Rebellion in the Orange Summer

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” ― Ovid.png

Has it only been a few months since Trump was sworn into office? It certainly feels like it’s been much longer. And the thought it this potentially being a years long affair into just how far down the America I came to know from childhood can go down, I think it’s important to mention how to be politically aware, active and how to still remain sane and true to yourself.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: these are of course my opinions and I’m really not wanting to start a flame war in the comments. If you disagree with me, that’s lovely, just do so respectfully.

My history with being politically “woke” is a fraught one. I struggled with being connected as a teenager and debate student. I struggled during the Bush era and the violently American propaganda age of the 2000s. I found hope during the Obama years and since the mid 2010s have additionally struggled with increased social tension, police violence, hate crimes and homophobia. And honestly, it all reminds me a lot of the Bush years. There’s a powerful person in power that I less than agree with but I don’t always feel in the position to do much about the situation. I was, am and probably will be for awhile totally overwhelmed by Trump. How anyone can look at him and agree with the venom that oozes from his mouth…well, that’s another blog post. It’s been difficult to empathize with the other side of the political aisle, as it was in the early 2000s. I found myself then a mostly emotional and verbally impotent teen all those years ago and now I’m a working adult that has to be kind to everyone despite at times boiling anger from the rhetoric from the GOP. And considering my mostly liberal leanings, this has been difficult. I’m a strong LGBT ally. I’m a Roman Catholic but a lover of science. I’m a person of color. I am biologically female. Almost all of the issues that have been brought across the aisle and to the table directly impact and affect my corpus and my existence. But with all the comparisons to Bush and the hyper-patriotism of the early to mid 2000s: how did young ingenue Amanda deal those years?

Music.

Many of you now know that I am a former (reformed, past…something) punk. And the particular type of punk and emo rock I listened to was very political. American Idiot is one of my favorite albums and hearing songs like American Idiot and Holiday gave so much form and shape to the mess of emotions and indignation that swirled in my mind during the uber-patriotism and growing racial and social tensions the 2000s brought with them.

In my youth I started wearing black hoodies in part because of the song Mosh. It was my rebellion. It was a powerful symbol to think that at least a few people also clad in the black hoodie of resistance knew the message they were sending. I only recently retired the black hoodie after the death of Trayvon Martin and having to step up my personal style as a grew from being a petulant teen to a working young person. I knew the hoodie didn’t actually do anything but it felt like a powerful enough statement.

The Obama years while far from perfect were better. And in the moments where racial tension did bubble up I was mostly able to remain active politically with friends, family and have healthy discourse.

But then 2012 happened.

I’m not quite sure what happened but 2012 seemed to be a difficult time for everyone. Usually civil conversations began to run deep with overly religious and xenophobic undertones and this was well before the hot garbage fire that was 2016.  And with the current state of the world, I find myself like so many confused, angry and unsure of how to react and exist when everything everything is political.

Amazingly, some of the music of my teen years has been instrumental in helping cope with some of the issues feeling unrepresented by your representatives. Comic books have also been a fantastic way to channel some of that energy. The Civil War storylines in Marvel comics have heavy allusions to real government issues and concerns and encourage you to pick a side. Movies have also been helpful even when they’re difficult to watch. Watchmen  was not an enjoyable movie but some of the moral, ethical and political statements made by the movie especially are very timely. V for Vendetta is very similar down to the current state of the world down to the shooting of an innocent child that begins a revolution and  a 1984-style authoritarian regime that likes to censor speech and rules by fear and false information.

Satire has been remarkably helpful in dealing with this current administration as it was during the Bush years. Last Week Tonight has done a great job of holding Trump accountable and while Trevor Noah is no Jon Stewart, The Daily Show is still a shining beacon of satirical light in an otherwise dim world.

But music alone does not soothe the savage president. Being active doesn’t always being at every protest. It means calling your local representatives. It means speaking up for those that may not have a voice. It means fact-checking and being aware of the issues. It means maybe having to face the other side of a political topic and it means taking care of yourself to battle another day for the causes you believe in. If you see a problem, say something. But be kind to yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a protest, rally or event: don’t go. There are other ways to support causes and considering the current trend of violence against even peaceful protests, I am entirely empathetic to the wish to avoid big rallies for fear of violence. But being aware if vitally important. Even now, logic and facts are being used against people so it is now more important than ever to be aware, active and persistent. But it’s also good to know when to back down. Some people are not going to change and all you can do is be yourself, be as active as you wish and stay sane to continue the conversation for another day.

