Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The "John Green Effect" and How Modern Feminism and I are Frenemies - Part I

I am a product of what cultural historians call "second-wave feminism." The generations that came before me secured my right to vote and broke down the first barriers to me being able to realize my own potential. Supreme Court decisions guaranteed rights to privacy in matters of home and family. By the time I was a young adult, birth control was readily available, women had the unquestioned right of self-determination over their own bodies, divorce laws were reforming, coverture laws were failing, and the post-reconstructionist laws like prohibitions on inter-racial marriage had been thrown on the scrap heap of history.

In my teens I had a front row seat to the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment and its failure to pass. Many justifications boiled down to, "Women aren't equal! They're special and must be protected in this cold cruel world!" Another big scare tactic used by opponents was the specter of women in combat. In the waning days of Vietnam, that vibrated.

But at the end of the day, it was about men wanting to keep women less and too damn many women enabling them.

In my high school, boys and girls were separated for career day. Boys heard from doctors, lawyers, engineers, and business men. Girls heard from nurses, teachers, and secretaries. My father's only stated goals for me was to not get pregnant before I was married and to wait until I was at least 20 to do that. He also added that unless I took Home Ec, "no man would ever want me."

This wasn't the 40s, or the 50s, or the 60s . . . this was the 70s.

After ducking out of the mainstream for most of the 80s in a horrible marriage, (the kind where the cops asked, "So what did you do to make him mad?") I got myself back in school with no help from my family. Suddenly, I was a newly minted student at a community college in California. Growing up, I'd wanted to be one thing - an astronaut. Star Trek and NASA shaped me from kindergarten. But, like many others, including candidate Hillary Clinton, well, I discovered that girls just weren't astronauts. Instead I decided to study engineering and embarked on my first two years which included 4 semesters of physics, 4 semesters of calculus, drafting, and my nemesis . . . chemistry. Luckily, the geek science community, male and female, welcomed me and I got through. But, let's chat a minute about chemistry.

This was not an ancient venerated school. The buildings were contemporary, most less than 30 years old, and generally the school was well-outfitted. A science building had been built across the open field known as the quad. It had been built with no women's restroom. None. When women had the temerity to start enrolling in science classes, a janitorial closet was converted into a dark single-stall ladies room. Let's just say that if your chemistry class was after lunch, you could count on being late to class.

Well, why not just go before you crossed the field! That's what I'd do!

That's not the frigging point. A science building at a public school was constructed without a bathroom for female students. Let that simmer for a minute.

As I was struggling through chemistry, a group of second-year women stormed the men's room. They told the guys to zip it up and move it out. Then they occupied the spacious sunny bathroom, planting ferns in the urinals until the college agreed to remodel the closet into a proper restroom. Yes, women had to protest that shit. Female members of congress didn't get a convenient restroom until two-thousand-fucking-eleven and then, some of the women chirped, "Oh thank you Speaker Boehner!"

When I transferred to a university, I was one of three women studying civil engineering. I didn't graduate anywhere near the top of my class, but I snagged a silk stocking, top drawer job with a major oil company.

Where a contractor, when I challenged him, called me . . . . missy.

Five years later I ended my career with said company after landing at a facility where it was made very clear to me that my promotions had come too fast in my early career and I was going to sit at the salary level I was at for a good long time. A few lovely experiences included:

Having a male subordinate report that I lacked "work ethic" because I cut his overtime and pushed him out the door to attend his child's school events. 

Get a lecture that wearing jeans and khakis really wasn't appropriate attire (it was a factory.) This came from a male manager wearing . . . wait for it . . . khakis. 

My next career move was law school. One place we've come a long way baby. Half of all law degrees go to women. But, come career time, unless you are a woman in the top ten, you'll likely end up in lower paying public service and family law. The high end and partnerships still belong to the old boys and a few selected women. 

Now, I'm a writer and selling antiques and collectibles. I can talk action figures with the best of them. I have really enjoyed seeing women take their place in nerd-dom and gaming, until, of course, the abusive culture that has erupted like an ugly zit on the ass of fandom. I can honestly say that in my early days of going to cons, I saw none of that.

