Saturday, February 28, 2015


I'm okay with categories.

"You can't think outside the box without a box."

My father said this to me long ago as I raged against the MTV machine (mostly because MTV stopped promoting bands like Rage Against the Machine).

I don't know anyone who watches MTV anymore, but plenty of my friends and acquaintances are more familiar than I am with people called Nicki Minaj and Arianna Grande. (I have a more important question for you, dear reader, in a wee bit).

Agent Coulson also made a similar concession in the first season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We need a system to effectively accumulate and disseminate truth. Or, as I enjoy shouting in the ears of passing schoolchildren, "WORDS! THEY MEAN THINGS!" One issue with compartmentalization is that the boxes can be closed (and hidden) by those in power.

But this is all too vague. Sorry, my head hasn't been right lately. I'm okay, for the most part, with categories and labels. Can you imagine anyone categorically categories, though? What would you call that person? Surely, they wouldn't have a name, right?

Take my hand and leap with me into the world of fashion and visual culture. When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to be a skater. I had passed from elementary school to junior high, and was swarmed with crowded hallways and hormones. My individual identity would simply not suffice. So I wore big bright t-shirts, rocked baggy pants, and stuck to my mainstay Etnies and Vans shoes because I truly loved how comfortable and cool they were. But I was a poser. I didn't skate. I tried skating, because it bothered me that how I felt most comfortable appearing associated me with something I was not truly embracing. I fell a lot.

Well, that was me in junior high. Sometime near then the term "metrosexual" was coined. To this day, I can't think of a more nuanced definition of metrosexual beyond "well-groomed male." And that's interesting to me. We very readily associate tedious grooming habits in men with homosexuality. Why? Or is it less about homosexuality and more about sexuality?

Is it for the same reason that women are more typically sexually (and therefore visually) objectified?

I don't know, but "metrosexual" was probably never going to be the first adjective anyone would think of to describe yours truly. Now, "lumbersexual" is passing in and out of vogue. If you're unfamiliar, think of a lumberjack. Now, give that lumberjack a reasonable diet, a cellphone, and some gauges. BOOM! TIMBER! (okay, now, BOOM!) Lumbersexual.

Lumbersexual is probably higher up the list than metrosexual if we're, again, considering yours truly. I suppose it's because I'm white and I have a beard. It's the same reason I resemble Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black, and eighty percent of the alcohol industry.

But I was white and had a beard in high school. It's not simply laziness. It's a conscious decision to not engage in the unnecessary and futile act of shaving. What Russell Brand is to not voting, I am to not shaving. I'm not going to be one of those people who is saying "but I was doing it before it was cool!" because I've seen enough paintings of historical figures far prior to my existence in high school to know I'm no pioneer (and pioneers had some pretty gnarly beards, also many were lumberjacks...I guess).

I simply wish to express that I don't care. I mean, I do care, as I'm curious about the cultural context of all of this. But call me whatever you wish. I just ask that if we're going to collectively coin new words for males making a conscious decision to look a certain way, perhaps we should try to be a little more accurate.

But just as we love suffixing every controversy under the sun with "gate," perhaps I shouldn't be so hopeful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kayla Mueller

So Cenk Uygur does a great job of succinctly destroying the arguments of certain bloggers who would paint Kayla Mueller, American humanitarian executed by ISIS, as an "enemy of the Jews."

Because all Muslims are the same, and that totally isn't a big reason we've been having so much trouble with our embroilment in the Middle East post-9/11, right?

So rather than simply paraphrase his argument, I'll advance my position as one that is in opposition to a great deal guessed it, FACEBOOK COMMENTS that are to the intended detriment of Kayla's character.

I don't know anything about Kayla Mueller apart from the fact that she was an outgoing woman who wanted to help people who are suffering.

This has led many people to express the (ever persistent victim-blaming) mentality that she had it coming; she deserved to die at the hands of extremists.

I noticed this attitude when James Foley was killed. To paraphrase, "you shouldn't go to the Middle East unless you're a soldier with a gun."

Really? James Foley was a journalist. Do you think you're entitled to information about what is occurring beyond our borders? Do you think it just magically falls out of the fucking sky onto your network news channel/website of choice?

Of course not. Someone has to go there and figure it out for the rest of us. The insinuation that he was just doing his job for a paycheck is most likely a projection on the part of whoever expresses this belief. No, you don't necessarily have to have any sympathy for him, but you should at least have the wherewithal to shut your damn mouth.

And this brings me to Kayla. God damn it, she's another victim of the ISIS regime, monster, evil, etc. Some insinuate that maybe, because she's a twenty-six year old woman, she might not have fully comprehended the risks of the situation that, yes, she put herself in. Is that not just a little condescending? What purpose does that serve? I'm not going to say she fully understood those risks, and I won't posit that I do either. But how dare you detract from her obviously benevolent intentions? There is a little sexism there, too. We don't want to acknowledge that a woman could be strong enough to act on her (apparently deadly) convictions. Well, fuck us then. Maybe we don't deserve her.

And that brings us to our other argument. Again, to paraphrase, "she should have stayed home and helped Americans. Plenty of Americans need help."

Sure. Fine. What are you up to, anyway? What have you done for your fellow Americans? What, exactly, should she have done differently?

It's almost as if journalists and humanitarians being killed in the Middle East is forcing us to acknowledge the inherent complexities of modern warfare. God forbid. And perhaps this is why some of us would absolutely prefer soldiers (and no one else) die in the Middle East.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

You've Just Been Carpetbagged

I've been referred to, both personally and generally, as a "carpetbagger." For those unfamiliar with the term, it originated during the Reconstruction Era when Northern entrepreneurs (among other brands of psychopath) moved to the South to exploit the instability and uncertainty that followed the Civil War.

Today, it typically refers to a politician who represents people from a district or region he or she has very little connection with. It also, apparently, can refer to any "yankee" (Northerner) who moves South and has an idea.

"Hey, um, I think maybe we should have a special provision for licensed-"

"CARPETBAGGER! You're not from here! You've only lived here for the better part of a decade. How DARE you attempt to improve the place you now live! You must only be doing this for some kind of selfish gain. Me? I'm not being selfish at all."

"Oh yeah? Well you wouldn't know good pizza if it gave your face an orgasm. And learn how to use your fucking turn signal."

So the exchange is not normally that intense, but it would certainly be more fun if it were. Let's call the modern, probably very colloquial usage of the term "carpetbagger" what it is - xenophobic. It's the same misplaced frustration with immigration anywhere else. "How dare you come here and try and make your life and everyone else's better?"

Someone asked me why dumb people are stereotyped as having Southern accents. It's a good question. It seems unfair. My answer was "Alabama and Mississippi." If they're not currently sitting at 49th and 50th place with regards to educational rankings, they're very near it. You can usually find these states at the bottom of other very important rankings. It's not to say that they're awful places (I've never been, so I can't judge), and it's also not insinuating that people from these places can't possibly be intelligent or creative. But is it any surprise that these voices are the first ones we think of when we're mocking the undereducated? I don't think it's a very good argument on my part, but I was pretty drunk.

More likely, however, is that a Southern accent is the easiest for the rest of us to mimic. We spent eight years together as a nation mocking our Cowboy-wannabe president, George W. Bush. If (god forbid) Sarah Palin's political career moves beyond that of attention-seeking twat, YOU BETCHA we'll start collectively making fun of another accent.

Or not, because that one is just insufferable sometimes.

At least the lilt is purrrrdy.