Dirty Words: Race Talk

Jeffrey Phelps / AP

Two years ago, I blogged my thoughts on race in America in my super awkward / uncomfortable Super Chocolate Brown Bear post. And in it, I say:

“Sometimes, I still feel like a secondary citizen, socially.

Not secondary in the sense that “you’re brown, you can’t frequent this establishment” – more like, you’re brown and not really American. … It’s not too far off for me to think that way, is it? The way a frighteningly large number of Americans are reacting to our President?

This race thing largely wasn’t an issue until I got older, of course. I like to blame the last good ole’ Dubya for teaching our country that difference is to be feared and rejected. We joke about being called terrorists and being looked at funny in the airport – but the fact remains: there’s truth behind it. I only started laughing about being called a terrorist after I heard a group of kids in college walk by and say: “Yo, check out that terrorist.”’

In light of the shooting that happened this weekend, I’m forced to reckon with this feeling again. Only this time, there’s more anger and confusion. Those of us who were old enough to remember just after 9/11 know that the first man to be killed in a hate crime was Sikh. They’re in the unfortunate position of playing “Muslim” to modern racists / extremists who don’t know the difference. And of course I’m not saying it would have been okay if he had been Muslim. It just shines the light on the first of two big issues here:

A Lack of Education and Understanding

We all hear about Arizona, who, for the past few years with their uneducated governor Jan Brewer, have consistently been anti-minority. Sorry are you brown, I need to see your papers because you might be illegally living here. No, no, I don’t care if you were here first. We believe in white people in Arizona. Where they’ve cut what they are calling “Racially divisive ethnic-studies classes” (also-known-as Mexican Studies.

We hear about Texas, where they’ve voted to downplay the civil rights movement in text books that will be used across the country.

These are not outright attacks on a particular ethnicity or culture, but they are designed to promote the White-is-Right attitude, and that anything that is different doesn’t need to be understood, it just needs to go away. And unfortunately, we’re all kind of sitting back and taking it. This brings me to my second issue:

Why Bother Talking About It?

A few weeks ago there was a terrible incident in Aurora, Colorado. The reaction was immediate. It was all over my newsfeed, all over my tweet stream, everywhere everyone was talking about this thing that had happened. As they should have been! It was a senseless act of violence and needed to be discussed and shared if only so we could create a conversation on how to make it better. One day after the shooting, the Huffington Post posted the reactions of politicians. There are 57 slides of reactions. Within three days of the shooting, there were hundreds of articles about it.

The Wisconsin shooting happened yesterday morning. I didn’t hear about it until yesterday evening. As of this post, I’ve read the reactions of six politicians, one of whom is the executive director of the Sikh Coalition. Most of the people who are talking about it on social media seem to be of South Asian descent. Which makes me think: Do people just feel like this isn’t all that big of a deal?

A man walks into a house of worship and shoots and kills these Asian-Americans. The lack of reaction is disheartening. Why aren’t we worth the same anger and confusion that people felt weeks ago? Is it old news? Is it because it’s more expected?

I’m genuinely struggling with this. After the Aurora shootings, it was all people I knew were talking about. It came up frequently in conversation at home, at work, and everywhere else. Not a single person has brought up this Wisconsin shooting in my office today.

Roger Ebert wrote an op-ed for the Times after the Aurora shooting that because of this act of violence, we should be able to discuss Gun Control in a rational way. I agree. And I think that because of the Wisconsin shootings, we should be able to discuss race and ethnicity in a rational way.

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I Swear I Don’t Blow My Nose with a Hundred Dollar Bill

But I cannot make that promise about Jeff Bezos.

We all know that there was an article in the NY Times about us evil, evil, horrible publishers colluding against the poor, wittle book seller innocent Amazon. (I may be simplifying things a bit.)

Sue me, I’m feeling mean today.

When things like this happen, and the news comes out, every blog and every article (barring some industry specific ones) make publishers out to be these money hungry monsters. Like we’re all sitting on big piles of money laughing about all those dumb customers buying expensive eBooks.

Oh, would that our lives look like that.

Really, we’re sitting around trying to figure out how to get our rapidly dwindling audience of readers to a) keep reading and b) read more. I know, I know. How could we??

So when Amazon comes along, with its “Oh, we’re selling eBooks at a loss to keep our customers happy you evil publishers!” it’s more than little offensive to those of us who honestly love reading and want to spread the good words among the populace, but can’t, because we don’t have any money to do so. Because you know what happens? Amazon knows that they can come back and say: This is the standard; we are now going to give you less money for the same product so that we can sell it for a cheap price.

I realize that the way we do business is not working. And there are many, many problems within the publishing industry. We’re doing our best to catch up.

However, I think that with most book stores, publishers feel a sense of partnership. Amazon is a bully. They want to get their grubby little paws on every aspect of an industry they honestly don’t care all that much about. I keep saying “they” but I should say “Bezos.”

I’ve been talking about him for years, I know. But seriously. Do you know what’s going to happen when Amazon slashes the eBook prices of those books you love so much?