I decided to lead off with my story, because I get it. The struggle is on-going and gains from the 60s and 70s are slipping away. The brick wall and glass ceiling still exist and too many women are keeping it bright, shiny, and polished while gazing adoringly at the men looking down on them.    

I'm going to wrap up Part I now, but I'll be back, so hold that thought, because . . .

A good solid chunk of what me and the generation before me fought for has morphed into pure bullshit. 

The Shifting of the Political Poles and Social Evolution

A short post today and the subject is political philosophy.

A common ploy by the extreme right wing is the howl about the racist roots of democrats.

Now, anyone with any kind of decent education in contemporary history understands how the political poles shifted during the Civil Rights era when the traditional southern democrats flocked to the republican party. This has been dubbed "The Southern Strategy."

As a life-long democrat, I'm willing to own my history. However, we also need to look at social evolution.

Here it is in a nutshell:

Democrats in the 1950s

Democrats in 2015 (you know, this century)

Republicans in the 1950s

Republicans in 2015

When the republican party wants to embrace its roots and return to the principles of Eisenhower, I'll be willing to talk to them. Until then, the tedious never-ending telling of the sordid "gotcha" past of the democratic party label, is just that . . . tedious. And dishonest. 

After all, this is a historical Christian . . .

And this is a modern Christian

Times change. Institutions change. However, whoever you are, whatever you believe, own your history . . .

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The People of the Package . . . Smolderlicious Edition

Another regular feature that went on hiatus during . . . reasons . . . is my celebration of the many, the proud, the anonymous models who graced packaging in the 1960s and 70s. Their job was to make you want it. Some days it worked. Others? Not so much.

We don't know their names, but we know their faces:

Are you smoldering yet?
Like many low budget projects, choices had to be made. Here they blew the entire budge on cosmetics and there was nothing left for a hairstylist and root touch-up.

Package Person, we salute you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Virtual Mojo and the Value of Online Friendships

Without going into TMI detail, between December 2014 and May 2015 I experienced a set of symptoms that individually and collectively don't indicate much of anything good. However, they came and went, so I . . .

Ignored them.

Convinced myself I was imagining them. That it was nothing. Well, when I finally got myself to the doc for a routine check-up and described this suite of bodily occurrences, the vertical line between kindly Doc Allen's brows got deeper and deeper. His response was simple, "You see nothing. I see cancer."

This kicked off a whirlwind of three weeks of tests. Some of them the most agonizing and humiliating experiences of my half-century on this mortal plane. After tests, more tests, re-tests, specialized tests, some out-patient surgery, and tests to verify the tests when the original tests showed anomalies, I can say that the all-clear bell finally rang. However, had I waited another six months, the answer could have been different.

But, enough of that. One of the procedures left me really emotionally and physically sacked. I was about as low as I could go. Throbby, Whiny, Hurty, Fraidy, and all the other dwarfs that didn't make the cut. So, I pulled up a stool at the virtual coffee shop that never closes and sent out a vague-book message asking for good thoughts, strength, and some good mojo.

The response was overwhelming and gave me the traction I needed to get myself back again. If anyone tells you that virtual support, friends, and fellowship isn't real, you are allowed to thunderpunch them. Some critics, in an attempt to gain attention for their ennui and irony, say that vague-booking is just an attempt to get attention.

Hell, yes, that's exactly what it is. A pebble into the pond for help. An, "I am really scared and hurt right now and need to connect." Sometimes online fellowship is even better. Both sides can engage and pull back as they need to, you can't do that on the phone. You don't have the real space pressure of being a hostess when all you want to do is cry and you can revisit the messages as they trickle in when you need a bit more bolstering.

If you ever hesitate to drop a "like" or a comment on a post about an illness or a loss or a cry in the wilderness, don't. It can be a golden lifeline.