Stay kind, world. We have a little while before this dumpster fire can go out.

 

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Audience vs. Author

“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”—William Zinsser.png

I’m a rather selfish writer. From an early age, whatever and whenever I wrote: I was writing fundamentally for me. I think it’s the big reason why I blog and panel: I write and say as I wish. If someone isn’t happy with my opinions, I adore discourse but no one is making any unhappy reader stay. I also tend to share my work with just close friends. They have plenty of things to say about my work but I rather defend my work from friends than strangers. But as someone who writes, reads and loves discourse between fans and creators: what does an artist or author owe their audience.

Well, to me the short order is nothing. Most of the time.

I read a lot of webcomics and webcomics have become the last stand for many artists and writers who want real creative freedom. Smaller audiences, you are your own editor and almost total freedom to write about whatever you want. Well, most of the time. Amazingly, despite the “freedom” that comes with abandoning traditional platforms and avoiding editors and publishing houses it puts creators and audiences in direct contact with each other. I’ve seen many a comment section grow into riots over canons, storylines and shipping. And amazingly, when you remove the buffer between creator and audience: it isn’t always pretty. I know plenty of webcomic artists that are damn near defensive of their work and refuse to accept any criticism. There are comics that will never properly end because the creator got so burned by their audience. Storylines have been changed. Plots retracted. And so so many arguments over pronouns and if a character is asexual, non-binary or whether a pairing is true or not.

And I can attest that as an author and creator: I get defensive, too. I’ve never quite argued with people nor will I often correct them but I also don’t usually bristle too much when a creator does dive into the comments to correct a misgendering or to assert that a “pairing” is in fact just a pair of friends. Hell, after a negative review on one of my panels, I bristled for days. Even though the criticism was in many ways valid and I did grow and learn from it.

What I will probably never understand is being so defensive to the point of being delusional. Sister Claire is a webcomic I love and have followed from the start but there’s a scene that…borrows heavily from the popular anime Big O. And instead of just owning “Hey, you’re right. We did heavily borrow from another series.” the creator and her partner spent many days in the comments saying that it was common Knights Templar imagery and verbiage as opposed to just accepting a spade as a spade.

But on the flipside of that, I’ve seen audiences completely steamroll over authors. There’s webcomics that will never be finished because the creators became so exhausted by the rigor of keeping a fanbase happy. Blaster Nation famously almost didn’t get a proper ending because the creators were besieged with negativity over ending the very popular comic in favor of one that actually made them money. I was sad as anyone else to see Blaster Nation end but I’d never spew venom to the creators. One of my favorite comics Saint for Rent is currently on hiatus for a year and from what I’ve been able to see everyone has been very supportive and patient in waiting for the series to return while the creator explores other creative ventures.

Now that we’ve discussed how an author should act, what does an audience owe the creator? Well, that’s a strange subject now. Things like Patreon make audiences even more powerful. If I am giving an artist money, like a patron, then I should have some influence on what happens. One of my favorite historical figures, King Ludwig II was the patron of Richard Wagner. And King Ludwig II did dictate what and when Herr Wagner should compose about. Audiences do especially in webcomics drive what creators can do. If you want full creative freedom, finance yourself. But even though audiences are paying for creative ventures now, that doesn’t mean an audience gets to be nasty. I do though even more so understand the frustration an audience has when a comic or property fails them. There are plenty of webcomics I wish would just end, they have strayed so far from their original plots. Dangerously Chloe has had an interesting run that has strayed very far from its original rom-com roots. But no one who loves a property or piece feeling like they’ve been taken for a ride. And there is a certain helplessness that comes with being a lover of a property or piece and having no control over the direction, plan or execution of a series. And that lack of control can be exhausting, scary and demoralizing for fans. That isn’t an excuse to be nasty to creators, but as someone who has watched a beloved series derail, I “get” where that feeling comes from.

