Yummy yummy trash day goodies

Later year over 3,900 projects were successfully funded by Kickstarter to the tune of more than $27,000,000. Dogboy & Justine was just one tiny piece of this. I personally also support a lot of crowd-funded projects both through Kickstarter and through other sources. As part of today’s trash day, I’ve got a few to share with you.

Hate doing dishes after parties? Hate what disposable cups do to the environment? Dreaming about beng able to serve cocktails in vegan, gluten-free, flavoured, edible cups? Jelloware wants to make all your dreams come true, even if they are going to have to change the name.

I love the past as it never quite was. I also love photography. Which is why I’m supporting The Fifties: A Tale in Black & White which seeks to create photos that borrow from iconic 1950s imagery while speaking to African and African-American history and culture.

Another photographic project I’ve pledged to is Dirt Floors & Stone Walls, a photojournalism project about India’s public schools. India has a large presence in the life of me and mine and this artist’s work really jumped out at me.

Finally for today’s crowd funding items, Kendarra Publications is raising funds to publish its first novel. I haven’t read the book, and I haven’t actually met Tessa, the press founder. But I do know her from LJ, and I find her to have an excellent critical eye for writing and the absolutely fortitude to run a small business in a challenging space.

Yesterday’s report on Frosty, the pit-bull found dead in the trash, was originally going to be part of today’s links, but I wound up writing about him when the story of the rescued pitbull came to light. I can now report that the rescued dog as found a forever home.

Rats are smart, clean creatures who make great pets. But they also live in New York City’s subways and they are afraid of nothing. Why not to doze off on the subway, part 542,356: Rats. The truth is, I find this rat oddly charming, and I keep watching the video in rotation with the Craig Ferguson Doctor Who show opener routine when I feel down. Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism! And, even if you hate Doctor Who or don’t know what it is, the Ferguson thing is a freakishly accurate and hiliarious summary of the program

On the acafen front, I’ll be working on a possible submission for Transmedia Sherlock over the weekend. It’s about queer theory and Sherlock Holmes’ reception both by other characters within the narrative and by the audience. If anyone happens to have any good bibliography items related to queer theory, textual analysis and asexuality they want to share, it would help me out for a small section of the paper.

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the story of two dogs

I’m afraid of dogs. Nearly always have been, although I don’t really know why. We had one when I was a baby, apparently (the neighbors poisoned it, but that’s another story), and I never had a bad experience with one until I was in my 20s when a misunderstanding between myself, a friend’s St. Bernard and an obnoxious neighborhood stray led to a really scary situation that I still have a few small scars from.

But I feel bad about my thing with dogs. It’s not the fault of dogs. Dogs are just doing what they know how to do. And because I’m jumpy around them, I weird them out. In general I don’t think your dog is a bad dog; I just think it’s better for your dog and for me if we don’t have too much contact (an on-leash dogs who follows commands, I can handle and warm up to and can eventually be around in a chill, non-leash way).

Unfortunately, I’ve also been made to feel bad about my thing about dogs in some really toxic ways, and I will probably regret for the rest of my life the moment I did not get out of the car when, after discussing my fear of dogs, the man I was with said to me, “You act like you were raped by a dog.” Uncalled for doesn’t begin to cover it.

But here’s the thing. Dogs seem pretty cool. I kinda wish I could deal with them. They’re smart. They are loyal. They’re warm. They do amazing work as service animals. There are even bed-bug and gluten-detection dogs! Dogs are rad, and people should be nice to them.

Unfortunately, two terrible dog stories have come out of New York City recently, although both stories have also shown human excellence in the end. They’re both about pit bulls, and you’d think that as someone who is scared of dogs, I’d be really, really, not okay with pit bulls.

Actually, I love pit bulls, and I want to take a moment to speak in defense of the breed. My old landlord had a pit named Tyrone. Tyrone was awesome. He used to come to the parties I had at my flat. Once he accidentally lapped beer up off the floor; that was bad. He’d try to play with my cats, who would swipe at him, and then he’d go whimper in the corner. He had a really big skull, and a friend once said he was like a lion. But the best thing about Tyrone was that he knew I was a little scared of him and tried to make it better.