Also, I'm pleased to say, y'all sent me so much good mojo, that I was able to fill several sticker books and order from the prize catalog. THANK YOU! (Seriously everyone, thank you.)

From the bottomless kitsch collection of Terri Lynn Coop

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Thrift Shop Files . . . Scary Crafts

I've decided to just give into my addiction to thrift shops and not hide it anymore. You know, because I hid it so well before.

Bottom line, it's cheaper than therapy, more entertaining than most movies, and I find enough for resale that my mileage is tax deductible.

After I make a run through, looking for valuables (vintage Lenox china for 50 cents each, thank you,) I go back, camera phone in hand, and check out the . . . .

Not sure how to categorize it.

Bottom line, crafts. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Or, if you do, you could end up as a feature on "Scary Crafts."

We'll kick off today with part of a Nativity Scene that, um, well . . . I'm sure the painter had a good time:

Photo by Terri Lynn Coop - I take full blame.
Even the blessed baby Jesus was uncomfortable with the situation.

Photo by Terri Lynn Coop - Yup, it was me.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Writer Fuel - Late Spring Edition

It has been far too long since I put up an episode of Writer Fuel. It's not that I stopped my insane obsessive teacup collecting. It's certainly not because I've quit drinking tea (perish that thought.) Just reasons . . .

Well, the long porcelain, vitrified china, molded plastic drought is over:

My latest search-and-destroy missions have been for vintage restaurant china. I love it. Stylish, durable, and nothing is more America, than a cup of something hot served up by a waitress with a beehive.

This is "Dogwood 2" from Syracuse China, one of the Big Three in diner china. Made from heavy vitrified china (some of the manufacturers got their start making clay water and sewer piping.)

The backstamp identifies if from either between 1946 and 1962 or 1965 and 1974. The pattern "Dogwood 2" has been positively identified in 1959 as in use at the Hotel Roanoke (thanks for that tidbit goes to The Restaurant Ware Collectors Network.)

Found at a thrift shop in a neighborhood that needs signs that say, "No hoodies, do-rags, or sunglasses allowed." I should have brought it all home. NO! Cups only! Okay, maybe a berry bowl. If it's cheap . . . GAH!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to Talk About Caitlyn Jenner and Sound Like a Dick

By now, if you have an Internet connection, you've seen the Vanity Fair cover of Caitlyn Jenner announcing her coming out as a fully realized trans woman.

Photo by: Annie Leibovitz

If you're active on social media at all, odds are you've seen plenty of conversations about this month's issue of a fashion and culture magazine. You may not have ever seen the inside of an issue of Vanity Fair, but now it has entered your life and something must be done about it.

However, you may not know how to express your outrage. There have been plenty of articles on how to discuss the issue with sensitivity and tact.

That's not for you. You are outraged! You are disgusted! You have been personally offended and befouled! Yet, you may not know how to discuss this sensitive issue while sounding like a total unctuous prick.

This handy guide may be of some help to you in your goal to win the Internet.

1.  Purposely use subtle, but offensive, language. This is a perfect time to channel your inner 12-year-old bigot. Refer to Jenner as a "he-she," a "shim," or, better yet, a "tranny." Make jokes about how you might be gay "cuz, damn, he's hot!" Use "whore" every chance you get. Under no circumstances are you to use "she." DAMMIT THAT'S BRUCE JENNER AND HE IS A HE! Using all-caps every chance you get will also make sure that not only will people know your opinion, but that the members of your outrage tribe will be drawn to your clarion call. After all, how dare this "Caitlyn" person mess with your 1970s sports hero.

2.  Drag out your bible. Face it, no matter what makes you uncomfortable, you can find a biblical justification for it. Close off all discussion by bombing a thread with the catch-all "God doesn't make mistakes!" Don't hang around for questions about crab grass, chocolate-covered Vegemite, and the Ford Pinto.

3.  Go into full-frontal passive-aggressive attack mode.  Caitlyn Jenner hadn't been out in the world in full form for an hour before she was being mansplained about why she and her life decisions are WRONG. If any ally, especially a female ally, gay or straight, expresses support for Jenner, she must be splained and splained and splained again why she is wrongwrongwrong. The more column inches you use, the more splain points you get. You can't agree to disagree. You must win and drive said ally from the discussion.

