Wednesday, May 26

Ivan Coyote

So BetseyBetsey showed me this interesting queer performer, Ivan Coyote, yesterday and I was too busy doing really important things at my really engaging job to give her feedback, so here it is, complete with a nickname.

Ivan Coyote is a Canadian storyteller. So what happens on stage isn't exactly spoken word, but stories told aloud to an audience. I'm not sure if Ivan Coyote identifies as transgender or as a butch lesbian, so out of respect I'm going to use gender-neutral pronouns. Look at how progressive I am.

Ivan writes about childhood in the Yukon territory and ideas circulating in the queer community. The stories don't really address the politics of being queer, but what it means to be butch and femme and queer: ideas of self-representation. JBear and GayBear and I were having an interesting conversation about what genre of the opposite gender we would be. Apparently, I'd be a beard-sporting, plaid-wearing, bio-diesel van driving, Birkenstock aficionado. So, basically me with a beard. Anyway I watched a bunch of performances of Ivan on YouTube and there's two great pieces, one thanking femmes and the other on "what it means to be butch." It's basically a "what I did last summer" for masculine women. Both videos are great. So great, I've posted them below.

First off, what a cutie little Canadian accent. I love that the definition of a femme enables the definition of a butch. And that being a feminine lesbian is, at times, harder than being a butch(ish) lesbian. It's playfully serious. Because when you decide to come out, you are going to have to learn how to laugh. Shit gets funny.

Now, let's compare and contrast. What basically sums this whole story up for me is when Ivan says "be the man you wish you'd slept with in high school." That makes a lot of sense to me. If you're going to be a butch, masculine lesbian don't be a man's man; Be a lesbian's man.

These two performances, and Ivan's ideology, are a testament that gender is socially constructed and that words can be what you choose to call yourself, or what you let people call you.

One of Ivan's short stories has been turned into a short film. It also is an exploration as to what gender is. Check it out, it's called "No Bikini."

This makes me want to parent my hypothetical children in the most unabashed new-age, montessori style. She wasn't trying to be a boy, it's just that no one asked and it didn't really make a difference.

Check out the website here to learn more.

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Glee & GaGa: So Happy I Could Die.

Hi. I'm alive. That is all.

Spoilers ahead, because I'm assuming you've already watched.

Last night was Glee's Lady GaGa episode. We all know it was amazing. That's not what I want to talk about. First off, let's recap the fact that the week before last Idina Menzel and Lea Michele sang "Dream the Impossible Dream" which is like Susan Boyle inspirational type shit and I cried and came all at the same time. My broadway dreams fulfilled! So here's that video.

Then, last night, my perfect storm hit shore with Idina and Lea singing Lady Gaga. It made me think, what if at some kid's choice award show, all three of them sang this song and then got slimed. That'd be just epic. So fantasize about that with this fantastic duet of "Pokerface." My favorite part of this video is Brad.

Whew. So, I wanted to share this not just becuase it's two crazy talented ladies singing together, but what it means for [duhn duhn duhn] Pop Culture. I mean, what do you think it feels like to be Lea Michele and sing with Idina Menzel, the queen of broadway. In my mind Lea Michele (p.s. stage name or real name? Is Michele her last name? Anyone, anyone? Beuller?) has always been the princess of broadway and now she's singing with what outwardly seems to be a mentor-figure. That just has to be epic. I revel in it. So I assume you do as well.

But my main point of this post is to talk about how Glee has captured such a current part of our culture. By having a Lady GaGa episode, Glee has solidified her cultural influence by recording it in television history. For a show that's already pretty groundbreaking and taking America by storm (granted, not to the level of Bieber Fever), but to have them then incorporate another element of high-pop culture is really interesting to think about. If Lady GaGa makes it to a level of importance that her personal cultural phenomenon is recorded for the masses by another cultural phenomenon, you know you're legit. Just like if you get parodied on SNL, you know you're hot shit. I'm not a regular watcher, so I don't know if they've parodied Glee or GaGa, but still, you get my point/joke. For me, it solidified the lasting impact Lady GaGa has had on society because, as Kurt said so well "She's only the biggest pop act to come along in decades. She's boundary pushing. The most theatrical performer of our generation. And she changes her look faster than Britt changes sexual partners."

