Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Put My Finger WHERE??? And Other Bad Ideas For Women

A group of four men from North Carolina State University have developed a nail polish that changes colour when exposed to certain debilitating drugs commonly used in sexual assaults. Their company is called Undercover Colors, and they tout the polish as “the first fashion company working to prevent sexual assault”. How does it work? It’s easy! If you suspect your drink has been compromised, stir your drink with your finger. If the nail polish changes hue, then your drink has been tainted! Run!

this brings up so many questions. Does it change different colours according to the drug used? Is it Rophypnol Rose? GHB Green? Extasy Evergeen? (Would it even work on Jaeger Bomb Yellow?) Or is it one blanket hue to cover all, like Oh No Orange? Maybe Run Lola Red?

What about the process? In order for this to work, a woman must put her finger in her drink. That’s not socially awkward at all. Imagine being on a date, and when the guy goes to the bathroom and returns, he catches his date sticking her finger in her drink.

HE: Um, what are you doing?
SHE: Oh, just stirring my drink.
HE: With your finger? There’s a stirrer right there, and besides, it’s just soda water.
SHE: Oh...um...but I don’t want to waste plastic.
HE: ...I’m gonna go...uh...powder my nose…

At this point the guy probably will realise she has sex polish on her nails and if he’s a good guy, will be offended that she would suspect him of drugging her. If he’s a Nice Guy™, he will make a big damn scene. If he’s a Pick-Up Artist®, He’ll be like, “Hey, you found my surprise!” and continue to attempt to close. In any case, a night is made awkward.

George Lucas's Rendition of the Rapex Condom
I won’t call this a terrible idea, but it is not the best. It is 100 times better than the Rapex condom. Besides having a very triggery name, it is a female condom that has little spikes in it. Imagine turning your vagina into a scale model of the Sarlacc Pit of Tatooine. There are two problems with this rape prevention tool:
  1. You have to walk around with a vagina full of spikes. Beside the comfort factor, what if you are out with someone with whom you actually want to have sex, and you forget to take out your vagidentures? That will be the first and LAST time you see this man.
  2. IT DOESN’T PREVENT RAPE. In order for the Rapex to work a woman has to actually be unwillingly penetrated, which is what we all want to avoid! We want to keep the pants ON.

I am sure that the men who developed Undercover Colors have their hearts in the right place. They just don’t have their heads in the right place, and that is what the problem is. A trench coat full of gadgets will not reduce the dangers of sexual assault. Real wanton criminals will figure out a way around any prevention gadget made. Worse, since sexual assault is more about power than pleasure, chances are a frustration over them might lead to more violence.

Much like unarmed brown teenagers, we still have this idea that it is on the woman to prevent the crime against her. Don’t wear short skirts! Don’t walk alone after 8:00PM! Don’t go to the beach in a bikini! Why didn’t you have your rape whistle on you? Did you pack your pepper spray? You need to learn 5 different forms of ancient martial arts!

I may be falsely crediting, but I believe Jessica Valenti said that it’s not a matter of teaching girls how to not get raped; it’s a matter of teaching boys to not rape. Women wouldn’t need technicolour nail polish and Sarlacc condoms if we taught more young men what respect for women is, and how consent works. Doing that would benefit all people, not just women.

So if you have an idea for a gadget to prevent rape, good for you, but make sure you and your friends know that it’s their actions that may make the device necessary, and if we had a better dialogue to understand how our actions triggered the “need”, we would be in a much better place.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Don't Be an ALShole

Unless your hermit hut doesn’t have a DSL connection, then you know about the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. When you get challeneged, you say who nominated you, You nominate two to three people, and then you dump a bucket of ice water on your head. If you do not do this within 24 hours, you donate to the ALS Association to fund research and treatment of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I did the challenge last week. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve done to myself, but unless I move to Arizona, I don’t see myself doing it again.

Not surprisingly, there has been some backlash. People say that pouring ice over your head will not cure anything. Others say that the dynamic of the challenge won’t raise any money, because if you DO the challenge, you don’t have to send money to ALSA. Another thing I hear is that we should be giving regardless and shouldn’t have to get people to donate money, that people should do it out of the kindness of their hearts. My favourite saying of nay is this: There are people in Africa and India who don’t have clean drinking water, and we in North America and Europe are just dumping it all over our heads.

