed all over the stairs at Penn Station. I don’t know why that burns me up, but it does. I swear, life is becoming more and more like a William Gibson novel each day. Pretty soon people will be renting out space on their skin for company logos. Oh wait! That’s already happening! Way to go, Golden Palace!

I fear for humanity a little more each day.

Anyway, you know the drill. I’m going to bombard you with what I’ve been filling my head with these past couple of days. As far as books go, I read Past Lies yesterday. Nice. It’s a totally freaky murder mystery from Oni Press. Click on the link and read a preview. I couldn’t put it down. Read it all in one shot. And I have The Losers and Transmetropolitan on my desk as I type. Sweet.

I tried to watch RAW last night and was so bored that I couldn’t even make it through thirty seconds of Mick Foley’s rambling. It’s sad what the WWE has devolved to.

I just realized that I have no Photoshop here and many of my complaints require visual aids. More later.



Additional random stuff.

I’ve seen way too much Prison Break. How do I know this? Because I immediately wondered if Lay was actually dead after reading about his unfortunately timed demise. And I also had to wonder if he died of natural causes. It’s way too easy to fake a death and even easier to cover up a murder.

Not that I would know anything about that.

Speaking of murder, I just have to mention how disgusted I am by the vicious and hateful actions perpetuated by the Avenues street gang. Hell, it’s bad enough that we’re beaten and terrorized for the supposedly horrific crime of daring to walk through suburban neighborhoods while being black. Now African Americans have to worry about being attacked because of their race while walking through crime-ridden hellholes too? Feh. Let them try that ethnic cleansing garbage in prison and see how far it gets them.

Anyway, onto more pleasant things. Like comics! What have I been reading lately? Well, I just finished Castle Waiting. What a charming book! And I have to restate my absolute love for Daredevil. Sadly, it’s the only Marvel book I’m still reading. Hopefully it doesn’t tie into any of that Civil War nonsense later on down the road. I’m also digging American Virgin. Man, can we talk about how awesome Becky Cloonan is? Her art is just so damn grimy. I love it. Oh, and I polished off a Top Ten graphic novel this week too. Hooray for Alan Moore! I’d love to hang out in his brain for a day. Last but not least, I finally got my hands on Livewires. I’m surprised I didn’t pick this up sooner given my irrational adoration for everything that Adam Warren puts out.

As for what I’m watching? Well, I have to admit that I don’t have sophisticated tastes when it comes to television viewing. I adore the Venture Bros. And I have a great deal of love for Samurai Champloo as well. And yes, I do admit that I watch bits and pieces of One Life To Live. Yes, I know it’s a soap opera! Basically, I fast forward through anything that doesn’t involve Renee Goldsberry or David Fumero, so I only watch about five minutes a day.

I’ve stopped watching wrestling because it has been so mind-numbingly bad lately. Not even the sheer awesome that is Finlay could bring me back. Besides, wrestlers are being slapped with fines and suspensions left and right for drug violations. First RVD and Sabu and now Orton? What’s the point in watching when half of the stories have to be dropped due to a missing participant? Bah.

Oh, I picked up the Samurai Jack Season 3 DVD. Awesome. Why the hell is Cartoon Network taking so long getting these DVDs out?

In other news, Five Below is the best store in the history of the universe. Don’t have one in your area? You are so deprived.