the world at large

Newtown, Connecticut

I am so angry I could breathe fire. So sad I might melt into nothing but tears.

This is not okay.

I was a freshman in college when Columbine happened. I remember empathizing with both victims and shooters for that one... people pushed to their limits and unequipped to handle the rage of years of bullying. I think that might have been when I all but solidified my feelings on guns.

I think guns are cowardly weapons. Anyone with motor skills can lift a gun, pull the trigger and kill someone. Period. While yes, marksmen have tremendous skill that took years to hone... guns as a weapon are cowardly. They are an easy way out. You can take a life without thought at 800 ft/second without looking at that person's face, without watching their life bleed away. There is no ownership in gun violence...only quick (pardon the expression) hair-trigger reaction.

School shootings. The Aurora tragedy. The Clackamas mall shootings earlier this very week. And now Newtown, Connecticut. An elementary school.

This is not okay.

We have a problem.

We--as a society, as a country, as goddamn human beings--have a problem when we're more strict about 3 oz. bottles of shampoo than we are with lethal weapons that are killing children in their elementary school. How is this okay? How is it alright that kids are going to school with metal detectors, schools that are more secure than prisons? How is it okay? We've made these concessions (metal detectors, security passwords, police patrols in schools etc) to "keep our kids safe" but what we're really doing is pandering to the shooters. We're not doing anything about the problem, we're just putting a condom on it and hoping it doesn't break.

What the fuck is wrong with us?

This is a systemic problem. It's not just about gun control. It's also about mental health care, about our society's priorities, corrupt government, a glutted gun lobby, a disgusting news cycle, a furor over losing rights that were to secure citizens the ability to have a weapon that took 15 minutes to load, aim and fire. There are so many problems all linked together, so many deformities and mutations that make shit like this possible.

But no....now is not the time to have that conversation. The NRA might get pissy and raise Charlton Heston's   mangled corpse as some sort of gun-toting lich. A politician might not get to buy that new Mercedes this year. Ratings might drop.

Fuck you. A parent has to go home right now and look at presents under a tree that won't be unwrapped. A kindergartner has to learn how to process survivor's guilt.

Where does it stop? When does it become socially acceptable to have this conversation and do something about these problems?

You have no idea how hard I will be hugging my daughter today. 

Better Know A Trickster #2 - Maui No Ka Oi!

So, back in October I started a series of blog posts introducing you to the Tricksters of various pantheons. We started with the red-headed stepchild of Asgard, Loki. This time we're going to leave the icy Norse lands and sail to the South Pacific and meet that maker of mayhem, the slayer of the sun, the thief of fire himself: Hawaii's very own Maui!

Like Norse mythology, much of what we white folks know of the Hawaiian religion comes to us from Christian scholars who came to the islands and wrote about the savages they found. One of the better sources of information out there comes from David Kalakaua, the last reigning king of Hawaii. His book, The Legends and Myths of Hawaii, seeks to explain his culture to the rest of the world. This book is rich with understanding of the native religion and the tales the Hawaiians tell to this day.

One thing I've always found intriguing about the Hawaiian beliefs is how present it is in comparison to say the Judeo-Christian faiths. From what I've read--and I know that I don't know half of what there is to know, so if I'm wrong, feel free to correct me--the Hawaiians don't base their lives on the aftermath. The gods are here. They live and surf on the islands among mortals. Our ancestors remain with us as protective spirits. The philosophy is very rooted in the moment, the here and now.

Until the 19th century, the myths were handed down mostly in an oral tradition where the kahuna--wise man or priest--sang the tales. The backbone of Hawaiian mythology is the Kumulipo. This is the origin chant. To "perform" it, one needs more than 6 hours and some awa to keep the throat cooperating. Beginning with the darkest of void, the Kumulipo describes the birth of the world. Beginning with the coral polyp, populating the ocean, then the land and skies until finally man shows up. Then, the lineage of the kings is spoken. There are still those today who can trace their ancestry to the Kumulipo chant.