I do also understand the strain and stress of performing for an audience. Why do you think I only panel a few times a year? It’s exhausting! Yet alone having to crank out pages while at times the unsympathetic herds can rant and rave about a page being later. Energy wanes and waxes, desire to post lessens and it creates a rather unfortunate feedback loop. And honestly, that pressure does keep me from wanting to publish more of my work more often. I luckily try to blog multiple times a month but I do my best not to beat myself up too much if I don’t. And I have seen many artists who openly admit to taking breaks or slowing down only to be met with extreme hatred and vitriol. There’s a reason I don’t quit my day job to be just a panelist and writer: 1) talent and 2) I never want a hobby to be anything more than a hobby. I know how quickly once you turn passion into work it can become exhausting. Anyone who knows me knows how stressed out I get before and after paneling and if I can do anything to lessen that feeling, I’m willing to do that. I can’t imagine the stress of making people happy and having to perform and if I displease an audience more than my general panelist rating is affected.

Is there a way to move forward or go on? I think so. Have meaningful discourse, at least in private. I may have issues with Never Satisfied or Sister Claire but I tend not to talk about those in public. I do have friends that read the same comics so we get to rant about those forever. If you do feel the need to talk about your concerns to the creator or in public: do so respectfully. If diplomacy fails and you do manage to raise the ire of the creator: keep things civil.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to read the comic if it irritates you that much even if that argument fundamentally makes me angry. I will never totally accept that rationale of “if you don’t like a thing, stop reading/watching it”. Even just as a reader, you invest time, energy, money and life into a work. Without audiences, creators cannot create. There has to be a balance of respecting the creator while also respecting your audience.

Thoughts from Austin, Round Rock and Welcome to Night Vale Live Once More

-So Buc-ee's is like the nicest and biggest gas station ever with immaculate bathrooms and all sorts of things you could never imagine you need but want in the moment. Oh and the food's delicious. So like a giant fan.png

I’m starting to wonder what I did to deserve friends that will do such things for me. Once again, Amber managed to get us tickets to see Welcome to Night Vale: Live this time in Austin. The trip wasn’t very long but the trip was fun and as always, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself and those I call my friends.

  • Traffic is weird in Texas and going to Austin is a constant reminder that even though in theory this place isn’t far it takes sometimes way too long to get there.
  • Buc-ee’s is still wonderful.
    • So I talk about Buc-ee’s a lot and I think it’s hilarious that so many people that I know and care about will never know or understand how wonderful this place is.
    • Also I need the “Killing my liver while floating on the river” tank top.
  • There’s nothing like bringing bottles of booze with you to a hotel room. Makes you feel ritzy and by ritzy, I mean probably going to do questionable nerd things and that you (I) are (am) too old for this.
  • If you see more than one Corvette in the parking lot of your hotel, there’s probably a thing going on.
    • The thing going on was a giant Corvette race thing.
  • Hampton Inns are surprisingly nice.
    • They’re Hilton properties so I expect that but they’re very nice.
  • Amber has never been to a Waffle House.
    • This fact shocked me.
  • Amber is a great friend and I love her like a sister but she is blunt sometimes and so much more direct than I am that she really catches me off guard. She’s very authentic and I appreciate that about her but she can sometimes say truths about me that cut me to my core.
    • I want to work on taking her word to heart and knowing she doesn’t mean it as a cruel thing, she’s just trying to help me grow.
  • Fun fact: there’s nothing on TV anymore but My Cat from Hell and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
  • Midnight, Texas is apparently just hillbilly Constantine.
    • Additional fun fact: Amber and I have many opinions on both shows.
  • There’s nothing like trying to cosplay as someone who you feel no one else would notice.
    • Like, really. Night Vale is a rough thing to cosplay out in public.
      • Amber said it best: “You can’t go out dressed as a bloody glowing cloud covered in dead animals and expect people to get it.”
  • Fun fact: it will start raining as soon as you put on 5 layers of concealer and foundation. And then it will stop as soon as you get into the car.
  • The Paramount Theater in Austin is pretty but not as nice as the Majestic.
    • But they had snacks and hipster popcorn so it was a win.
  • There were a lot of kids at this show…I’ve never considered Night Vale to be a mature show but lots of kids…too many kids.
  • That being said though: Austin audiences are…a different bunch. The crowd was for sure more rowdy this time.
    • Additionally, there was a woman who climbed over 2 rows of antique seating and then spread her legs over the empty seat below her. I was floored.
  • No spoilers about the show but at the risk of sounding like an huge brat (it was a birthday gift, after all) I’ll say this about the show: it wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t bad. At its core, it’s still a show I love but it didn’t floor me the way Ghost Stories did.
    • The weather was quite good though. The artist was entertaining and rhythmic and eccentric.
      • Also “rhythmic accordion solo” are now words I can say I strung together.
      • Also lots of intense percussive foot stomping.
  • Parking in Austin makes me angry.
  • Sonic is not real food, but it is delicious once you’re half a bottle of champagne into the evening.
  • Live PD is a confusing jaunt between almost boring cop stories to very over-blown drama.
    • Like it does really feel like police propaganda a little. It’s a lot of cops doing very non-dramatic things and in a world where it seems that the police are now only involved in scandal, it was sort of nice to see them just do their jobs and no one get unnecessarily hurt or die.
  • Jasmine Green Tea with Elderflower Liquor and Ginger Vodka is magical.
    • If you have any cocktail name suggestions: leave them in the comments below.
  • Round Rock is a magical place full of delicious food.
  • Round Rock Doughnuts is wonderful. I didn’t want to leave.
    • Though I feel bad for the church and Cuban spot next to the small donut shop.
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The famous Round Rock Donut. It’s measured with a bucket lid. BECAUSE TEXAS.