“There are dying kids in Africa…”

Your horse must be named Cheech, because it's so high.
Let me ponder my favourite naysay first: you must have given your horse a full pound of marijuana to make him so high when you got on him. Seriously, you MUST be joking. Yes, the world water crisis IS serious. It’s been serious for generations, and now all of a sudden you care so much that you refuse to dump a bucket of ice on your head, because it’s a waste of good water? I’m about to do a mile walk in high heels to earn money for for a group that helps victims of sexual abuse. Perhaps I shouldn’t do it, because the heels I will buy will likely be made by an underpaid Indonesian orphan with gout...WHO HAS NO SHOES. How dare I not think of that, even though it’s likely nearly all the clothes we’re wearing are made this way?

I hope the people using this to make themselves holier that the rest of us are clocking their shower times and metering the water they use to wash dishes. We waste more water sprinkling our lawns in the Mid-Atlantic than a bunch of people dumping ice on them for charity. And let’s face it: those bags of ice were likely just going to go in coolers to chill crappy soda-beers anyway. THOSE LITTLE INDIAN KIDS CAN’T HAVE COORS LIGHT! The horror!

If you really care about brown kids’ survival, give to WATERisLIFE. While you’re at it, lobby the CDC to speed up the experimental treatments they gave to two US people to successfully treat their Ebola, and expedite it to the regions of Africa where it’s currently running rampant. Do something besides acting like people dumping water on their heads is the greatest ill of the world right now.

“That’s stupid. Pouring ice over your head won’t cure anything.”

People who say this MUST believe in magic. Either that, or they are the same people who say, “We have a black president. That means racism is over!” Either way, they completely miss the point. Of COURSE dumping ice on my head will not cure anything. Me walking in heels for a mile will not eradicate misogyny. I protest the anti-gay bigots at pride parades with humourous counter-signs. For all my efforts, homophobia still exists. The whole point is awareness! The money goes to RESEARCH. If doing something silly would solve the world’s issues, then we’d be in utopia, because people do silly stuff all the time, and for no good reason!

“If you are dumping ice water over your head, then you’re getting out of donating, so that means ALSA gets nothing.”

There are 79.7 million reasons (and counting) why that is an untrue statement. Last year this time, ALSA only earned about $2 million. The truth is that whether people do the challenge or not, they donate. Obviously, it’s working. NEXT!

“You shouldn’t need the threat of dumping ice water on yourself to donate money to a worthy cause. You should just do it!”

If that were true, people would be giving their money to every worthy cause all the time without incentive. No one would accept a Nina Totin’ Bag for donating to NPR. We wouldn't have pub crawls for breast cancer research, and we wouldn’t have need of a pink Kitchen Aid. Doing the Bucket Challenge is FUN. Fun is a good incentive. Perhaps people would have donated regardless, but why not make a game of it? Putting joy in a task is a what we naked apes do. If we didn't, there would be no runs for cancer, or bike rides for peace, or walks for equality. If you don’t make the things you know you should do fun, you’ll be miserable. Even people in dire straits attempt to find joy in their predicaments. I doubt that there would be many stand-up comedians were it not for that. Even other mammals play with their food before they eat it! Perhaps the people who make this statement deliberately make all things not fun for anyone. Grey balloons for birthday parties. Cupcakes that taste like wheat flour and orphan tears. Rice cakes for breakfast,lunch, and dinner.

“What’s the point?”

ALSA is advertising the Ice Bucket Challenge. They’ve made almost $80 million thanks to participants, so naysay all you want, the campaign is doing its job and then some. Perhaps these people are all just jealous because no one nominated them.

Is that it?

You jelly?

Do it on your own then, and stop complaining.

Oh, and Rush Limbaugh isn’t doing the challenge. Do you want to be like Rush Limbaugh?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Ballad of Bobby Earl

Due to this Summer of Discontent, this blog has been quite somber as of late. It is time to talk about something festive, like my trip to Myrtle Beach. This is the Ballad of Bobby Earl.

Bobby Earl got married on Saturday 9th August. I never thought B. Earl would get married, but there I was, on a trip to the seaside city, preparing to witness what I thought I would never witness.

I met Bobby Earl in college. You know how there are a few people in your life who you meet and you automatically know that they will be friends forever? Yeah...not Bobby Earl...That didn’t happen until about a year after I met him. When I was in college, when it came to new friends, I was much like a cat. I would be somewhat cold to new people, but then there would be one day where everything clicks, and all of a sudden I’m sitting on your laptop and giving you dead animals as gifts. I can’t tell you what the event was, but some time a year later, Bobby Earl, Nix Hazard, Al Black, Monty “Monty”, Jeff, and a few more friends were thick as thieves, and it had nothing to do with our membership in a non-Greek fraternity. We were brothers already. I should not forget to mention Harlemface and D. though not from the same school, brothers nonetheless.