4.  Under no circumstances can Caitlyn Jenner be accepted as a pop culture role model for trans teens. It doesn't matter what posters you had on your wall as a teenager. It doesn't matter what TV stars you like or athletes you follow. NO! Trans teens are not allowed to have their own flawed imperfect spotlight-seeking celebrity icon. They are not allowed to have their own beauty queen who scored the cover of the decade after being expertly styled and photographed by one of the most celebrated photographers of this generation. NO! Trans teens are only allowed to look up to trans people who have come out and transitioned quietly and humbly and not made such a damn fuss about it. The trans population is only allowed to humbly walk out of the closet with eyes averted. They are not allowed to kick the door down and come out like a peacock with their plumage on display. No. No. NO! Make sure you accompany this with photos of trans women who work in offices as suggested appropriate role models.

5.  Develop sudden concern about the trans population at large. After all, making a fuss over one trans woman completely ignores the plight of all other poor suffering trans people. Of course, don't contribute to a homeless shelter or work to change laws regarding things as simple as changing drivers licenses. No, don't do any of that. Instead moan long and loud about all the attention being given to this woman.

6.  When in doubt, "support the troops." People are calling Caitlyn Jenner a "hero."  Immediately trot out a photo, preferably from WWII of a soldier in battle, with a smug caption like "I just want to remind everyone what a hero looks like." Oh, aren't you clever!  Yes, this use of "hero" is hyperbole. Guess what, we use hyperbole all the time. If you do this, the next time someone says they are "dying" on a hot day, be ready to whip out a photo of dead puppies so you can say, "I just want to remind you what death looks like." Really. Do it. You are rendering an important public service.    

7.  Yuk it up about how you are feeling "like a woman" today so you think you'll use the women's bathroom or shower at the Y. Oh man, that one is a side-splitter! You will be the hit of the discussion. Hate to burst your bubble, as a woman, I've spent a lot of time in women's restrooms. It's not sexy. Unless you are into some really weird stuff. If so, you need a therapist. And you know what? I used unisex bathrooms in Paris. Everyone minded their own business. That's called being a grown-up. But, wait, we aren't talking about mature interactions between the sexes. We are talking about being a Dickus Maximus. Sorry, back to the discussion.

8. Science! Go into a long discussion of DNA and how Jenner is a man and that's that. Ignore the differences between biological sex and societal gender. It doesn't matter that DNA really only applies when making babies, donating kidneys, and identifying dead bodies. But, when a discussion about climate change or evolution pops up, be ready to say that "science doesn't matter."

9. Be ready to defend your outrage to the death. This is often where a conversation veers off into quasi-political territory. Your catch phrases are:

"I'm entitled to my opinion!"
"What about MY freedom of speech!"
"Why are you cramming this down my throat!"
"I thought you libturds were so tolerant!"
"Why are you persecuting me!"
"Christians have no rights anymore!"

Bonus points if you figure out a way to blame President Obama.

This was just a primer. There are many many other ways to be an absolute dick when discussing Caitlyn Jenner. Feel free to combine and freestyle.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

On Being Gay . . .

No, I'm not gay, but you stopped for a second, didn't you? For a second your perception of me may have wavered.

Or not.

It depends on who you are. I may have even offended you. If I did, then you can back out now because you may not like the rest of my blog post and this is my blog.

In Internet flame wars, I occasionally get, "Why do you care, you some kinda dyke?" thrown at me.

Like that is an insult. Like they "got" me. My typical response is:

"Dude, listen to me for 2 minutes about Norman Reedus or Bruce Springsteen and you'll know that I'm as straight as the pole your mama danced on. And, by the way, is that the best you've got? That insult is pathetic. It's like accusing me of being tall."

To be fair, I do have short hair, a big mouth, and often wear cargo pants. So, I mean it's obvious, because middle-aged mid-western white guys can "always tell."