Everyone else Tyrone knew he’d run up to and jump up on in greeting. Me? He’d run up to and then skid to a stop and then look at me meaningfully as he made an exaggerated show of sitting and waiting for me to pet him. Tyrone was a gentleman dog. Totally awesome. Pit bulls are cool and smart.

Which is why I am so sad about two stories of dogs left out in the cold here in the city.

First there was the dog found already dead in a trash bag during a snowstorm. He was nicknamed Frosty by the person who found him and tried to make sure he had some dignity in his passing. Frosty, I salute you.

Then there was the dog someone chained to a bridge and left out to die in the same storm. She, luckily, got rescued. But she needs a home, and re-homing pit bulls because of their image problems is really hard. So, I hope someone out there can help her.

Dogs and me? Not so good. But I’m rooting for them anyway.

the country of yes

Liminal is one of those words I never used very much until I started doing independent scholarship. It’s not just just that a lot of the work I do addresses, on some level, liminal space, it’s that it’s just one of those words academics really like. It’s a pretty way to talk about a whole bunch of different things that fall into a bunch of different categories, including the magical, the complex, and the vague.

But liminal was never a word that I felt like I owned particularly, until my friend AnnaLinden responded to a few of my posts back on LiveJournal with a certain intensity about the intensity with which I inhabit liminal spaces. It was pleasing to me, because it meant that I and the way I experience the world was being heard. But at the same time, why call it liminal? It was just my life, happening at the moment in an ugly New York winter, and not some existence in the mists of faerie.

But yesterday it occurred to me that this January 9 was the first time in years no one had wished me a happy birthday or given me an odd trinket for a lonely boy. See, my birthday’s in October. But Severus Snape’s is January 9, and among my friends that’s a thing that stuck with me for years. Because of course it was always sort of a joke. But it was also always a recognition: of childhood ostracism I still struggled with, of desires beyond my class and ken, of chin-length black hair and a body too thin. Of a particular relationship with filth. And of the way I’ve always looked to books to save me. So my unbirthday always felt a little bit like love.

When I talk about character and creation and writing and liminal spaces, I like to talk about Anne Rice. Lestat has been real for her in some way that I could try to explain or analyze for you, but that wouldn’t be very effectively. We’d digress into a critique of the work (“she may be channeling a real 300-year-old vampire, but he still needs a damn editor”) or, more unfortunately for the point I’m slowly getting to, an analysis of her mental health. The point is Anne Rice wrote some books about a vampire and she’s described the experience in interviews as him dictating his words to her; she has described the time she spends with him; she has described him as a real and true thing.

I read Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat as a tween and young teen, and they were books that meant a tremendous amount to me. They said that my intense emotionality, and my intense sentimentality, were not, as my parents reasonably frustrated by an odd and artistic teen girl said, lies. They were not manipulations. They were just how I experienced the world. So Lestat wasn’t just Anne Rice’s friend, he was mine too. Before I told other people to be grand, I would lay in bed at night and feel Lestat’s fingers brushing the hair from my face as he whispered to me to never, ever let anyone shut me up. He’s been gone from me for decades now, but I always remember my friends.

The thing about the liminal world, at least for me, is that it’s not a space defined by the things it represents a border between. It is not about whether Anne Rice channels a 300-year-old vampire or not. It is not about either/or. Rather, the liminal world is, as far as I can tell, the country of yes.

It is the place where when people ask if I am a boy or a girl, I can say yes. It is the place where when I fly alone I am still squeezing someone’s hand when the plane takes off. It is the place where I don’t dress up in certain costumes at cons anymore because the wounds I bear in those other lives have become too private. It is the place where I can feel the absence of people who never were. It is the place where I do not always remember, or have to remember, to speak in the third person about characters I’ve played on stage or written in stories. It is the place where my hand gestures shift when I’ve spent days deep in something I’m writing in a way that tells my friends I am not just me. It is a place of signs and signifiers that leads us, not back out of the mists, but further in, to whatever the mists are guarding.

