Assorted holiday sweets
Brown butter rice krispie treats made with organic chocolate krispies OMG
Gingerbread cupcakes - Vicki's mom's recipe
Cinnamon roll cupcakes
Homemade granola bars made with dried cherries and almonds
Salted pretzel chocolate toffee
Cranberry orange pecan bread - if making mini loaves, be aware they bake damn near as long as full size ones
Xmas eve - simple chicken and dumplings.
Melt 1 T butter and a good glug of grapeseed oil in a large dutch oven. Sweat 12 oz of sliced mushrooms until brown around edges. Remove to bowl. Add same amounts of fat, then sweat a couple cups of mirepoix (carrot/celery/onion) until softened. Add mushrooms back. Add a splut of chopped garlic and whatever herbs (some thyme, rosemary, and marjoram are nice) and stir for 30 seconds or so. Dump in 8 C of chicken or veg broth and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Dump in 1 lb of chopped raw chicken and a cup or so of frozen peas. Add a little salt and a sizeable dash of pepper. Bring to boil. While waiting, make a double batch of Bisquick dumplings, livening them up with 1/4 t curry powder and a couple teaspoons of rosemary. Drop in by soup spoonfuls. Boil for 10 mins with the lid on, 10 mins with the lid off.
Xmas day - Keep it simple ham dinner.
Green salad with carrot (do with peeler), grape tomatoes, spiced pecans, and orange-rosemary dressing (made with orange white balsamic vinegar, fresh OJ and zest, garlic, and a pinch of coriander) (I meant to add dried cranberries and pear slices but forgot)
Ham with Guinness glaze
Green bean and bacon bundles, which E will make because it's His Thing now
Asiago sage scalloped potatoes
Chocolate bread pudding
Mint chocolate fudge topped with crushed peppermints
New Year's Day
Simple black-eyed peas - In a medium saucepan heat a tablespoon or so of butter over medium low heat. Sweat half a large onion, chopped, until soft. Add thyme and pepper and stir until fragrant. Dump in two cans of good-quality black-eyed peas, one drained, one not. Stir to combine. Heat through. Add season salt to taste.
The Kitchenista's freaking delicious greens, made with collards, kale, and ham shanks because HEB didn't have hocks, WTF
Which, you know, is not even true. Because here I am, fucking around on the internet at 12:43 when I have to get on a plane for LA in less than 12 hours! And my house is currently really messy! But FUCK YEAH my makeup tells you that I am organized and badass and totally fucking on the ball. Femme armor for the win!
I feel excellent about these things.
I was a law clerk for an unnamed Supreme Court Justice. Part of how you can tell this was an alternate universe is that Justice Scalia was not a huge asshole, he was actually funny and charming, and he bummed a cigarette off me in the courtyard.
Then I met Eddie Izzard in a bar and ended up hooking up with him, which led to a cheerful conversation with my roommate about genderqueerness and gender fluidity.
I woke up totally amused and thinking, "Well played, alternate universe me. Well played."
Um, holy shit, y'all. He uses that FB account for work stuff. He is known as a deal-maker and a pragmatist. And even he is so frustrated that he will post this - which, you know, happens to be pretty much totally accurate - right out there in front of God and everybody. Wowsers.
In a weird way, this makes me feel good. I feel less alone. I am sick to fucking death of people being all, oh, you shouldn't say rude or angry stuff about the other party, your friends and neighbors and family could be in it. I mean, yes, I wish everyone everywhere, particularly middle class white people in the US, would stop saying shit like, "People who vote for <x> should be taken out and shot," because hey, assholes, that bullshit is gigantically fucking disrespectful to the millions of people who died in exactly that fashion, and unless you are a person of color in the US, that has literally never existed as a possibility in your world. Shut the entire fuck up.
But really, folks? If it is more important to you to avoid paying taxes than it is for queer people, women, poor people, old people, people of color, transfolk, and all the intersections thereof to be treated as full human beings? I get to be fucking angry at you, because that is my life and the lives of people I love that you are throwing under the bus. If that is your position, you are not my fucking friend, because you are straight up saying that my life is worth less than your wallet. I get to be angry about that.