Like most trickster deities, Maui's birth is full of its own mystery. As chronicled in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth chant of the Kumulipo, Maui's mother Hina--goddess of the moon--wears the loincloth of a mortal chief, Akalana, and became pregnant. Now there's some subtext here about the loincloth and what she did with it. Some say that she was overly fond of the young chief and snatched the loincloth, then masturbated with it. (So, call me maybe?) However she came by the seed of the mortal, Hina was surprised when she delivered not a baby but an egg. This egg hatched to reveal a rooster.

When the goddess gave birth to a cock, the other deities feared she had broken the sacred laws--taboo. Immediately, it seems, Maui must fight to survive. His own uncles challenge him to physical combat and leave him with a bleeding head. And it just gets better from there. Ten times, Maui is tested by the gods and the circumstance of his very existence. But, as he navigates his difficulties, his guile and cunning are forged.

Among the strifes of Maui are some of his most famous exploits. The sixth test comes when he asks his mother about his parentage. While the lines in the chant are sparse, myths of these trials have bloomed like the islands themselves. Hina sends Maui to be with his mortal family and he acquires a fish-hook from his grandmother. The hook itself is made of her bone, and the line from her hair. She has given Maui a powerful object indeed! While he is very lazy and leaves the actual work of fishing to the mortal sons of Akalana, Maui casts this hook into the sea and draws up the islands! However, he never finished the task of uniting them, and thus we have the chain of them dotting the Pacific.

Like other tricksters, Maui is known for his mastery over the elements, specifically fire. He stole the fire from the mudhen and snared the sun because it crossed the sky too quickly. Summer is dedicated to him for slowing the sun's passage for the people of the islands. The constellation of Scorpio is also known to the islanders as Maui's hook.

The Kumulipo chant itself calls him trickster, revering his cunning ways. "Maui-of-the-loincloth/ The lawless shapeshifter of the island/A chief indeed." (Beckwith, 136.)

The last island that his hook drew from the water was the verdant isle that we call Maui. He claimed it for his own and to this day the natives insist that Maui no ka oi! Maui is the best. I'm inclined to agree.

If you like the artwork in this post, please visit the artist Brittney Lee at her Etsy shop. Show her some love and buy a print. She is a rock star! I've got two of her pieces in my house and if I had the extra bank I'd give her all the monies for more awesomeness.  Also, a special thanks to Kanila Tripp for fact-checking me and making sure that I don't sound like a lame haole girl. 

Stompy Boots

Hello, my loves. I come to you today not with silliness or heartwarming tales of my home life. No, today I come to you with a certified, 100% pure, uncut Wahine-style rant of the ages. Oh holy shit, I'm primed on this one. Allow me to just tell you right now: THERE WILL BE PROFANITY. Lots of it, probably. I've been incensed and I'm ready spit fiery porcupine quills in the general direction of this woman's face. Lace up your boots and come watch me kick in the teeth of a festering boil on the ass crack of humanity. So, today's rant comes to us from Liz Trotta, a contributor on (shock and awe) Fox "News". Either she's a satirical artist who just needs some time to hone her craft or she's a fucking nutjob.

So, the Pentagon recently reported that sex crimes committed by army personnel has gone up 64% in the past six years. A statistic bandied about in the Pentagon's study said that in 2011 every 6.5 hours, a US soldier committed a violent sex act. This is higher than the civilian population rates and is based on the 3200 crimes that were reported for that year. Considering how many sex crimes go unmentioned...? Yeah. Staggering numbers. The wording is a bit sketchy, but I believe this number pertains specifically to the assault of military service members by their peers. Soldier on soldier abuse. Security measures are being taken to protect our servicemen and women from these crimes, but they still happen. According to the Pentagon's numbers, domestic abuse and child abuse in the homes of US army personnel is on the rise as well. Initial reactions by officials are that the soldiers with PTSD are more likely to resort to violence.

Now... I look at this report and I see a few things that jump out at me.