Then, there's the scene where Kurt's dad stands up for him in a way never before seen on network television. No one has ever said the things Kurt's dad says. And never before has it been in front of such a huge viewing audience. This episode reflected more than just pop cuture, but the politics of our society. I'm going to let the video speak for itself. So listen up, and pay attention to Mike O'Malley from GUTS as he sends it out to you, Moira:

Thank you, Glee. Thank you. This is why you're such a great show. I had lost hope and became kind of a doubter when Rachel Berry belted "Total Eclipse of the Heart" a few weeks ago. In my mind, you jumped the shark then and there. But you've reeled me back in. Some episodes are hit or miss. Some of the characters are pretty one dimensional cardboard cut outs that you could do more with, but instead you opt to make jokes about stereotypes. But it's moments like these, when you take a current political issue and humanize it. I hope the parents of the kids watching this show, see this and realize something about themselves. Kurt's dad recognizes that it took him a long time to get to where he is with his son's sexuality. That he used to use the word "faggot" just how Finn used it. I wish there were more men, more fathers, like Mr. Hummel in the world. Kurt isn't all flamboyance and fabulousity. He struggles everyday, not because of some self-imposed "choice." But because people don't take the time to see him, a person. They see Kurt, the homo. How much would you bet Kurt thinks about trading who he is so that he doesn't have to deal with the shit Finn just dealt out to him? An insurmountable sum of money. But when it comes down to it. It's not Kurt's fault. I mean, it'd probably be easier. Yeah, easier for everyone else. It's the mindset of everyone around him that's a problem. Not that I'm blaming all of life's hardship on the people around you. But we've somehow learned to not see people anymore but to just see a gay person or a black person or a dumb person or a poor person or a cleaning lady or a banker. Not a person who's family has never supported them or a person who's been in chains because of the way they look or a person who has dyslexia and needs to be taught differently or a person who works two jobs to get dinner on the table or a woman cleaning your house because she sends money back to her parents in Mexico or a man who counts money all day and goes home to an empty house filled with pictures of his wife and kids who left him 2 months ago. We have to stop seeing just gay, black, stupid, poor, and profession. We have to start seeing people.

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Wednesday, May 12

Prodigy Video Wednesday!

So since Lady Gaga became the world's new obsession (and won Dyxie hearts), everyone on YouTube has done their best to channel her, or at least to do videos in her honor. For instance, you may have seen the video posted by our soldiers in Afghanistan:

... which is just, you know, beyond words great.

But as fun as that is, there's a new kid in town named Greyson Michael Chance, and he is RIDICULOUS. He is 12 and there is a video of him singing Paparazzi and accompanying himself on the piano at his 6th grade talent show, causing the girls sitting behind him to gape at him in awe. He's also quickly becoming the sixth grader I'm most jealous of in the world because he is GOING ON ELLEN TOMORROW. Greyson Michael, say hi for me. Anyway, here's the video which has been burning holes in the internet and converting Justin Bieber fans everywhere:

Can you fucking imagine if this were to happen at your middle school talent show? What 12 year old can do this? Oh, and in case you thought this was just a fluke, here are the two songs he posted on YouTube which he WROTE HIMSELF. If your jaw doesn't drop automatically, may I just remind you that he's 12? I've been around my fair share of 12 year olds and let me tell you, many of them can barely form a coherent sentence. When I was twelve I was too busy battling my hormones and terrorizing everyone to think about anything as productive as writing music. But apparently Greyson is above all that shit! Go ahead and be stunned by the videos below.

