1. I usually resist think of the children framing, but in the case of Philando Castile who was killed by a police officer in a traffic stop, the stories of the students at the school where he worked asking their parents tough questions reminded me of Torey Hayden long ago saying that the questions kids ask about sex aren't the hard ones, it's the questions they ask about when the world doesn't work the way we have taught them it should that are the hardest.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
With DC's MLK library under construction, some of the larger library events have been roaming around. In a site that was perfect for me, Roxane Gay spoke about her new book Hunger with WAMU's Alicia Montgomery at All Souls Unitarian Church, aka on my street. (Okay fine it was like six blocks away. Still my street!) The space was packed, and well, you may or may not know the church dates to 1913, so there are fans in the seats in the sanctuary. All of this to say is was a little toasty and there was a persistent hissing sound that may have been due to the ancient boiler system or the sound system, but in the end it was still a great evening and I for one hope for more events that are so convenient to me.
Montgomery noted that Gay had taken an ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer approach for this book, and asked her to recount the most stupid question she had gotten so far. Gay was asked to describe her body for an interviewer. She declined to do so.
Gay talked a lot about the processing of trauma, and how differently we treat self medication when it happens with drugs and alcohol rather than with food, but also noted that food is still different because you have to eat and that it changes even going to the doctor for headaches or what have you. She mentioned being on a panel about fatness with several other authors and having a woman come up to the mike during the Q&A and say she was an OBGYN who was afraid to treat fat women and asked how to get better. Gay's answer, get over yourself.
Montgomery noted that Gay had referenced a loss in the book, in a way that implied that it was the loss of a child. Gay talked further, confirming she had been pregnant, and then had lost the child far enough into the pregnancy that it felt more like a stillbirth, and that the doctor had told her her weight had caused it and while she knows better now, it was hard to get past that.
There were a number of audience questions, and they were great. A lot of people asked about writing advice. Gay mentioned that she felt voice was something you find as you write more, and the affectations you picked up from others fall away. It doesn't descend from on high, it something you find by doing. She also talked about the need to be relentless in publishing, which is a patriarchial, looks focused, racist business.
She had made several references to spending more time in LA of late, and one audience member asked if there had been any more movement with any of her stuff that had been optioned and Gay did mention that she was writing a pilot for Amazon called "Grown Women", much as she had said she wanted to in Bad Feminist. There was also some discussion of "The Bachelorette", and Gay said that it's always a weird thing. It's great that there's a black bachelorette. But being the first black anything, here Rachel is, she's accomplished, she's an attorney, and these are the dudes they have brought her?
As I said, it was a great evening, made even better by running into folks I knew in the audience.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
I am aware of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding a band name that is expected to possibly have an impact on the Washington football team's trademark status. Apparently my discussions of the team name were primarily confined to usenet because I (and the internet) are old. But, to summarize. I am Hawaiian, which is a kind of native American, even if the history is a little different for us than those who also fall under the American Indian or first nations umbrella. I am Chinese. I am a native Washingtonian.
The team name of the Washington football team is racist. There is no way around this. If any other color preceded the word skin, it would have been changed a long time ago. I'm not going to go into the long history of Americans using team names of people perceived to be savage and less than that applies to names that aren't on the face of them racist. All of that is true and something to consider, but teams with non-racist names can have that discussion. Our team name is racist.
So, I agreed with the trademark office's decision to rescind the trademark. I have supported the news outlets that decided not to use the name, and understood those that decided not to, because it is hard to talk clearly about a thing without naming it.
Personally, I have stopped wearing anything that references the team name. I had a great chat with the bartender at the sports bar when one beer company sent them shirts that said Washington Football this year, because it meant I had a shirt I could wear that helped new bartenders know which TV I needed to sit near and still, no racism across my chest.
In my lifetime, the Washington men's basketball team changed it's name. Baseball returned to DC with a brand new team name. And the hockey team changed it's logo and color scheme at least twice. But the football team has continued to not only act as if changing would be the worst, but to actively spend money to support continuing with a racist name.
Code Switch did an interview with the leader of the Slants, about their fight to get the ability to trademark their band name. I've been aware of this case for a while, due to the corners of the internet I hang out it. Pretty regularly the Slants have been asked about the Washington football team, and pretty regularly he has said that the situations are different, since the band is fighting for the right to reclaim a slur. (The article discusses how there were other approaches.)
So, here's what I would hope. I would hope that the Washington team does not take the victory in the Slants case as their own, and try to re-register their trademark. I would hope that we would work to bring in a new name for the new season. Here's why.
During the season I was at the sports bar watching the game. It was a game that went well for the burgundy and gold. As such, one particularly drunk group of fans began singing the fight song. The loudest fan sang all the lyrics. Even the ones they no longer put on the screen at the games, because even the organization agrees that those lyrics are super racist. I have never been so embarrassed to be a Washington football team fan. And I've been through some bad seasons.
I want a football team with a name I'm not embarrassed to be associated with. We're not reclaiming. I don't care how many studies we do of people who maybe don't care. Plenty of people do care and are offended and so we should stop using it. We have a solution. I want us to make use of it.
Monday, June 19, 2017
It both does and doesn't seem possible that this year was the fifth year of AwesomeCon. This year I noticed some really helpful changes. The programming schedule listed panelists in advance, such that I was able to tell, several weeks out that I probably needed a full weekend pass. There were signs posted throughout the convention center that had maps and arrows getting you to the main stage, to registration, and to the exhibit hall. And rooms had clearly marked schedules that got updated as changes occurred.
While the partnership with NASA and the Science Channel continued, and Nerd Nite returned, I hopped around a little more this year. The LGBTQ characters in Comics panel on Friday was awesome and wonderfully moderated. Comics in Color also was great, and discussed indie distribution channels and marketing in comics. A special celebrity guest popped up in the Mars panel.
Saturday I arrived to discover the line to get in to the convention center was doing a complex dance as those who arrived at the front walked up and around to get to the back of the line, and then circled back. I decided that meant I had time to go pick up some iced tea before I headed in. I will tell you, the entrance process was slightly different each time I walked in, and while the convention center staff and Awesomecon volunteers did a great job directing us each time, it just meant you had to accept a little chaos each time. But even that morning, which was the longest it took me to get in, it moved very quickly. I'm sure it helped that I wasn't aiming for most of the celebrity stuff.
The Library of Congress talked about the collection and archiving of comics. Writers talked about writing. A team from the government talked about wargaming, and it's application for problem solving in and out of war. Local historians and comics folks talked about the use of comics as a history tool, both for teaching about the history of DC, and beyond. Within this panel one audience member noted that he had seen in non-fiction comics the style seemed to be either black and white simplified colorization and was that intentional to signal non-fiction. The answer he got seemed to indicate that it was not intentional (the answer was essentially, the style has to match the story, which sure). It's possible this isn't intentional, or that it really signals more the difference in artists working non-fiction titles versus fiction right now. But it's certainly a question that I've kept thinking about.
I went to a panel on nerd rock, which involved singing and was about as much as my brain could happen at that point. And then Fandom as a Subversive act, which looked at fanfic and how it can address and even correct issues in source material.
I stopped by Sunday since I had to be downtown for book club and also realized I had not made it to the exhibit hall. So I did that before heading to a YA girls in Comics panel that in many ways ended up being a long string of recommendations for great series old and new.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
1. I know the London apartment fire dropped down a bit in US media, but this article talked about how the London Muslims already up for Ramadan were able to movie quickly into action. Look for the helpers as they say.