  • First and foremost, we're not taking care of our military when they come home. I know from the experience of friends who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq that it's no picnic. Period. You do the best you can with what you're given. When they come home, though, we're not taking care of them. Our soldiers need mental and physical support on the homefront to deal with the hell they've been through while away at war.
  • The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking their toll on our people in ways that are kept in the shadows.  We think we're safe on this shore. No, we don't have car bombs or riots in the streets. There aren't rockets blowing up fifty yards from your office. But we're not okay here. We are not unscathed.
  • Gender is not specified, so it can (and does) go both ways.
So, are we all on the same page? The soldiers that have been giving up their sanity, homes, jobs and families (you know, the parts of their lives that aren't just biological processes) to go thousands of miles from home to sit in a desert where things explode all around them and people shoot at them all day... yeah, those people... anyway, they're turning on one another (at home and overseas) and on their families when they get home. (**Please know that when I say, "they", this is an obvious generalization. Not all soldiers cope with their demons in the same ways. Some have tremendous support networks even if the government doesn't provide it to them.**)
When Fox "News" ran a piece about women serving closer to the front lines, they turned to pundit Liz Trotta (the previously-mentioned object of my unholy wrath) to weigh in on the subject. She brought up the Pentagon's study in her interview. What was her reaction as a professional and as a woman? Let's take a look. Let's let Liz tell us what she thinks about this horrific insight into our failure to take care of our troops...
Let's just distill that to its finest point, shall we? "What did they expect?" Seriously? Fucking seriously? Oh, Liz, where do we begin with the myriad ways you've proven yourself to be a daft twat? How about this...?
FIRST of all, you've taken the Pentagon's findings and immediately made assumptions that women are the victims. Now, while that may be accurate, it is, at this point, an assumption on your part. Poor journalism on your part. Strike number one.
SECONDLY, you have just joined a sad group of our society that looks at sexual assaults and automatically assigns blame not to the criminal but to the victim. I don't care if you're a man, woman, gay, straight, lesbian, child, or a purple snouth from the planet Kuzbain: If you say 'no', and someone forcibly brings harm to your body, you are a victim. And there's a stigma to the word, but fuck that. Bad things happen to people and when they do, they shouldn't be harassed about it to add further insult to injury. A victim's emotion and stress and need for healing is valid. Period.
Also, along this same point, let's not forget that sexual assault is not an act of sex, it's about control and will. This pisses me off to no end that our society--Puritanical and strangely bent on sexualizing everything--still sees rape as something that must involve a penis, and therefore, must be solely about that most taboo subject that is sex. It's not. Sex crimes are about taking. The rapist isn't stealing a stereo or mugging someone for extra cash, nor are they just trying to get off. No, a rapist s/he's actively seeking to rob someone of their control. *That* is currency. A dominance of will. It's a power thing. Sex crimes involve terrorism and physical violence. Either Liz Trotta has had the good fortune to never have experienced a sex crime (first hand or through a friend/family member), or she needs a few rounds of therapy to help her with the self-loathing she's got going on.
Seriously, Liz, you're going to sit there with your face hanging out and tell me that a woman who wants to serve her country by laying down her life to take up arms... you're telling me that she should expect that rape or assault comes part and parcel with her oath? Fuck. You. Regardless of gender a person should never be told to take rape as just part of the job. It's like the shit argument of "well, when you go out looking like that, what do you expect?" That doesn't jive in the military population since everyone's wearing the same thing and it's not all flash and short skirts. And it doesn't flow in the civilian world, either. Why? Because there is this thing called respect for others. We shouldn't be teaching our girls that a bright shade of lipstick and a low-cut blouse are an invitation to be raped, we should be teaching everyone (boys and girls) that no means fucking no! Respect. Self-responsibility. Liz, you've just joined every jock on every 80's after school special who grinned and drawled, "She was asking for it." Fuck. You.