And I will not apologize for that. Not for a goddamn second. And if you want to argue with me about that, think first about the part where I am less than a year away from two master's degrees in understanding many, many details of how all that works. Also, be aware that explaining in a patronizing way about how no, you care about economic growth is going to make me want to slap the face right off your damn head. I understand this extremely thoroughly. That is a crucial part of why I am so angry. I'm staying with an engineer friend right now who was asking me about health care reform, and he was curious about why everything is so fucked up, why can't we fix it? And I said, honey, we CAN. We totally could. We know how to do it. We have goddamn reams of data from all over the world because we are the only wealthy industrialized democracy on the planet that does not have some kind of national health care thingy, whether that's single-payer in the UK or a mandate and heavy public regulation in Switzerland. The US is the late adopter here, and we can learn from their mistakes. We know how to do it. These unutterably selfish assholes just refuse to listen to the facts and the options and make the hard choice. The more I understand about policy, the angrier I get. We know how. So let's make it happen. If you don't want that, um, seriously? Like the guy at Esquire said, you are pretty much saying that you are okay with poor people dying in the streets. And I wish you would seek some therapy or fucking go live somewhere else where you do not get to vote on what happens to the lives of people who aren't as lucky as you.
Group of people I am personally most frightened of in the US: Republican primary voters. They are the ones who have systematically tossed out almost every R with a lick of sense and put in their place people like Todd Akin, who believes in magic rape-detecting vagina juices and whom the other fuckwits they elected nonetheless chose to put on the Science and Technology Committee, and Steve King, who just described all the multicultural groups at the flagship public university in his state as, "people who feel sorry for themselves."
I really feel like posting on Facebook something like, "If you are willing to put these anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-health care, anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-government, magical-thinking, radical right-wing religious fanatics in office just so you don't have to pay taxes, get the fuck away from me. I think you are cruel, self-centered, and a bad person, and I don't want to talk to you ever again. You want a libertarian paradise? Move to Somalia. They have very few laws there. You know what else they don't have? Accessible health care, reliable roads, effective public schools. You know what they do have? Pirates, cholera, and a staggering amount of preventable human suffering. Have fun with that. Also, you know where they learned how to organize a country based on a system run by wealthy elites on the backs of huge swaths of grindingly poor people? White colonizers. So take your racism and shove it right up your ass. Or, you know, die in a fire. That works, too."
One of the nice things about being rich is being able to put resources toward things I think need doing. My partner suggested a few weeks ago that we spend a non-trivial amount of money on political contributions; I enthusiastically agreed, because there are a lot of state legislative races in which $1,000 can literally make the difference between a good candidate winning and a total fuckwit winning. Last night we had a lovely evening with some friends who are political professionals, eating Taiwanese food and talking through some candidate profiles so we can decide on the most effective places to spend our money. I have a wee twinge of discomfort about this for ethical reasons. The fact that we have money should not allow us to exert disproportionate influence on the political process. But in a post-Citizens United USA where the Koch brothers have fairly effectively purchased themselves most of the US Congress, I guess you gotta fight fire with fire.
An acquaintance of mine posted on her Facebook the internet-famous quotation, "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." Some asshole commented that she loves Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand, that "the West" needs to stop being so privileged and annoying, that everywhere else in the world, if you don't work, you don't eat, and that's fine by her.
I know, I know. I shouldn't say anything, because IT'S A TRAP. For two major reasons. 1) It's Facebook. 2) She's a stranger. So I should not engage.
I did, anyway. The acquaintance OP is a social worker who does badass activist work on human trafficking issues, and I was so taken aback that someone she's friends with would be quite this snotty and oblivious that I got into it. I will admit, I was extra taken aback because the asshole's profile pic showed a middle-aged woman I parsed as African-American. Expectations of alliance aside, it's straight-up statistically hugely unlikely that she's a Republican. So did she really mean all that?