After college, we were still close, and Bobby Earl remained one of my best friends. We all went through some trying times, and were were there for each other. We all had our relationship problems, mostly because we were idiots. We were in our early 20s, after all. Let me just tell you, if you are in your early 20s, you are a relationshidiot. Live with it. You may not think you are, but you are. It’s okay. You’ll get better. This is why I thought I wouldn’t see the day that Bobby Earl would be married. He is a mensch and a catch for anyone lucky enough, but I only remembered the drama of our twenties.

One day while I was traveling, Bobby Earl called me up and told me about this woman that he met at a club where we used to go. Her name was The Mysterious CeCe, and she was just as sarcastic and deadpan humourous as he was. He talked about that first meeting for nearly an hour. So I asked, “So are you dating her now?” and he said, “Nah, we just met. But she’s cool.” Riiiight…

A few weeks went by, and The Mysterious CeCe came up in conversation again. Ask asked him what she looked like, and his description was that of some ebon version of Aphrodite, an “Afrodite”, if you will. So I asked again, “That’s your girls now, yo?” And again, he said, “Nah, we’re just hanging out.” Riiiight…

A few months went by, and I got a picture text from Bobby Earl. It said, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Bobby Earl & [The Mysterious] CeCe!” They were definitely together, and I finally got to see The Mysterious CeCe. Only one problem…

One of my favourite things about Bobby Earl is that he is not a materialistic. Sadly, this meant that the phone by which he sent the picture of him and The Mysterious CeCe was not so much a smartphone with a nice camera as it was a Nokia from 1989 with a Polaroid duct taped to it. The photo was very small. I couldn’t tell who was who. I didn’t even know camera phones could take 8-bit resolution. It may as well have been Mario and Luigi in Milli Vanilli wigs. Oh well; as long as he’s happy, I’m happy.

A few years went by, and I got a text from Bobby Earl in May. It just said, “Would you like to come to my wedding?” Wha...? I HAD to call him. He explained that he was engaged to The Mysterious CeCe, and they are getting married in Myrtle Beach! What great news! I am so there! It will be a family reunion of sorts. Jeff, Monty “Monty”, Nix Hazard, Al Black will be there as well. There WILL be shenanigans!

Sure enough, shenanigans abound. First, i completely forgot that Myrtle Beach is in South Carolina. for those of you who failed US History, SC was the first state to secede from the Union, and some residents are still a little bit butt-hurt over losing the civil War. I will give it to them; there has been much progress. They got rid of the American Swastika in their flag and replaced it with a palm tree and a crescent moon. However, I noticed that everything was called “plantation”. The timeshare in which we stayed was a golf resort called Wachesaw Plantation. So they named the place where they forced people to work to death after the people they forced off the land. Oh, and Wachesaw means “Place of great weeping”. Oy. Besides the golf resort, shopping centers, plots of land, and empty lots were call plantations.

“Say, what is the nearest grocery store?”
“Oh that would be the Food Lion.”
“Oh, come on!”

In general though, the vibe of the area was very pleasant. The most oppressive thing there was the humidity, and there was an ocean right there to cool off. Everyone should go to Myrtle Beach at least once, wedding or not.

On the first day, we went to the Boardwalk and almost immediately jumped in the water. I hadn’t even checked in at the Plantation [shudder]. We went straight from the airport to the beach. The water was quite refreshing, even if the tide knocked the sunglasses off my head, never to be seen again. there is a shark somewhere off the coast of South Carolina who is styling right now. All that frolicking in the ocean made us hungry though, so Monty “Monty’s” wife, Natty Blizz, promised to make some food for everyone.

What she did can only be described as The Chickening™. She apparently got every chicken in the state, ripped off their wings, and fried them. It was delicious, but there was SO MUCH. If those chickens were people, they would have nicknamed Natty Blizz "the Myrtlosevic". Fowl from all corners of the region shudder at the mention of her name. Little chicks freak themselves out by saying Natty Blizz’s name in the mirror five times. Still, SO DELICIOUS. I regret nothing about The Chickening™.

The next day, we schlepped around and had a mini bachelor party. Man, what a night. We REDACTED REDACTED salmon steaks REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED goat REDACTED REDACTED human slingshot REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED off with a warning REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTEDREDACTED REDACTED REDACTED never been propositioned by a human shark!  REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED So REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED sunglasses at night REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED good night's sleep.