THIRD: You're bitching that this is a web of red tape strung up by feminists just to spend your tax dollars on helping women who've been raped? Seriously? Liz is bitching about feminists and that's fine (masochistic, but fine). However, could someone triple check me on something? Go look at the video. In the sidebar within the first few seconds, her credentials slide by. It says that she is the first woman to cover a war for broadcast  news. Gee, if you don't like feminists, maybe you should head back to the kitchen, put on your lipstick and start making a sammich. Turn over that journalism degree from Columbia. Stop taking royalties on those books you've published. Just shut up like a good little woman and use the 19th Amendment for a tampon.
FOURTH! (and this one burns me up...) She says that pressure from feminists has built this web of bureaucracy to "support women in the military who are now being raped too much".  Oh, fuck, where do I start with this sentence? Like it's such a sin to support women. Let's pass that for a moment and move to my favorite part... "support women who are" what? Being raped too much. Too much. Because once should just be overlooked? As if it's like hot dogs where there's an acceptable about of rat shit that can go into the food before the FDA gets pissed. What the fuck is this!? Let's just say this in nice big letters that everyone will be able to read:
IT SHOULD NEVER BE ACCEPTABLE TO RAPE/ASSAULT SOMEONE!
And then, (FIVE) the Fox "News" anchor actually stands up for lady soldiers, agrees that women need support and protection and what does Liz do? The cunt sneers and laughs! When a FOX NEWS anchor has to tell you the difference between right and wrong, you've got issues. AND THEN (six), she digs the hole deeper with this gem:
"That's funny. I thought it was the mission of the [Armed Forces] to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war."
Holy shit, you want to talk about a sense of entitlement? Listen, you crotchety old bag of lipstick, your logic here is severely flawed. I'm not sure if it's the senility settling in or brain damage of another sort, but allow me to educate you on a few things. A) Yes, the Armed Forces are there to defend the country and its citizens. B) That's not funny. Not at all.   It goes like this, Liz. We don't conscript our soldiers from slave populations. We don't outsource them like your tech support team for your iPhone. Our soldiers are us. They're your neighbors, they teach your grandchildren, they sit across from you in church. They have just as much to fight for--if not more--than you do, you fucking hag. Do you know what they've sacrificed? Do you have any earthly clue what the soldiers and their families go through in the name of "defending and protecting" you?
In case you haven't noticed it a camp in the middle of Afghanistan isn't exactly luxury accommodation. When your husband is gone for months at a time and you have to be both mother and father to your children during that time, it's not something that lands you on the cover of Vogue. If you're lucky enough to have your spouse come home with all limbs in tact, what about their mind? Have you ever had to kill someone Liz? Have you ever had to duck and cover because a missile hit the building less than a football field away? Have you had to watch a friend die or hold his organs in his body while waiting for help? Have you had to raise a family alone because your husband is serving his country?
I know for a fact I couldn't do it. I couldn't be an Army wife like my friend April. I couldn't be a soldier like Sgt. Tydings. I couldn't do it. It takes stones and it takes sacrifice to wear a uniform for your country. They deserve honor and respect, but you've just raised your voice with the others who make our wounded warriors feel like it is truly a thankless job. They deserve ticker tape parades and more, they deserve your gratitude. But you laugh instead. You snark off.
And now you'd take dignity away on top of that? Go to Hell, lady.
Fuck off, Liz Trotta. You're a disgrace to journalism. You're a horrible woman. You're a pitiful excuse for a human being. Shut. Up.