I started by asking, um, is a world where your right to survive is directly proportional to your level of capitalist productivity a world we actually want? I have some disabilities and sometimes I can't work. Does that mean, in your world, that I don't get to eat on those days? Really? What about the elderly? Children? The chronically ill? I think we can do better than that, I think nearly *every* society has chosen to try to do better than that, and personally I work for a world in which everyone is valued for the unique contributions they bring to the whole human endeavor. (Also that Ayn Rand was one of the hugest hypocrites on the planet; uh, no, you're completely wrong that everywhere outside the G8 the old, the ill, and those with disabilities are just pitched into the sea; and other things.)
And she flat-out said, how unfortunate that you have some disabilities, sucks to be you, but you don't actually deserve to live if you can't get everything you need for yourself. Right now, this minute. And if you live in the West, you and everyone like you should damn well be grateful and say thank you to me as a middle class taxpayer that I foot the bill for you.
Wow. I've had people tell me they wished I were dead because I'm a vocal, visible feminist, a queer person, and a progressive. But this is the first time I've been told that I don't deserve to live because I was born with a brain that doesn't work like most other people's.
I was aghast and furious. I started drafting a reply. I started typing a bunch of sarcastic things like, "Oh, well, LUCKY ME, I married rich, you snotty bougie jerkface, so I get to live, even in a Randian capitalist utopia! Eat THAT while you're reading The Fountainhead or Dr. Mengele's Funhouse or whatever other bullshit social Darwinist fuckery you entertain yourself with, asshole. Also, you might consider reading books by people who are NOT delusional sociopaths. Then you might learn things about people with disabilities who have done amazing, world-changing things once they got what they needed to navigate the world, or about other cultures that revere their elders and do a better job of sharing resources, or, you know, human empathy. Or you could die in a fire. Asshole."
But then I calmed down and decided not to talk to her anymore. Because, really, where do you go from there? Where do you go from, "Yes, I see that you are a human being and we have a friend in common and everything, but whatever, I don't give a fuck, you are broken and you survive only on my sufferance?" What conversation is possible to have? This was not going anywhere good.
This is a shit achievement to unlock.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about not having a byline. The piece was my idea and is solely my work, so I wouldn't mind some public credit for it. But on the other hand, the lack of byline makes it seem like the organization's official position is that white folks should step the hell up on this issue, which of course I think should be the case. And my partner pointed out that no bylines seems to be a stylistic choice consistent across the website, so it might seem weird for me to be the exception.
Regardless, I'm happy with the piece and I feel like I've struck a blow for intersectional feminism. Woohoo!
So yeah. I have a paper due to finish out an incomplete from last semester that absolutely has to be turned in by the 12th or so. In order to make that work, I need to put off stuff due this semester, so I just emailed my prof to ask for an incomplete.
I'm a bit woozy at the moment. I got in to see my urologist this morning, which is great, and I'm having a bad pain day, so he was all, you want some Demoral? And I was like, uh, sure, if you're offering. So now I'm in less pain, but am definitely feeling... altered. (So I hope the emails I just wrote to profs were coherent!) And he's squeezing me in for the removal procedure tomorrow morning, which is also great.
As soon as the boy gets home with sandwiches, I'm going to take the rest of my meds and then have a nice, opiate-induced nap. If I have any extra energy later, I might say, FUCKING SERIOUSLY? a few more times.
I totally kermitflailed the first time I saw this. That is some industrial-strength cuteness.
Our neighborhood always gets a hojillion trick-or-treaters, and it's awesome. Here are some of the standouts from this year:
Wee baby pirate - like, 6 mos old - on zombie dad's shoulders
Several awesome lady vampires
Darth Vader WITH THE BREATHING
So many little Marios! Plus one accompanying mama wearing a mustache :)
We went Hershey- and Nestle-free this Halloween. I didn't have time to plan very well, so this pretty much left us with Skittles, Starburst, and Tootsie Pops. As is our custom, people who amused, entertained, or unnerved us got extra cool treats - gummy body parts or candy skeletons.