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Sunday, May 9

I Have Ridiculously High Self-Esteem

I believe that I generally come across as a highly confident person. I think that this, in part, has to do with the fact that I constantly reassure people that I am, in fact, really awesome (true). While my egotism is partly fueled by sarcasm, the fact of the matter is that I think I'm pretty great (and hey, I'm sure that anyone reading this is pretty great as well).

This is not to say that I'm without flaws, because I have them and am acutely aware of this fact. I can be irritating, stubborn, extremely loud, argumentative, overly-sarcastic, and when I'm not extremely careful I can come across as condescending, though this is never my intention and I swear to God I don't know how it happens (which, of course, would be another flaw). But despite the my keen understanding of my own downfalls, I still tend to think I'm a pretty good person, and I can accept them because I think that I'm ok, overall. Sadly though, every once in a while I meet someone who is not completely and utterly thrilled with themselves, and I wonder, why not? And as I was pondering this one day it dawned on me that a lot of my own self-confidence has to do with my mom.

I don't have a lot of memories of my childhood that stand out distinctly, but there are a few moments that I remember that, I think, are implicative of my mom's parenting skills, and that made a huge impact on my life. For one thing, I remember always being allowed to dress however I wanted - and even if that meant I was wearing a giant dolphin shirt, leggings, and my favorite handsome blue socks, that was fine. Maybe this was because my mom got tired of getting me dressed every day after several years and was thus more than happy to let me pick out my own outfits once I decided I wanted to do so, but the fact of it is that I didn't have any sort of self-consciousness about my appearance until the fourth grade when a boy pointed out there was a small hole in the shoulder of my t-shirt (after which I still wore ridiculous outfits, just ones that were intact). I had clearly not noticed this small flaw, and it hadn't dawned on me to worry about something like that before. I also have several tee-ball and school pictures from my elementary years in which my hair makes me look like a mom from an 80's sitcom (I'm thinking Growing Pains). I know J Bear also grew up looking like an extra from the cast of Annie, and while we've developed the ability to put ourselves together a bit more if we like, I think the fact that we weren't always primped and preened before leaving the house instilled in us not the idea that we were only as valuable as how we were dressed, but that it didn't really matter how we looked, as long as we were happy with what we were wearing. Which I think is a good thing.

My second mom memory is of a couple similar conversations that my mom and I had when I was about 8. In the first, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life (something I still haven't figured out) and I asked her if it was ok for me to have two jobs. She said yes, some people do have two jobs, so I could do that if I wanted. I then told her that I thought I would be a doctor AND a lawyer. Instead of laughing and telling me that I would not have time to do both of these things, since doctors and lawyers are individually overworked as it is, she just told me that I could do that if I wanted.

In the second conversation, having just read A Wrinkle in Time (great book) in which the main character's mother is a double-PhD., I told her that I, too, wanted to earn two PhD.'s. Again, without laughing or acting like this was at all a difficult feat for someone who was not-yet-a-decade-old to be contemplating, she told me that if I wanted to, I definitely could do it. Again, I got a lesson from this beyond just the impression that she just wanted to stop these inane conversations: she believed in me, 100%. No matter what ridiculous dream I had (even that silly one about being a writer) I knew that my mom would always have my back, and more importantly, I knew that someone believed that I could be and do anything I wanted. Which made it easier for me to believe it, too.

These stories may not mean much to anyone else, but I think the messages they sent to me, the messages I've been hearing my whole life, have made a huge impact on my upbringing; they've made me the strong, obnoxious person I am. They've also helped me choose my great group of friends, by looking for characteristics in others that I've come to value in myself. I'm drawn to people with self-confidence, and have trouble dealing with people or characters who lack it. This is why I dislike characters like Bella Swan (of Twilight), who constantly wonders why the guy she's in love with loves her back. Shouldn't girls have a role model who knows just how much of a catch she is, rather than one who needs constant reassurance and validation? Shouldn't guys be taught to look for a woman who doesn't need a knight in shining armor, and on whom they can rely as a partner, rather than someone to constantly worry about and prop up? I think so, and for all the reasons above and so many more, I'm really happy that I have an amazing mom who has been a great role model, and who has taught me to love myself and others and to always strive for anything I really want. This one goes out to all the strong mothers out there, especially mine. I love you mom; happy Mother's Day.