Say Hello, Too, My Little Friend

Hey! You! With the face! So, this week my blog traffic has been through the roof. There are comments and stuff on a couple of entries to prove it. A few of you have started following me on Twitter and a brave number have actually gone to my contact page and sent me an email. I've even watched the follower tally down there and to the right tick up by one! I have to say, too. The comments I've gotten, specifically the private emails, this past week have touched me. Seriously, woman, you made me cry and I find you to be a stellar person. Basically, I like knowing that something I've said meant a damn to someone outside of my head. And that doesn't mean that you liked it, but if you disagreed, too...it meant something.

But the thing is, love... well, I'm the only one who knows that. My stats counter shows me that you've stopped by and that's fantastic. I'm glad we've had this time together. But, I'd like to take our relationship to the next level.

What I'm trying to say, dear readers, is that you're too quiet.

This blog isn't just me yelling into a hole, it's a place where we can have a conversation. All of us. Bounce ideas around, have a laugh or two. Unlike some other websites out there, this isn't meant to be a one-way thing.    I know there are some of you that are regular readers but you don't "follow" the blog officially with that little tab to the right. I know some of you are lurkers or family and friends from real life. And that's awesome, but why not talk a bit? Say hello!

You! The user in Australia who's been hanging around this week? What's your name? What brought you here? You! The brave soul using Internet Explorer. Friends from the UK and frequent fliers from Russia. You sick puppies in the states searching for me by my full name... say hello! Let's talk.

So here's what we're going to do. If you're a regular reader (or even if you're not and you've just come across this post) SAY HELLO! Pop down to the comments and introduce yourself. Where are you from? What brings you by? What keeps you lurking? Can I stalk you back?

The fact of the matter is that sometimes when I'm posting randomness and waxing poetical about strange accents, I get a nod or a comment or a random email that lets me know I'm not alone here on this series of tubes. That means a lot to me. I'd like to thank you properly. I'd like to return the favor sometime.

It's Friday. Let's turn my comments section into something resembling a mosh-pit only with a lot more laughter and love. And fewer spiked collars. (I don't judge, I'm just sayin' they hurt when you bounce around.) IF you're one of those people who's a bit shy and would rather not dive right into the comments, go on up to "contact" and shoot me an email, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

Let's have some fun. Together.

Nerdmaste.

 

Words. Words. Words.

Nerdmaste and happy Friday to you all, my lovely readers.

Today I bring you a rant about something near and dear to my heart: Words. This week I've seen multiple conversations talking about language. Chuck Wendig, Tommy Pluck and others were having a debate on Twitter about profanity in writing, particularly crime fiction. It's been fun, enlightening and has opened up new possibilities in the world of four-letter-words. Not long after this, a post on Facebook made me cringe at someone's use of a euphemism. And thus, a rant formed and now I am sharing with you my personal thoughts on language.

Buckle up.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that, as a writer, I am fascinated by words. At the heart of my interest is rhythm. Poetry, prose, conversation...it all flows. Our words create their own rhythms and even the most mundane comments when spoken aloud can ring with authority and grace simply because the right words were used in the right order. I love the way an accent can change the rhythm, the pronunciation or even the word choice. It's mesmerizing. Beyond this, though, is meaning. We try to pack centuries of human experience into tiny letters and then expect those definitions to stand up to an ever-changing landscape. When 7 billion people live and experience the world in their billions of ways, words will take on new shapes and meanings not just from epoch to epoch, culture to culture but from person to person. Hell, even a day can change the way a single word impacts you. For example, one day you're walking across campus without a care. The next you're in a hospital shivering after a sexual assault and from that moment forward you have a visceral reaction to the word, "rape". Words are slippery chameleons with their own emotions charged into them for every person who uses them.

Words have baggage. Some words are reviled and avoided due to the genetic/societal memory of how they were once used to objectify, enslave and dehumanize. Slurs and epithets carry wars and atrocities in their little letters. Some words are seen as "bad" due to notions of propriety. What is illegal on television is acceptable in some movies and music. You wouldn't tell a nun you've had a shitty day but you might say it to a friend, teacher or a waitress.

Words have a time and a place. In writing, word choice can tell you a lot about a character. Do they use taboo slurs? Do they curse? Do they consistently misuse big words or abuse grammar? Do they use contractions or drop the g's off of the ends of -ing words? By the way a person talks, you get a sense of who they are and what their experiences have been like. The words can show us more than the character tells us.