WTF of the night - a wee black girl, no more than 8, dressed as a convict. Except with black and pink stripes instead of black and white. And sequins.
Really, costume company? REALLY? You think that's okay? And really, mom? You're going to allow that? Yeesh.
We are Family moment #1 - An adorable teenage boy wearing street clothes, lip gloss, and a tiara. I told him he got an extra gummy brain for gender-bending, and he was all, "AWESOME." I'll save a place for you at Pride, honey.
We are Family moment #2, slightly creepy - An adorable teenage boy dressed as a sexy construction worker. Seriously. Strategic shirt tears and all. Definitely saving him a spot at Pride, but a little sad at his self-objectification with a whiff of classism.
Fucking rad motif - Young people of color in superhero costumes! So many adorable wee folks of all ethnicities as Superman, Batman, Spider Man, Wonder Woman… Awesome! All those annoying fanboys who freaked out over the new biracial Spider Man can suck it!
Sort of encouraging but still disturbing motif - So many young girls of color wearing generic princess or Disney princess costumes. I mean, hooray for being all, fuck white normativity, my kid can totes be a mainstream media character! But sad face that what they chose was so retrograde.
Today's reason why I <3 my partner:
Our current TV project is the X-Files. I never watched much of it, so most of it is new to me. We're watching an episode where a central operating system in a building may have killed a dude, and I said, "I'm waiting for someone to say, 'I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that.'" And my partner said, "If I were writing an episode like this, I would have humans saying that line all the time, and then at the end, a computer would say, 'THAT'S NOT FUNNY.'"
<3 <3 <3
I sit on NOW's Combating Racism Committee. I developed this handout for white allies; my goal is to get it up on the website before the holidays so people can use it as a resource when they encounter That One Relative, that kind of thing. I would really appreciate feedback. Thanks! ( Big long thing behind the cut )
And it turns out that ending up in Vienna was a great thing for us, because we both really dug it. It's a beautiful city with a delightfully cranky and effective history of socialism (you go, Red Vienna!), excellent coffee and associated ridiculous coffee beverages, fabulous music and art all over the damn place, wonderful architecture, leafy boulevards... So much to recommend it.
- I wish Google would fuck off and stop "helping" by noticing that I'm online in Austria and Hungary and thus switching its default language to German. FUCK OFF. People travel! Stop helping me!
- Cool, rainy weather feels like heaven after a miserably, punishingly hot, dry Texas summer. Y'all, I wore A SWEATER. Because I was COLD. It was kind of awesome.
- Many men in Vienna and Budapest wear too goddamn much cologne. Dial it down if you're going to take crowded public transportation, people!
- Viennese folk are very, very good at creepy things. I imagine it's a good city to be Goth in. The natural history museum is fabulous in ways that demonstrate this clearly - lots of creepy little tableaux about. There's also a charmingly mordant sense of humor on display - like the butterfly sitting cheekily on the nose of a taxidermied caiman (which is like a wee alligator).
- I stood in front of the Venus of Willendorf and realized how small she is, but how beautifully detailed. Humans could make art with such care and grace 25,000 years ago! Cool.
- I do okay with basic courtesies and stuff in German, but holy craptacular, Hungarian is HARD. I've just had the hardest time wrapping my head around the pronunciation.
- Poor Hungary has pretty much had the shit kicked out of it forever. Part of this is just bad geographical luck - like Poland, it stands between western European powers and Asian ones, and it gets ground like grain between them. But Hungarian leaders also just seem to choose tragically badly, to end up on the wrong side of history.