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Tuesday, May 4

Gulf Coast Oil Spill

So a couple weeks ago, President Obama was my MM because of all that he's gotten accomplished in the past few weeks (healthcare, nuclear talks with Russia, raising emission requirements, etc.). My only real problem, I said then, was his stance on drilling off the Gulf Coast - which was, of course, "pro-drilling," a remarkably conservative view for someone who is supposedly a "progressive" and a "socialist". I'm hoping that his viewpoint will change now, though, what with the huge amounts of crude oil that are currently spewing forth from the BP rig that exploded last month, killing 11 workers and starting an ecological disaster that is posited to surpass the Exxon Valdez oil tanker that ran aground on the exact day of my birth, March 24, 1989, which was, at the time, the worst maritime spill in history.

As someone who loves when oil isn't gushing into the ocean and destroying the fragile marine ecosystem, I'm having a lot of trouble with this spill. Maybe it's my irrational guilt for my connection to the Exxon Valdez, or maybe it's my love of Gulf Shores, AL (the MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE ON EARTH) but the idea the of hundreds of thousands of gallons PER DAY that are pouring forth from the underwater well are making me physically ill. While the disaster in Alaska was horrible in its devastating effects on the landscape and the wildlife, this spill will not only be a blight on the environment, but it could cripple our economy in a number of ways. For one thing, the cleanup will cost billions. For another thing, the tourism industry that's just getting the season started along the Gulf will undoubtedly take a major hit, as people are less than keen to let their kids float on water-wings into an ocean full of black sludge. Another sector that could be hit, the AP is saying, is the shipping industry, as the oil slick moves dangerously closer to the Southwest Pass of the (MIGHTY) Mississippi, and if the shipping industry is hit, so could everything it moves from the Southeast up into the middle of the country and vice versa. Not to mention the fact that the fishing and shrimping and crabbing industries off the Gulf will be halted until - and who knows how long this could be? - the waters are cleaned and the seafood there is, once again, edible. And finally on a personal level - it's not like Alaska, the (I'm sure lovely) barren land where about 4 people live. No, the Gulf is full of people - retirees, families with small kids, small business owners and everyone in between - who love the land they live on, who love their homes, who don't want to have their gorgeous coastline coated in the real-life equivalent of Fern Gully's muck monster.

If President Obama doesn't make the decision to take back his earlier stance on drilling off the coast, I think this could do major, major damage to his stance in the environmental community. Come on, man. The EV should've been the one and only disastrous oil spill we needed to make a change in our policy. This is an opportunity to let the American people see how devastating our dependence on oil can be to the environment. Do not drill off the coast again, please. The risks are too high and the rewards are too few. And by the way, even if we DO drill off the coast, the oil we get there won't just be set aside for U.S. interests - it'll be sold on the global market. So it wouldn't be like we're lessening our dependence on foreign oil; we'd just be another competitor in the global game, but with such few resources as to make it almost not matter - and in my opinion, not worth it. Obama, the Republicans are calling you a socialist anyway; you might as well live up to their name-calling and do something great for our country's - and the world's - future. I didn't vote for a President who would ignore this kind of disaster and push forward on plans to drill off the coast because of pride or some almost pathological need to try to win Republicans over to his side, despite overwhelming evidence that THEY AREN'T GOING TO SUPPORT ANYTHING THAT HE DOES BECAUSE ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS PANDERING TO THEIR (WIDELY UNINFORMED AND OVER-PROPAGANDIZED BY FOX NEWS) BASE. (Sorry for the caps attack.) Look at the big picture, and realize that the future of the planet - which, in large part, is riding on the future of the oceans, which cover a whopping 71% of the Earth - is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than budging the Republicans over to our side, and making huge concessions in doing so.

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