So when someone tells me that I say, "Fuck" too much or that "goatfucker" isn't acceptable when referring to my satyr character, I'm going to pick a fight. Look, I spent 7 years in a drumline with some of the most foul-mouthed, disrespectful budding misogynists you could find. If I spoke a second language fluently it would be "Fuck". Is it base humor? Does it pander to the crass? Possibly, but it's a word! Crass or no, it has value. It's rhythm. It's more than just a euphemism/slang for fornication, it's a percussive sound that can punctuate anger, frustration. It can add gravity to a statement. It can act as any part of speech and it can be modified in so many luscious ways.

I am an acolyte of George Carlin, Mr. 7 Dirty Words himself. He says it better than I could ever hope to in his book Last Words, but the gist is that language is so rich and diverse! It's amazing how squeamish people get when you say "cock", "cunt" or "piss" instead of tamer synonyms like "penis, "vagina" or "urine". You might think that Carlin didn't respect the English language because of how much he chose to inhabit its darker corners, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Carlin, like me, loves language and words. He, too, was fascinated by not just words and their rhythms or meanings, but also the reactions words incite!

Profanity has its place in the world and it's not just at the back of the class room or in the poor neighborhoods. Profanity can be glorious! (Profanity can also be used to try to mask poor writing. Do. Not. Do. This.) Look at Christopher Moore's books. He takes Shakespear's King Lear, tells it from the Fool's perspective and gives us "Fuckstockings!"** It's beautiful! (If you haven't read Fool, read it now. I'll wait.)

On the flip side of this is a trend to avoid perfectly "normal" words. Yes, there's "political correctness" and I think that's bullshit, but what I'm talking about is more subtle and annoying. Euphemisms have their place. As a friend said, "You wouldn't say, 'I'm going to the lavatory to defecate.'" There are so many ways you can communicate that thought and unless you're a cyborg you're not going to be that clinical about it. You don't have to go vulgar and say you're going to "take a shit"...there are perfectly good alternatives that are socially acceptable.

However...the one that really pisses me off and makes me shudder every. damn. time I see/hear it used:

AUNT FLO
 
Why the fuck do people do this? Seriously? Why is this a thing? No, I don't expect everyone to say, "menstruating", but what is wrong with just saying "period". It's something anyone with a 5th grade education should know about: Every 28 days or so a female who has been through puberty will shed her uterine lining (blood) unless a fetus has implanted there. A woman has a period. Period! Why the fuck can't we just say it that way?
Look, I know it can be an uncomfortable subject, especially for men. (Trust me, it's more uncomfortable for us than it is for you. Sack up.) When I was a teenager, my dad would get a little squicked out by me just mentioning it. Well, how do my dad and I deal with discomfiting things? Humor. I then referred to my period as "a visit from Stephen King" (or just Stephen King). This made light of the ick factor and was a way that a teenaged girl and her bachelor dad could talk about an awkward subject. I get that.
Also, I know there are other terms used as more of an insult.  "What's wrong with her?" "Oh, she must be on the rag." In Clueless, "riding the crimson wave" was kinda funny. But "aunt flo", "monthly bill", "visitor" all that shit? Come on. Don't pussyfoot around it. The word you're looking for is period.

Words have power. And I think this is why shit like the above bothers me so much. By taking a very acceptable word for something that is a natural, biological process and stuffing stupid euphemisms in its place, we belittle the process itself. Because we feel shame and discomfort at the word, we feel shame and discomfort at the act. Call me a bitch (and I better deserve it) and you're insulting me. Refer to all women as bitches and you're saying something about yourself right there. This goes for racial slurs as well as labels like "faggot". You're disrespecting an entire group of humans.

So often we like to think words have black and white meanings to match the text on the page. They don't, though. And they never will. Words are constantly evolving like the societies that use them. Words are malleable and conform to the needs of the time. You never just "read" a book. You imbibe a series of ideas and experiences because these words flow with their own life. Words are astounding. Use them freely because they are yours. Remember to also use them wisely.

**Throx.com sells "Fucksox" with the Christopher Moore font. It is Fucksox Friday! All proceeds go to MS research. Just sayin'.