 

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  • SALT LICK BBQ IS DELICIOUS AND I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE.
    20170716_112917.jpg
    LOOK AT THIS. LOOK AT THIS FOOD. EVERYTHING WAS DELICIOUS.
    • Even though Amber and I had a heavy conversation about personal responsibility to family over how awful families can be as well as gentrification and how difficult it is just to be of color in America.
    • Oh and I got free cobbler because birthday weekend.
  • There’s nothing like getting new Converse.
    • Fun fact, I showed these shoes to TJ and he said we could no longer be friends afterwards because the shoes were too cool.
  • Amber gets antsy on the road trip home.
  • Discussing drug and club culture and its relationship to techno is depressing but necessary.
  • Traffic in Texas is still awful.
  • Finding something opened past 5 on Sunday is difficult:
    • Context: my power went out due to a storm in San Antonio so I didn’t feel like going home to a hot/dark house. So I drove around for 2 hours somehow past the trip and it was damn near impossible to find anything that was still opened.

I had a great time in Austin and I had a wonderful birthday and birthday weekend. I’m grateful for friendships, fun and making memories.

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This is the face of a very glossy and very tired cosplayer and friend.

Rest easy, readership. Rest easy. And thank you for the birthday wishes.

Body Positively Shamed

Fashion is made to become unfashionable.Coco Chanel.png

I am a shapely thing and by shapely I mean I have a shape. Round is a shape. I think at my smallest weight post-puberty I was maybe 180 lbs. I’m also only 5’1’’.  But in all of that, I’ve always struggled with finding myself “empowered” by my body. I’ve never felt attractive or pretty in conventional senses and I feel the most “in my skin” when I’m in costume. So with the recent trend of “body positivity” I’ve been caught between a rock in a hard place.  How does one stay true to who they are while also embracing positivity and not shaming anyone and not be shamed themselves?

I’m not one for crop tops. I’m not one for super short shorts. I dislike short skirts and dresses. I don’t like showing off my stomach and if I can hide my imperfections, I’m much happier in a one-piece swimsuit than a bikini: hell, I just recently started swimming in just the suit and not in a full t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit. But with this lovely trend of “being body positive” and “ignore the haters” it’s been encouraged that women of all body shapes should wear whatever they want. And they should. If it makes them comfortable.

I love seeing big girls in crop tops and skinny girls in oversized t-shirts. I love seeing men in skirts and women in suits. Wear whatever the hell you want. But don’t feel like you have to compromise who you are. At the end of the day, I’m a relatively conservative dresser (even in costume be it male or female). As said before, I’m not comfortable showing off my midriff. So even though I think the girl on the boss rocking a crop top is fierce, it just isn’t my style.  And I will never condone anyone shaming someone who feels comfortable in what they’re wearing. It’s difficult seeing plus-sized models rocking an outfit and being shamed online with some of the most hateful venom I’ve seen online. It’s disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is mentioning that it isn’t exactly my style to wear something so short and being told that I should just “loosen up” or “be more in tune with myself”. I am in tune with myself. And that means I don’t want to show the world my stretch marks.  