Independents will not be able to compete. Brick and Mortar will not be able to compete. None of us will be able to compete. Because they are a behemoth. Did you know that the agency model actually made Amazon more money? What does that tell you? This isn’t about the profit for them. It’s about the power and squashing the competition.

But we need competition! Do you really want one company controlling what kind of books you do or don’t see? I understand that it shouldn’t be on the shoulder of the readers to see through all of this… that you should be able to just buy the cheapest and have that be that. But if you care about the books you read and the authors who write them and the people who help get them into your hands, think twice about where you’re buying your book. It matters. Books aren’t such a huge moneymaker that we can disregard our customers. Every single book buyer has an effect on all of us. This industry is not doing so well. But we all got into books because we love them. I can personally guarantee that it was not for the money.

And that brings me what is most terrifying about this episode. It’s just another instance of the government supporting Big Business. Not to say, of course, that the Publishers are mom and pops. But, I have a strong feeling that Amazon lobbyists had quite a bit to do with this investigation. This outcome will have a huge effect on independents, as well. In a nation where being a corporation means you have more rights than I do, it’s not all that surprising. Money talks, people. I just wish it wasn’t saying such hateful things.

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Flipping Tables Left and Right

This is really what my life is like during the work day. And this is really how Roommate and I speak to each other.

Me:  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Me:  ┻━┻ ︵ヽ(`Д´)ノ︵ ┻━┻
TWO TABLES
Him:  okayyyyyy
just gonna
back up slowly
toward the dooooor
(fucking psycho geez)
Me:  (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻
FLYING TABLE
Him:  OK THAT IS QUITE ENOUGH YOUNG LADY
Me:  ┻━┻ ︵ ¯\(ツ)/¯ ︵ ┻━┻
i dun give a fuck flippin tables
P.S. I’m working on a real post, I swear. One that will be smart and will say important words. They  might even be in coherent sentences. Oh, and it will definitely involve a gif or two. I promise.

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The New Literary Literature

Or, how my roommate and I spent an hour talking about candy bars on Facebook, and within the conceit of Take 5, we covered every possible facet of humanity. Literature, music, war, fascism, hate, happiness, sex, Nazism… we cover it all. All under the guise of a hatred of Take 5. Or Take Five. Answer to whatever God you must.

I present to you… The Take Down of Take Five.  (It’s very long).

You haven’t gotten to the best parts yet. Like Stephen King and Pol Pot. Keep going. Have a Take 5.

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Actual G-Chat conversations with my Roommate.

And why I am constantly “accidentally capslocking” at other people.

Him:  SO I WAS AT UNIQLO
AND IT WAS CROWDED SO
I WAS LIKE YOU KNOW, TAKE THE ELEVATOR, EASIER THAN TRYING TO GO THROUGH THE CROWD
AND I’M LOOKING AT THE TROUSERS, YOU KNOW, AND JUST NOTHING IN 30X32
JUST NOTHING
AND I GUESS I COULD GET THEM HEMMED FOR FREE
BUT I WAS LIKE
YOU KNOW, I DON’T WANT TO COME BACK TOMORROW AND HAVE TO PICK THEM UP
SINCE TOMORROW, YOU KNOW
MAYA’S HAVING HER THING
AND I WAS THINKING OF GOING TO THE GYM BUT I DUNNO IF I’LL HAVE TIME
FOR THAT AND A NAP
AND I LIKE TO TAKE A NAP ON FRIDAYS BEFORE I DO ANYTHING
SO ANYWAY
I’M LOOKING THROUGH THE SHIRTS
AND EVERYTHING’S THESE MADRAS PATTERNS
AND IT’S JUST WEIRD COLOR CHOICES, YOU KNOW
SO I’M THINKING
MAYBE INSTEAD I SHOULD GO WITH THE SOLID COLOR LINEN SHIRTS
BUT NOT LONG SLEEVED
SHORT SLEEVED
BECAUSE IT’S SUMMER AND ALL

Me:  FIRST OF ALL
I READ THAT LIKE YOU WERE SHOUTING AT ME THE WHOLE TIME
WHICH MAKES ME ASSUME THAT YOUR INTERNAL MONOLOGUE IS CONSTANTLY YELLING AT YOU
WHICH IS AWESOME
BECAUSE YOU DESERVE TO BE YELLED AT
SECONDLY
STOP USING ME AS YOUR GODDAMN SOUNDING BOARD
YOUR INTERNAL MONOLOGUE IS REALLY BORING
AND I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR DUMB SHIRTS

Him
:  SO I WAS LOOKING AT THE LINEN SHIRTS

AND THEY HAD SOME NICE COLORS
BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO REPLICATE SOME OF THE COLORS THAT I ALREADY HAVE IN MY WARDROBE

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CONFESSION: I am a Secret Shipper

I ship. There, I said it. I ship. If there is a YA novel, television show, movie, or comic book and there is romance involved, I will find a couple to love and follow with all my heart. For example:  Sasuke and Sakura kind of need to be together forever. For. Ever. I love fandom. I’m pretty sure it began with my fierce belief in Dawson and Joey’s Everlasting Love.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term ‘ship’ – Urban Dictionary defines it as “endors[ing] a romantic relationship.” I’ll just go ahead and add in the phrase “that is unrelated to you” at the end of that definition.