What I am is an anti-bigotry ally.

I know this because I was raised by a bigot and lived most of my life surrounded by bigots. Over the last couple of decades, I've embraced the reality and have been actively trying to shuffle it off.

In law school I told a Cherokee friend how I was raised to view the tribes. It was hilarious and a bit embarrassing. We were both laughing by the time I was done. But we both got something out of it. He got a look behind the curtain and I got to work on pulling that curtain down.

Do I always get it perfect?


I'm sure I step on the cow pies of white privilege and cultural appropriation. I know I'm most likely perceived as a "nice white lady" from time to time. Sorry about that. It's a learn-as-you-go thing. It's not like there's a manual. I watch men navigating the minefield of feminism and applaud those who are making a sincere effort. That's what being an ally is. It's about dusting yourself off and learning something about it. I do believe I get it right more often than I get it wrong.

I'm not black, bi-sexual, gay, Hispanic, Arab, or any other -ist or -ism group. What I am is an insanely well-educated middle-aged white woman from a small town. I hit the social-privilege lottery. The only thing standing between me and owning the world is a penis and a trust fund.

I'm also pro-choice, pro-civil-rights, pro-individual-freedom, pro-sane-immigration, pro-equality. I write and I talk and I vote. I don't sit back and wring my hands and say that "But wait, all [whites, men, christians, conservatives] aren't like that, don't judge me!"

Even though I wear my ally status openly and proudly, what I'm doing is not always for you.


I know. But listen for a second.

You don't need me. You're fine the way you are. What needs to change is the pool that spawned me. As Chris Rock said, "When you hear that blacks have made progress, what it means is that whites have made progress." (paraphrased)

The mainstream culture is howling that they are losing their rights. Um, no. Rights are rights. There isn't a finite supply. When you get a right, I don't lose one. There is no conservation of rights in the universe.

What the mainstream culture is losing is privilege and power.

Every woman who is elected to Congress, every black who scores a management position, every gay couple who signs up for a wedding registry is subtly picking away at what made the Old Guard feel special. And that is terrifying. Throughout our short checkered history, no matter how bad it got, a segment of our population could still say, "Well, things are bad, but they could be worse, we could be [insert whatever.]"

It's mainstream white culture that needs to adapt if it is going to survive. My culture. As your ally, I am trying to reform my own culture because I also want it to survive in a better form.

"Oh sure," you may be thinking. "Just another white person trying to use me."

Again, if you believe that, then we have more to talk about. Feel free to ask me to explain my message.

Now, I'm not saying that you must love me as your ally or even accept me. I'm not asking for your thanks or gratitude. It's my choice. It's my only choice. However, attacking me is not a good idea. I know the code. I know the players. I know the landscape. I am a force-multiplier to your message. When I disagree with you, I'm not a "dominant-culture-oppressor." It means I disagree with you.

In every revolution, and this is a revolution, the victors are usually an alliance. Some close-knit, some uneasy. All joined together with individual interests melding into a common goal.

You are my ally as much as I am yours.

Use that power. Make it better.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Zen of Trolling . . .

I'm no stranger to the Internet. Social media, forums, chat rooms, and blogs let me hang out with friends and like-minded sorts while still kicking back in my little house on the prairie. I don't have kids. I don't vote republican. I don't go to church. So, that leaves the conversation topics with my neighbors pretty damned limited.

As a result, I'm no stranger to trolls either. The new generation of net trolls has come a long way from the acne-crusted boys who would drop "Show us yur tits!" in your forum before slinking back to the 4chan "b" board. Today's brand are less obvious and more insidious, popping up in otherwise rational discussions to turn the attention onto themselves and keep it there.

I rarely shrink from an Internet dust-up, especially on political issues. Let a hint of intolerance drop on issues of race, marriage equality, women's rights, etc. and it is on like Donkey Kong. I also try to keep my fights in the places people go to fight. You follow me there, you do it at your own risk. I have been trolled with a vitriol that is eye-watering. Hell, I've been trolled by Todd Kincannon himself, the Emperor of Troll Mountain, not to mention the delightful "Bossy Cow" incident.