Without the liminal world, time runs in order, stories only happen to other people, and I struggle, desperately, to be here now as fantasy and personal narrative threaten to call me away from stuff like work and laundry and remembering to eat dinner. But the liminal world, no matter how disconcerting or how much it seems like just play to folks that don’t also have this particular experience of desire, allows me to be present, both here and in the other spaces I have used to build myself.

The liminal world allows me to say yes and to slay dragons and not to fail at being a girl or a boy or a hero or a villain, because in the liminal space which is here and now and far away, I am only one thing, and it small and perfect, and it is yes.

PSAs

While I have a growing list of slightly odd things in my head (e.g., the liminal world and Severus Snape’s birthday) I want to share thinky thoughts with you about, that’s not going to happen today.

What is going to happen today is a couple of PSAs:

Item 1: Know the warning signs of stroke and TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY.
Strokes have affected my friends, acquaintances and family. Taking 30 seconds to read this information could save a life. And really? There’s no harm in refamiliarizing yourself if you already know this stuff. Because no one wants to call 911 and because the adrenalin gets going in these situations, it can be a whole lot harder to act in this situations than you ever would have expected. The more you know this stuff, the more prepared you are.

Item 2: Australia is underwater. Well, not all of it. But a lot of it. 75% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone; Brisbane is in acute crisis and flood watches are in effect for Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. If you don’t know Austraila, one of the things you should know is that there’s a lot of land between settled areas in some places: lots of towns are cut off. Things are really bad and no one knows how bad in many cases. Power has had to be cut in many places because it’s too dangerous to have electricity with the level of flooding. The most severely affected areas are not in the parts of the country I’ve been to, but Australia is a place I really love, so aside from the “helping people is good” factor, I would particularly appreciate it if you can donate or spread the word on this one.

metaphor, violence, and bullying

When I started this blog, I had no reason to think that I would keep making posts that have been, at their core, about the power of words, bullying, and emotional violence towards ourselves and towards others. But a quick survey of my first posts sure do seem like I’ve got my teeth into something and don’t quite want to let go.

As someone who’s been a target of nastiness on and off the Internet because I’m terrible at keeping my head down, this preoccupation is hardly surprising. But the truth is that I’ve been talking about these issues because of my own propensities for cruelty, not just, as I’ve already written about, towards myself, but also towards others.

It is, frankly, hard for me, because of my own insecurities, to be happy for others when they succeed in fields of endeavor that I also pursue. It’s far, far far too easy for me to think that should have been me and then dwell on why I think someone doesn’t deserve success or why that success isn’t all that. It’s a nasty vicious habit, even when indulged in solely in the privacy of my own skull, and one I’m committed to stopping in myself and in others. What is, after all, the cost of more joy?

We seem to be, and in fact I can only now hope, at a moment in our society wherein we recognize and address the power of words. Teen suicides in response to anti-gay bullying, a phenomenon that’s been going on for years, are finally getting media attention. Conversations like It Gets Better have led to broader discussions of bullying behavior, as well as the tenor of Internet discourse on both news sites and social networking venues. There is, in my own reading of this coverage and discussion, a sense of understanding that has seemed absent in the past that words have consequences.

Today is one of those days where words have had consequences, horrific ones. A gunman shot 19 people in Arizona, killing 6, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. A congresswoman is in critical condition after sustaining a bullet wound to the head. At this moment little is known about the shooter, although his online writings have surfaced. Those writings do not reflect mainstream opinion of any major party and are also hard to make grammatical and logical sense of. However, law enforcement officials have disclosed that they feel the shooter did target the congresswoman explicitly.

That, even as an act of a lone individual, makes today’s tragedy, among other things, an act of political violence. And that act of political violence has occurred in the midst of rhetoric that has been extraordinarily heated.

Now, to be fair, heated political rhetoric isn’t necessarily anything new. And the use of metaphor, especially war metaphor, for political combat is also nothing new. And I hesitate, always, when I find myself making any argument that speaks out against metaphor. I’m a writer; I love metaphor; metaphor is an awesome tool. So is, to be frank, the power of rhetorical extremity — it’s the difference between “sometimes I think my mother never loved me” and “my mother never loved me.”

But words have consequences. And when political violence has occurred (and let’s be clear, by the way, that political violence occurs every single day in the US, it occurs, among other occasions, every time someone is assaulted for their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity), we must pause to consider the consequences of our rhetorical flourishes.