The day of the wedding, we were taking bets on whether Bobby Earl would cry or not on his wedding day. Since we all knew that B. Earl would definitely cry, it wound up being all of us betting Bobby Earl that he would cry. Because that is what best friends do. Bobby Earl had never been to Waffle House, and most of us thought that every black man needs to experience Waffle House at least once in his life, and what better day than the day you are to be betrothed? Al Black, however, did NOT want Big Box food, so he looked up a local place nearby that he said would be better. We obliged.

This place did not look open. It looked as though it was made entirely of driftwood and gator teeth. there were license plates from nearly every state except South Carolina hammered on the facade. Inside was darker and dingier, except for the chalkboard advertising their “famous BBQ”. We took a picture of all of us in front of the place, and we noticed in the second floor window that there was a stuffed negro staring out at us. It turned out that they didn’t serve breakfast, but I had an idea what they DID serve: Yankee BBQ. You cannot convince me that the drivers of all the cars from whence the license plates came were not in the stew. The brother always dies first, and we were ALL brothers.

We got lost looking for another place. I thought that getting lost in SC would mean we either get eaten by alligators or residents of a swamp who did not know that the War of Northern Aggression was over. Instead, we came upon a place called Studio Cafe. Perhaps it was our hunger or relief that did not make a wrong turn and become the “black angus” special at a backwoods barbecue, but that may have been the best breakfast we’d eaten in a while. Good call on Al Black to spurn big box food. We had a good gastronomic adventure.

The wedding went very smoothly. Bobby Earl & The Mysterious CeCe looked great together. Bobby Earl didn't cry, until at the reception when he had the traditional Mother/Son dance. Then it was waterworks, which was fitting, because it looked like it was monsooning outside.

Everything was good There was much line dancing, and then suddenly, the storm outside produced a bolt of lightning that hit the hotel! That set off a fire alarm, and we had to pause the reception dance party for a bit. One of the maintenance men insinuated that one of us pulled the fire alarm. Here’s a little note for all of you: just because there are a bunch of black people in a room, it doesn't mean they will be up to no good. A bolt of lightning HIT THE BUILDING. If that doesn't set off a fire alarm, then you have a terrible alarm system. None of us pulled that alarm! It was Thor Odinson.

The after party in the prep room was fun. We basically drank, listened to old school hip-hop and, listened to some of The Mysterious CeCe’s cousins from Mississippi argue about sports. I must say, there is nothing like listening to three southern gentlemen debate while you are intoxicated. it’s like listening to foreign sportscasters commentating in Eastern Klingon. Unfortunately, the neighbours did not appreciate the noise we were generating, but we fortunately had enough pretty white girls in the room that we could just send them to the door to ease their worries.

When we thought that we were too tired to do anything but sleep, one of the pretty white girls suggested that we jump in the ocean one more time, because nothing bad can happen when you mix a raging sea with alcohol soaked milestone celebrators! Nothing did happen. We just had a really good time on the beach. The pretty white girls jumped in fully clothed. They looked like mermaids coming out of the water. It would have been funny if one of their names was Darryl.

On the last day, we decided to see a schlep around a mall and watch a movie. We saw the Michael Bay version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would not call it a cinematic abortion, but I will say that the best part of the movie was the ending credits.

It was a very fun trip, and I was happy to see Bobby Earl find happiness, and I’m glad it was with The Mysterious CeCe. I had not met her until two days before the wedding, but I could tell she was already part of our family. there was no need for me to spurn her for a month. I will gladly sit on her laptop any day of the week. Congratulations, The Mysterious Cece and Bobby Earl.

...Also, Bobby Earl, you owe us each $20. Pay up, motherf***er.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Learn, Ferguson. Learn.

It should be no surprise that there is tumult in the wake of a Ferguson, MO police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager Mike Brown in the head. It should be no surprise that talking heads on both the left and the right are stroking their angrections™, with people on the far left stating that only armed rebellion will resolve this lack of concern for young black men and women and people on the far right claiming that all negroes are thugs and deserve to die anyway...and somehow blaming everything on Obama…It should not be any surprise that the media, that is supposedly primarily “liberal”, went with the standard protocol of finding the most MENACING looking picture they could find of Mike Brown, a high school graduate on his way to college, and tried to dig up some blemish of his past, like he went to detention one time for being late to class, proving his thuggish nature, thereby almost justifying the opinions of those who think he deserved to be shot in the street like a wounded animal.