- Today we went to Terror House (museum and memorial to those killed by the Nazi occupation and then the Soviet occupation) and the Great Synagogue (second largest in the world, very beautiful, with memorials outside to the Hungarian Jews who died in WWII). The seemingly endless list of names and catalogue of those killed during the occupations covers a staggering amount of wall space at Terror House. The tree of life memorial outside the synagogue, with the name of a Jew who was killed engraved on each leaf, is beautiful and gut-wrenchingly sad. As often happens to me in Europe, I feel like I've spent all day tripping over bones. I'm glad I saw these things. They are heartbreaking, horrifying, and important, especially for people from the US who have not experienced war or occupation on their own soil. It's too easy for us to forget that when we talk about sending troops somewhere, this is what we ultimately mean: homes, bridges, roads, schools, lives, and families destroyed. It's too easy to forget what a country looks like when people are bullied into policing their neighbors and themselves, when the panopticon leaves us hating and fearing any difference or deviation. I left nauseated, tearful, and more committed than ever to fighting my own country's fascist tendencies.
But can I tell y'all something wonderful I learned today? Outside the Great Synagogue, there's also a memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who literally, personally saved thousands of Jews. He issued protective passports, as many as his office could churn out, which were totally illegal but which allowed hundreds of people, maybe more, to escape. He organized a group of over 300 folks to help out and raise money to rent buildings (32 in all!!) and he declared those spaces Swedish territory - where he and his allies housed 10,000 people who otherwise would have been tortured and/or killed. Ten. THOUSAND. People.
One of the people Wallenberg saved was Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who died in 2008, but who was a tireless champion of human rights, co-founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a fierce progressive (on almost every issue - unsurprisingly, he was more than a bit hawkish on Middle East issues), and a particularly strong environmentalist. Lantos fought in the Hungarian resistance and was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. He was not unproblematic, but damn, dude got himself arrested for civil disobedience protesting in front of the Sudanese embassy over Darfur issues when he was 78 years old. I have no doubt that he was treated much more gently by DC cops as a sitting member of Congress than he ever was when detained in his youth, but still. That's pretty hardcore for a man pushing 80 years of age. His grandson, Tomicah Tillemann, is now a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. His grandaughter, Charity Tilleman-Dick, is an opera singer. And that's just some of the ripple effect from one of the thousands of people Raoul Wallenberg saved.
So that's today's powerful reminder that one person who chooses to be brave and kind can change the world in unimaginably beautiful ways that will echo through time long after xie is gone. Blessings on you, Raoul Wallenberg.
But I'm pretty much fucking sick and tired of this country right now. The allegedly Democratic president is pretty much a Rockefeller Republican - and yet millions of people here are so badly educated about their own history that they think he's a fucking socialist. I'm sure most of you have seen the clip of Republican debate audiences cheering at both the execution of 234 people by my own home state and then at leaving people without health insurance to die come across your FB or Google+ feeds. No one in DC seems to be taking seriously a jobs bill this country desperately needs, as we suffer the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. Apparently all you have to be to get detained by Homeland Security is brown-skinned and on a plane. I can't even talk about the cuts to the Texas budget without sputtering in rage. Etc etc etc. The catalog of horrors is almost endless. We are displaying every single characteristic of fascist regimes. I'm tired. I'm angry. I'm scared. I'm disappointed.
This is my home. I will not give it up to these horrifying assholes without busting my butt to try to save it. This is where the war is, so this is where we fight.
But sometimes I need to fantasize about someplace I could go and just be without having to fight so hard all the goddamn time. And here's how I know I am a pragmatist at heart: I want my fantasies to make some sense. Here are my parameters:
- Fundamentally democratic socialist system of government - national health care, genuine social safety net, all that good stuff
- Fundamentally values human rights
- At least doesn't outright hate women or queers. For proxy variables, let's say that abortion and same-sex marriage, or at least civil unions, are legal and accessible.
- At least acknowledges that racism exists and that we should do stuff to try to fix that.
- Not too close to either pole, as I have seasonal affective disorder and can't go without seeing the sun in the winter
- Relatively temperate climate - preferably doesn't get below about 20 degrees F/-6 C or over 100 degrees F/38 C
- Forests and water, whether lake, river, or ocean, are nice
- Good restaurants
- Either English-speaking or the language spoken there isn't too hard for an English/Spanglish speaker to pick up (so, like, not Hungarian, Finnish, or Russian, and I've never been able to get my mouth around Portuguese pronunciation)
- Travel back to the US is relatively easy
Suggestions? Right now my only candidate is Vancouver, BC, but that whole problem where people riot and set cars on fire when they lose a sports game is distressing.