I have noticed, however, that YA novels of late have been taking advantage of this shipping trait by creating discord among the fans. The readers have to choose who they think makes the better match! The most visible, of course, is Twilight. Are you Team Jacob? Or Team Edward? (… or Team Edward&Jacob because Bella’s a blank slate of a character who doesn’t really represent anything but women-belong-in-the-kitchen-making-babies ideology?) There’s also the epically fantastic Hunger Games series which pits Peeta against Gale (Gale! Gale!… though I almost changed my mind when Mockingjay came out. The shippers, they are fickle on occasion).

That being said, I’m finding this to be a more troublesome trend in the YA market now. Triangles for the sake of bloody triangles. Dear everyone-writing-a-young-adult-novel, you do not need to have two love interests for your heroine. You don’t need kids to be pitted against kids in an epic battle of this-guy’s-better-for-her-than-your-guy just to get your book to sell. If it happens as a result of just having awesome characters, fine – but don’t deliberately create a situation in which you’re selling your own characters out. I’ve put down several YA novels in recent times because I can see that it’s empty-faced girl and two gorgeous guys, and o, Gods, how will she choose?! You know who didn’t do that? JK Rowling, bitches.

So, writers, balance the possible relationships. Balance. Make me love all the characters so much that I could never choose, but will still spend time talking about the character’s ultimate choice on the internet (… Vampire Diaries, I’m looking at you).

Related anecdote:  A few nights ago, a friend and I were watching Disney videos on Youtube (because we’re awesome), when I noticed an associated video, “Draco / Hermione Can You Feel the Love Tonight” – we both thought, what? Clicked.

You’re welcome:

THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING, FRIENDS.

Turns out, anything can be shipped. I mean seriously. Anything.

(I’m sorry).

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Adaptasaurus Rex! Raaaaar!

Last night, I went and saw Jane Eyre in one of the two theaters in which it is playing. (I picked the one that was less likely to have o-the-horror, or as they’re better known, bed bugs).

I should start off by saying, I am hugely, giantly, nerdily, grossly in love with Jane Eyre. It’s been my favorite book since I was fourteen. There’s something about this incredible story full of gothic mystery, love, betrayal, and passion happening to two fairly unremarkable people. I don’t think, however, that this makes my opinion on the film any harsher than it would have been if I was just a passing reader.

Alright, confession time over.

So as I said, I went to see the movie last night.

I knew something was wrong when the movie made me snicker. One should not snicker during Jane Eyre! It is not a snicker-worthy story! Some light laughter perhaps, at Jane and Rochester’s banter, a smile or two at her precociousness, even. But snicker?

The movie was just not. that. great.  They did an admirable job of keeping all the relevant plot points, and even giving Jane’s story some context (for first-timers) by opening with her fleeing Thornfield. I don’t have a single issue with their adapting the story to script. My issue is that they lost all the feeling. The Red Room or when we finally meet Rochester’s mad wife for the first time – all kind of left me saying, meh. And the loving words exchanged between Jane and Rochester? Laughable. I mean literally… we laughed at them.

It’s not like literary adaptions are impossible to get right! I mean, just look at the following:

Pride & Prejudice


I was staunchly against this movie when it came out in 2005. I have never been a huge Keira Knightly fan. (I think it’s the way you can always see her bottom teeth. So weird.) Also, how dare they think that anyone but Colin Firth could ever be Mr. Darcy! Eventually, I ended up on a 10 hour flight with a broken iPod, so I sucked it up and watched the only movie available on the flight: Pride & Prejudice.  I was genuinely surprised by how good it was. The acting, the script, the cinematography and the music came together and encapsulated what makes P&P such an enjoyable read.

The Importance of Being Earnest:

Again, I actually mean the newer version. Oscar Wilde has some misses on his repertoire – but the Importance of Being Earnest is not one of them. The play is brilliant and hilarious, and the movie carries it off really well.

Dangerous Liaisons / Cruel Intentions


This is a dangerous admission on my part. I think Cruel Intentions is a fairly good modern interpretation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses. As of three months ago, it was the only version of the book I’d seen in any format. Then I watched John Malcovich and Glenn Close tear it the eff up as the Vicomte and the Marquise. I mean, damn.

The list goes on: Lord of the Rings, Wuthering Heights (1939), Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz (arguably better than the book), pieces of the Harry Potter canon, Emma (2009)… IT CAN BE DONE.

So Jane Eyre, in it’s inability to honestly use what the author had provided, failed to be a successful adaptation. It had the right pieces, but lost itself in campy horror tricks, ridiculously stilted conversations, and period film cliches.

I guess you could call Jane Eyre a rental… but if you’re going to go to the movies, maybe you should think about seeing Rango instead. I hear that the animation’s, like, really good.

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