What is surprising is that people are oblivious to the parallels of the aftermath of the Ferguson fiasco and the aftermath of every sexual assault and every gay bashing in America. There is a shock scenario cycle:

  1. Person with power severely beats/rapes/kills a person with less power.
  2. News media initiate initial nationwide SHOCK! :-o
  3. News media initiate subsequent victim blaming (he should have dressed manlier/she was wearing a bikini ON A BEACH/black people shouldn’t have black wallets because they look like guns).
  4. Twitter hashtag started by members of the victim’s social group illustrating that the type of crime happens all the time.
  5. Talking heads deny that it happens all the time, even though there is blatant evidence EVERYWHERE that it happens all the time.
  6. Someone blames Obama.
  7. Nationwide angrection™.
  8. Repeat.

I have been black for 36 years now. A side effect of puberty in black boys is that along with the acne and extra hair, you also acquire the suspicions of store owners and police officials. Since I was 14/15, I lost count of how many times I have been slammed on the ground or a wall or stopped in my car or followed in a store, all while shopping or going to school or work. How dare I set outside my house? My form of dress never mattered. When I’m in a hoodie, I am basically treated like I’m wearing an orange jumpsuit and suspected of crafting a shiv out of a spoon and a bar of soap. When I’m in a tie, the aggression isn’t as severe, but I have been disdainfully asked to get things like coffee or clean up a spill or give golfing advice to Matt Damon. My favourite interaction is when I’m new in a company, and colleagues ask me, “Were you in the military? No? Well how’d you get this engineering job? Oh, you have a degree? Like a bachelor’s? In engineering?” What they are really asking me is, “Nigger, how’d you get this job? Are you sure you’re not an Affirmative Action hire? There’s no way you are as smart as me. Who taught you math and English?” I see things like the Ferguson shooting, and I am both used to hearing about it and livid at the same time.

According to most women with whom I’ve spoken, something similar happens to them when puberty hits, except instead of the watchful eye of patrolmen and store owners, they acquire the watchful eye of EVERY STRAIGHT MAN EVER. I imagine this is similar to how Bugs Bunny feels when he is in a dark forest, and all you can see is hundreds of pairs of eyes leering at you and about to pounce, literally. It doesn’t matter if a woman is going to school or work or a club. How dare she step outside her house? Form of dress doesn’t matter. If she is wearing a business suit, then the blouse is too low-cut and drawing attention. If she is wearing a tank top and miniskirt, well then she was just asking for it! Forget that it’s summer in July! The cat calls (and worse) will abound. Intelligence will be questioned. One of my female colleagues (also an engineer) was often asked when she first started, “Were you in the military? No? Well how’d you get this engineering job? Oh, you have a degree? Like a bachelor’s? In engineering?” What they were really asking was, “Who did you sleep with to get this job? How does a girl know math? There’s no way you can conceive complex physics and have boobs at the same time. Are you sure you’re not an Affirmative Action hire, like that nigger over there?”

I am not sure exactly what plights members of the LGBTQ population endure. I just know of the many savage beatings that trans women in Baltimore have gone through when they were doing nothing but walking down public streets. Boys often get the tar beaten out of them if people simply suspect them of being gay, so I imagine that young men who actually ARE gay have to do a lot of hiding and posturing to keep the bigoted hounds off of their trail. So from puberty (or earlier) on, there is a lot of hiding in plain sight, until the one day a young man decides to be out and proud, at which point some friends are lost, and some enemies are gained. How dare he express himself the way he always wanted to? He’s not bothering anyone, but who cares! I do not know what people ask gay men and trans women at their jobs, but I do know what they say to other colleagues and me: “Can you believe that John is now Judy? What do I call ‘shim’? I can’t believe I used to go fishing with him. I wonder if he stuck his dick in my ear when I was sleeping? Would you let your kids around him? You would? I wouldn’t. How would I explain THAT to my son?” What they are really saying is...all that. I have heard all that from my colleagues about a transitioning woman, who eventually quit the job, because of all of those questions behind her back. She was a retired marine. What a great way to treat a veteran!

I could go on forever with the parallels. For every Lizzy Seeberg, there is a Mike Brown. For every Matthew Shepard, there is a John Crawford. People will make excuses and somehow make the victims of crime somewhat complicit in their own pain, all while talking about murderous white men as if they were saints before they sprayed their schools and movie theaters with bullets and blood.

Because of the many parallels, you cannot be a civil rights activist and not be a feminist and a gay rights advocate as well. Stove piping groups’ human rights as separate issues diminishes everyone’s rights. The idea that we have to get our own house together before we work on our neighbours’ houses is counterproductive. The more we stovepipe, the more scenes like what is happening in Ferguson will occur, and the more even more scenarios like what happened to a young woman in Steubenville will happen, with one of the guilty being able to play football again. The shock scenario cycle will keep churning until we’re all a little bit less selfish about helping out each other.

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