Partner: "That thing is held together with baling wire and chicken wax!"
Me: "...chicken wax?"
Partner: "... did I say... ?"
Me: "Were you trying to say, separately, 'baling wire' and 'chicken wire' and 'sealing wax?'"
Discussion of what the hell chicken wax might be follows. Perhaps it sticks chickens together, or is some sort of grooming product. I can't get the image of a chicken with a '50s pompadour and leather jacket out of my head.
Partner: "...so they thought, 'Apple is cleaning our lunch!' And then they... What?"
Me, laughing: "Sorry, did you mean, 'eating our lunch' and 'cleaning our clock?'"
I've had some nouns temporarily disappear as well. I wonder if we should worry about this.
I am a big geeky nerd. I read, watch, love, and like discussing a lot of speculative fiction. I play video games. I've watched the David Lynch Dune more than five times on purpose. Yep, I'm a nerd.
But I'm also a anti-racist queer feminist. And I fucking detest about 80% of all the fanboys I've ever met. Seriously, I live in Texas and I do politics and policy. I deal with enough smug, self-absorbed, privilege-denying assholes in my professional life. I have zero desire to spend my leisure time around them, too.
A dear friend is spending the weekend selling his wares at ArmadilloCon. I had a brief moment of, perhaps I was wrong! Perhaps this could be fun! But then I spent five minutes looking at the website.
Top three reasons the website reminded me why I hate cons:
3) There is a panel on how awesome the new episodes of Futurama are. Really? Just, really? Boring, sexist, badly written... AWESOME, indeed.
2) Fucking W*ll Sh#tterly is a special guest.
1) The following panel description about MoonFail:
Sa2000T Wiscon and Elizabeth Moon: What Happened and What Can We Learn from It?
Sat 8:00 PM-9:00 PM Trinity
E. Bull*, S. Leicht, S. Lynch, L. Person, C. Rambo, L. Thomas
Elizabeth Moon was invited and announced as Guest of Honor for the 2011 Wiscon, but the invitation was withdrawn following a noteworthy blog post she wrote. What were the issues, and was the situation handled appropriately? How do we avoid similar situations?
WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN. How many things could they possibly get wrong in three sentences? What is the goddamn point of the last question? Moon was an asshole. She could have not been an asshole or chosen to stop being an asshole. That's how the situation could have been avoided. For fuck's sake. Part of me wants to go to this panel just to point out how completely misleading, wrongheaded, and stupid is this entire description.
So that's why Wiscon is pretty much the only con I want to go to. Because I want to actually enjoy things I do for fun, and I don't find it fun to watch while people systematically dehumanize others.
So if you're on my friends list and you don't believe in universal health care and a genuine social safety net, get the fuck away from me. Un-friend me. Don't talk to me. Go the fuck away.
If you have never stood in your proud, ashamed, tearful, poor and uninsured friend's kitchen and asked that person to PLEASE let you pay for him to go see a decent doctor so maybe he will get back the use of the badly injured wrist he needs to work, if you have never watched someone you love struggle with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness for 20 fucking years and then finally begin to pursue her dreams of education and a career when she finally had health insurance and got proper diagnosis and treatment in her mid-30s, if you have never wept for a smart, creative, educated friend with multiple disabling mental illnesses and a physical disability who has to work graveyard shift at Taco Bell and clean people's houses for not nearly enough money (and not see her partner for days on end because they work different shifts) until her goddamn disability payments finally start, if you have never had to swallow hard and ask your partner's mother to pay the health insurance premium that you have absolutely no way to pay and which will make available to you the care and medication that literally make the difference between life and death, then I don't give a flying fuck what you think.