Body positivity from what I’ve understood it means accepting who you are and I’m not ready to accept that I have zero torso and wide hips. I’m also getting older. I’m a Southern lady. There’s no excuse outside of a Truman Capote beach party that I as a person pushing 30 to wear a mesh crop top. No shame to the gents and gals at Pride rocking the same look, though. I’m short so that doesn’t mean that I want to wear heels that would make it easier for me to reach the dishes on the top shelf. But it comes from a legitimate place. Women’s bodies are hilariously (and by “hilarious” I mean it’s demeaning, cruel and disgusting that this is still a thing that happens in 2017) policed by mostly men and sometimes other women. Women are told not to wear certain things and they become the targets of criticism if they dress a certain way. And with such a history of being told what and how to wear things I get how bigger girls and guys can bristle at being told simply to lose weight or diet before wearing something. Fun fact, if it was that easy sometimes to lose weight I doubt obesity would be the problem it is in most of the developed world. And there are such a variety of body shapes that occasionally even relatively healthy people can be bigger in clothing sizes then you’d expect. Additionally, telling plus-sized models all the “health problems” that come along with being of size is just tragic at times. I am fully aware that my size puts me at risk for countless things, you know what the number one cause of mortality is? Being alive. If cheesecake shortens my life then viva la cheesecake.

But one thing I keep coming back to is there’s a difference between dressing for your body and dressing as you want. I can’t wear maxi dresses, I’m short, I look like someone threw fabric over me and left me to rot in a cloth coffin. Ill-fitting clothes, shorts that are too short and show me more of your business than you may expect and other moments when fashion fails you are somehow different from “policing bodies” as it is just “fashion knowledge”.  

When I was younger, I loved What Not to Wear and I still love Project Runway. Fashion is important to me and knowing how to dress your body is vastly important: and it’s easy to be a feminist and still desire modesty. I don’t consider myself any less a feminist if I’m showing off my neckline than I do if I’m covered up. And what I wear to mass or a sacred place is vastly different than what I’d wear out with friends or even to convention. There are sometimes that certain pieces of clothing just aren’t appropriate and claiming “body positivity” isn’t helpful when it’s used to excuse inappropriate fashion choices. A flower crown may be great for Coachella but less than ideal for a job interview.

I mentioned cosplay earlier and it’s one I wanted to pick back up briefly. I started cosplaying many years ago and quickly felt uncomfortable as insert generic Japanese school girl costumes. So I found crossplay and made a mark cosplaying as male characters. I felt far more empowered bound and in pants then I ever did in a skimpy miko costume. Suddenly, if I was objectified, it was on my terms. Suddenly, I had control over how much skin I was showing. It wasn’t until I was much older that I felt comfortable cosplaying Fem! or female characters again but I did so my way. I don’t show a ton of skin. I keep my dresses and skirts long. I cover up. I wear tights and usually shorts under dresses. I pick alternate character costumes and the times that I do show off skin it’s for small photo shoots. And it’s my history with cosplay that made me so comfortable at times ignoring or augmenting clothing items. When you’re my height and weight it’s very difficult to buy anything off rack to tailoring, hemming and adjusting colors and seams became second nature.  The additions or subtractions got to be fun signatures to me while also asserting that somewhere under the confused former punk turned prep aesthetic of my current wardrobe that there was something uniquely me in there somewhere.

The moral of the story is stay confident in what you want to wear. I leave the house plenty of times in a graphic t-shirt and a skirt or skinny jeans and I’m damn near 30. Tall girls, wear heels. Short girls, wear flats. Men, continue to slay the makeup game and contour better than me. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. And respect what others are wearing to make them feel comfortable. For so many people fashion and what you wear is so much more than just fabric. It’s an expression of gender identity. Of pride. Of what you love and what you stand for. And whether you’re out and proud or modest, be kind to each other and what their wearing. Each outfit tells a story and each story deserves to be told.