Sure, rational people of all political persuasions can probably agree that Sarah Palin’s crosshairs graphic wasn’t meant to actually advocate shooting people. We’re probably also all relatively certain that Sharon Angle wasn’t advocating an actual armed insurrection when she discussed the possibility of a “second amendment remedies.”

But violent rhetoric does have consequences. It ups the stakes. The metaphors that enrapture supporters for their linguistic art or demographic cleverness and are meant to encourage proof of loyalty through campaign contributions and peaceful activism also make room for other, misguided, proofs of loyalty at the fringe. Yes, without violent political rhetoric, political violence will still happen. But with it, each of us who engages in it, and stays silence in the face of it, bears some fraction of culpability for the political violence that emerges from the climate we have fostered.

Words have consequences, and so each of us walks this world with the extraordinary power to hurt ourselves, our loved-ones, our peers, strangers on the Internet, and our broader society. But, of course, and we hope more importantly, we also have in our words the extraordinary power to advocate for civil discourse, the democratic process, love, and possibility.

So don’t advocate political violence. Speak out both when people you do and don’t support engage in rhetoric that you feel thrusts us into a climate that allows even those at the fringe to view acts of violence as legitimate expressions of loyalty or dissent. And accept that a panoply of opinions defines not just our society, but also any sub-grouping of which you may also be a member. (To be extra clear, this isn’t about restricting speech or the idea that some words or expression should be banned, this is about think about what comes out of your damn mouth before you say it and when you see crap that you think is toxic speak the hell out about it.)

And on a smaller, more private scale that has nothing to do with politics but certainly everything to do with how we live now? Try allowing yourself more joy for the successes of others. Your mileage may vary, but for me, it’s proving to be a path to being gentler, not just with other people, but also with myself. And that’s lovely; no matter how wounded I have been, I never, ever want to be the worst bully I know.

the things I know about begging

When Erica and I were raising funds for Dogboy & Justine (meeting Monday! updates soon!) on Kickstarter we relied on a number of resources, including our professional and academic contacts, personal off-line resources, and our not insignificant LiveJournal (LJ) readerships. Without LJ, our fund raising efforts would have been a lot more challenging and probably not possible during the time frame in question as my face-to-face contact with potential donors was sharply limited by my being out of the country for a month of the funding period.

In the course of fund raising we received a lot of feedback both about the project and the process. We were warned about the infamous Kickstarter U (wherein you get the most donations at the very beginning and very end of a fund raising period); asked questions about our creative concepts; and challenged as to our thematic interests.

We also received, mostly indirectly, comments about the fact that we were asking people for money. Specifically we encountered people who were angry and derisive about us “begging” on LJ. While I had known from the beginning that, that type of reaction was going to be inevitable from some people for a range of reasons, when it came, it didn’t sit well with me, and until today, I couldn’t figure out why.

But in talking with Christian about his own crowd-funded project (Hold Something), I suddenly figured it out. It wasn’t that some people were angry with us for “begging.” Rather, they were angry with us because we weren’t begging.

Begging, by implication, involves not just a request, but a personal abasement in exchange not just for the request being granted, not just for the request being heard, but for the mere act of making the request. Begging, in fact, arguably begins with an explanation of why the person asking for something is not worthy of your generosity.

Trust me on this; I’m not developing a musical about dominatrices for nothing. And I know a great deal about begging; I used to do a lot of it. But it’s been more than a decade since I’ve fallen to my knees and begged a lover to stay even though I was so filthy, ugly and unworthy, and years since I’ve told a stranger, “I know I’m a terrible person” before asking them for help when lost and confused far from home.

Yeah, I have some self-esteem issues. But seriously? I used to do that crap all the time. And you want to know why? I did it because I thought it would keep me safe. I thought if I told others how terrible I was, no one would ever tell me I was terrible. It was a way to control pain and shield myself from a world I had learned was dangerous, bullying and abusive.

Did it work? Well enough, in that I sure kept finding use in doing it for a long time; it must have fulfilled some psychological need for self-punishment. And not at all, in that I, thankfully, know not to do it anymore, even if some days it is a battle, especially when I feel I’ve made a mistake, misstep, or miscalculation.