I don't care about your philosophy or your values or whatever other bullshit you use to justify denying other human beings the basic dignity of being cared for when they are sick or injured. I don't give a shit. Fuck off. Go get yourself a fucking clue. When you learn what life is really like for people with no health insurance and with truly disabling conditions, when you grow a goddamn conscience, when you can muster the decency to care about the totally fucking preventable suffering of other human beings, then you can talk to me again. Until then, please take your much-discussed bootstraps and shove them right up your ass.
Tomorrow I will probably be a calm, rational, policy geek again. But tonight I am completely fed up. I am absolutely fucking sick and tired of the cruel, selfish assholes who have never known real need, who have never had to face the raw, ugly humiliation of having to ask someone else for what you literally require in order to survive and know that they might decide your existence isn't worth it, who seem determined to retroactively justify their privilege and their lack of empathy by denying other people something every other industrialized nation defines as a basic goddamn human right.
(Note: I spent most of tonight writing a Very Serious Post for the Austin NOW blog, talking about why Social Security cuts are a feminist issue, so now I will relax by writing about fluffy pop culture.)
I detest most ‘reality’ television. But one of the few such shows I totally dig is So You Think You Can Dance. I resisted it for a few seasons, because I thought it would irritate me solely on the basis of being reality TV. But then the gay male roommate with whom I shared a flat in San Francisco while I was there for a summer seminar a few years ago introduced me to it, and I was hooked after one episode of sitting on the couch with him, eating ice cream, jovially bickering about our favorites, and forgetting to breathe as I watched all these incredible performers blend athleticism and art to create such ephemeral beauty. (I tell you what, that was some seriously fun fag hagging; we were both aware of the cliche and amused by it.)
A few reasons why SYTYCD is a fixture in my DVR:
- I love dance. I own not just a DVD of Center Stage, but the soundtrack. For real, I am a dork for dance. SYTYCD is a delicious weekly buffet of all kinds of dancing. Woot!
- The lighting, costuming, and makeup are freaking amazing! That’s got to be a hard job - so much to do every week, and very little time in which to do it. On rare occasions I’ll have a “…. seriously?” moment with the costumes, but overall I think they do an outstanding job.
- There are tons of people of color on it - dancers and choreographers, sometimes judges - but it’s not relegated to the second-class status of a “black show” that advertisers think white (read: middle and upper class) people won’t watch.
- The random drawing of partners results in many multiracial pairs, and I think it’s awesome that we’re visually normalizing that a little bit more. I still have such vivid memories of season 4 competitors Ade and Melissa’s incredibly moving contemporary piece inspired by breast cancer survivors. Yeah, that’s a big black dude and a teeny white ballerina, nobody found it strange, they both got to play complicated characters, and all the judges were crying at the end because the performance was so gorgeous and amazing. And from the same season, Joshua and Katee, a black man and a Japanese-Irish-American woman, rocking a Bollywood routine was, for me, a multiculturalism I can totally get behind: learning, sharing, beauty, and joy without cultural appropriation and with respect. Rad.
- I think it’s so kickass that all kinds of dance are treated equally. “High culture” (read: rich people like and fund it) contemporary dance, “middlebrow” (read: commercial and hobby dancing) forms like Broadway and ballroom, and “lowbrow” (read: stuff poor people do) styles like hip-hop and Bollywood that are strongly associated with people of color, are set side-by-side. We watch them one after the other, and they’re just positioned as different styles rather than having icky race and class bullshit attached. That’s a big deal.
- They make such a point of saying that dance is for everyone and (not wholly, but to a large extent) backing that up for real. A few episodes ago, they featured a performance by a couple from Axis Dance Company made up of a guy in a wheelchair and an able-bodied woman, and it was amazing. A loosely affiliated nonprofit, the horribly named Dizzy Feet Foundation, offers scholarships to increase access to dance education regardless of ability to pay. And this season, they have beginning, intermediate, and master-level routines for National Dance Day so more people can join in. And the beginning routine demo video has a person in a wheelchair doing it! That’s awesome.
The show is not unproblematic. The panel of judges does tend to be majority white. So even though Lil’ C annoys me, I would like to see him and Debbie Allen up there a lot more.