When we asked for money for Dogboy & Justine, we never told people why we weren’t good enough. That’s not, after all, how you do marketing. Rather, we told people about the idea, and why we’re qualified to execute on that idea. We talked ourselves up, without untruths, and hoped people would come along with us. Thankfully, over 125 of them — friends, family, strangers, and an ex or two — did. And now we get to put on a show.

Crowd funding isn’t about begging on the Internet. Not when I do it. Not when Christian does it. Not when someone puts up a tip jar on their blog, a donation link on their webpage, or uses a service like Kickstarter to make something happen.

Artists, like anyone else performing work, deserve to get paid. And art, like any other product or service, takes money to produce. After all, that’s why those of us who attend arts events get solicitations in the mail to buy tickets, to give money, to make the magic happen.

More importantly, art and crowd funding aside, people deserve to be able to ask for help without having to abase themselves. When people post in their blog that their car broke down, that they’ve got $2 in the bank, and they need to get the vehicle fixed to keep their job and their house and they need some damn help — that should be okay. Of course it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for more details about the situation if you’re interested in helping and need to have more details to feel comfortable doing so. But what’s not okay is to ask for shame and verbal self-injury before providing that help.

Crowd funding is great. I’d do it again; if Dogboy & Justine has the trajectory we hope it will, Treble Entendre will probably do some more of it in conjunction with a cabaret fund-raising night we’re planning. And I recommend crowd funding to my friends all the time.

If it’s not for you — as a creator or as an audience member — that’s fine. There are a lot of causes out there and none of us can help all of them; some art sure isn’t going to float your boat, or even seem like it could be any good! And certainly, with all the suffering in the world, it can, quite reasonably, be challenging to allocate dollars for art. But don’t slam creators who use crowd funding strategies for being beggars.

Because it’s not shameful to be a beggar.

But I absolutely do believe it is shameful to resent someone’s request for help because they aren’t abasing themselves enough for your ego or entertainment.

(The good kind of) trash day

West Wing fans and wonks all know that Friday is take-out-the-trash day. While none of the below is trash (quite the opposite really), they’re all items that have been prettily littering my desktop that aren’t going to get a full post from me because I’m short on time, words, or possibly both. However, I still want to blog them, and imagine they’ll hold some interest or appeal for you.

My good buddy and spec fic author Christian A. Young has launched a project called Hold Something. For a small monthly fee, you can get a story and images in the mail. You know, stuff you can touch in a world that’s more and more just bits and bytes. One of the awesome potentials of the Internet for artists is the removal of the middleman. That means both that you can be a patron of the arts for less and more artists can get paid for their work.

Lesley Hastings is a friend from fandom and has just published a novella, an M/M romance called The Dream Catcher. I haven’t read it yet, but congratulations are still in order.

Performance artist Justin Bond has written an essay to tell us about v’s name change, preferred prefix and other gender-identity related information. V’s the new pronoun. But it’s really the new prefix for which I link you: Mx. It’s bloody brilliant. As someone who is very, very uncomfortable with the Mr./Ms./Miss./Mrs. choices for both political and accuracy reasons, I am in love with Mx.

In my stats reports I see people keep clicking on my Palatine Crescent link. But I know when you get there you are discovering that there’s no there there. It’s the web page for the work I do with my previously mentioned writing partner Kali. I promise to throw up a placeholder soon. Right now we’re feeling a little more pressed on both our novel and a couple of treatments and a screenplay before I hit LA next month (full disclosure: that trip’s mostly to geek out a Doctor Who convention Gallifrey One, but it’s also the launch for Whedonistas and I’m planning to be doing a little bit of business in town too).

Meanwhile, A chemical in women’s tears dampens male desire, according to a New York Times article about a research study. The article is less offensive than you might initially imagine from this description, and, despite my including it in trash day, I may eventually get to writing something about men, women, tears and our new Speaker of the House.

Finally, no word from Patty yet, but hopefully she’s enjoying Gujarat. I don’t know a lot, but I do know that at least it’s not snowing there.