Also, there’s a ton of tangled-up gendered and homophobic bullshit. There is a lot of annoying rhetoric about what sort of movement is “masculine” or “feminine.” It is heteronormative; the dancers are sorted into male-female couples and an irritatingly large percentage of the dances have love story plots. Head judge Nigel Lythgoe said some dumbass things about same-sex ballroom couples a while back; GLAAD did some outreach and this got better, but still, that was crap.
And boy, do they deal weirdly with body size. The dance world is notorious for this, and SYTYCD is no exception. This season, sisters Sasha and Natalia Mallory both made it through Vegas, but thin Sasha was selected for the top 20 and bigger Natalia (she doesn’t even read as fat to me, she’s just considerably larger than all the other teeny tiny dancers) was not - and no real reason was given. It’s true that Natalia got diagnosed with diabetes in Vegas and of course that needs dealing with - but then why didn’t they just say that? It totally feels to me like the partnering issue she had in Vegas, when she was paired with a very small guy for a routine with serious lifts and, what a surprise, they had trouble, is the undiscussed elephant in the room here. This is also crap. Put her with a guy with enough leverage and strength to swing her around, and she’s lovely. I get that there are practical concerns here - several of the guys in the top 20 are quite small, and they’re randomly paired, so the partnering issue would come up again in unpredictable ways - but I just feel like they were first patronizing (“Awww, it’s so cute that you’re SO GIGANTIC but you’re still a good dancer”) and then silent because they didn’t know what to say. FEH.
So it’s not perfect. But it does have a lot of awesome subversive qualities, plus so much gorgeous dancing. My revolution totally has dancing in it.
- There is an organic pizza joint, Promise Pizza, in Austin! We got dinner from there a few nights ago, and it was really good! It kind of sucks that we're juuuuust outside the delivery area of both locations, but hey, if we support them enough, maybe they'll expand. :)
- I'm slooooowly getting through my laundry backlog. It feels really good.
- We finally got the replacement part we needed to assemble our home exercise thingy, which is a combo recumbent bike and rowing machine, and today we put it together. So now we can exercise while also goofing off and watching movies - without having to go outside in the ridiculous heat! WIN.
- Yesterday I went to volunteer orientation for English at Work. It's such a smart model - they get businesses (usually hospitals, hotels, retail, and food service) to pay a relative pittance for the course, and employees get to come to the class at their workplace, with content customized for that workplace. This means the employees don't have to worry about transportation or childcare any more than usual, they lose less time to transportation because the class is someplace they already know how to find, and they learn how to say what they need to say to their co-workers, which has immediate positive impact on their careers and earning power. Employers benefit because increased English comprehension has been shown to decrease turnover, workplace accidents, and workplace tension. Smart!
Sneakily, it also engages businesses with their employees and makes them more attuned to their needs, which, E@W is finding, changes business culture so that immigrants are treated better. RAD. I'm going to train to be a classroom student support assistant, helping out with one-on-one conversation and small group work. I'm super excited about helping these folks make better lives for themselves!
- Today, as is my custom, I read Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again" to remind me how much I love the dream, the idea of my country, and how far we have to go to make it real.
Because of the drought here, the worst in over 100 years, there are no fireworks in Austin. So we're at home, watching the Boston Pops. I think it's kind of amazing that several hundred thousand people just saw Martina McBride sing "Independence Day", which is a pretty hardcore domestic violence story. It's an amazing song, but I dunno, to me, it's like those people who have the DJ play, "I Will Always Love You," at their wedding. THAT SONG IS NOT TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK IT'S TALKING ABOUT.
My life is really good today. I hope y'all's are, too.
Partner: I find I like the darker colors lately. Dark like Harry Potter's soul.
Me: Sure. You're thematic.
Me: Dark like George RR Martin's world.
Him: Yes. When you play the game of shirts, you win, or you... have an ill-fitting shirt.
Me: Which is not death, but is often itchy and uncomfortable.
Him: Yes. A Song of Itch and Attire.
<3 <3 <3