So, I know of what I speak. Tonight, in a private Facebook group, I watched an epic battle unfold. I started reporting on it and basically identified 10 separate and distinct stages of a troll infestation. Once they appear and take root, your thread is dead. Just kill it with fire.

Stage 1: "The Expert Opinion." The discussion can be about whether the sky is blue. Someone, usually not well known to the group will wade in and "settle" the question with a dissertation about the actual color of the sky, backed up with all sorts of credentials (real and/or imagined.) Of course anyone who questions the EO is immediately informed that they are wrong and why they are wrong.

Stage 2: "The Rationale." When the EO is called out for being a pompous ass, the EO will get quite huffy and will reiterate their qualifications and state that they were just trying to educate the audience on the factors contributing to sky color.

Now, many threads get to this stage. I've waded into quite a few arguments myself on legal issues. This is the point where the sane and logical retreat and the thread veers off into weekend plans and cat memes. However . . .

Stage 3: "The LOL Gambit." The EO will start taunting detractors, ending every post with a pseudo-ironic ". . . lol." Because, well, anyone who disagrees with them is obviously so utterly amusing. Pointing this out and that it is smug, tedious, and rude, may (and that's a big may) shut it down. A trait peculiar to political discussions is along with the ever-present "lol," there will usually be a "sheeple" and "u a moran."

When this occurs, I hate to tell you, your thread has trolls. Seek treatment immediately.

Stage 4: "The Tears of a Clown." If you call the EO out about their incessant "lol," you may get a world-weary "I laugh because I've seen it all. Otherwise, I would cry." My apologies for beverage damage to your monitor or keyboard. But, forewarned is forearmed.

Stage 5: "The Victim." This one is simple to spot. It is a variant on "I just don't understand what you all are so upset about . . ." fraught with an unspoken "I was just correcting your ignorance." You can just hear the *heavy sigh* as your EO dons the mantle of their martyrdom.

Most will flounce at this point, often with great melodrama.

But tonight we had a pro.

Stage 6: "We Must Stand United!" Your EO will now likely make a plea to the lurkers for U&S, short for "Unity & Sympathy." Trying to rally the forces against those who didn't accept the EO's brilliance at face value. A common sign is, "No one else gets treated like this!" This will occasionally generate a sympathetic flounce, "I hate this group too," while pausing to comment on a thread about how you don't like the thread.

At this point, there is only one way this can end. Your thread is in the florid stage of Godwin's Disease. It is also contagious, and if not monitored, could begin to infect other topics. In a political argument, it would be over very quickly. However, this one lingered, like an all-day hangover.

Stage 7: "The Strategic Retreat." The troll will disappear and a period of odd peace will descend on the thread. In political kerfuffles, it is often accompanied by something like, "I'd love to stay and argue, but I have to get to work to pay for your welfare." A fellow author once told me to, "Head on back to the hood and figure out which of my baby daddies I was going to shack up with that night." Keeping it Klassy (as in KKK.)

Note, at this point, you will likely have a peacemaker appear and try to diffuse the tension with pics of flowers and cat memes along with pleas, "Can't we just all get along?" Rarely, but very rarely, this is the end. It is far more likely your troll is monitoring every word and waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Stage 8: "Thread CPR." Depending on the length of the retreat, the thread will start to wander and lose steam. Left alone, it would die of its own weight. But a true EO will not be able to resist a shot at the last word. Today's EO posted helpful memes about "healthy relationships" and "emotional abuse." Like a misplaced cough when the baby is finally asleep, the thread is up, wide awake, and off to the races again.

Stage 9: "The Reasonable One." The final stage of Godwin's Disease. Your EO will make smug patronizing statements that they are the reasonable one and you all should really apologize for being wrong. Stage 9 may include helpful checklists of the symptoms of narcissism. Keep a tissue handy because the irony will be oozing from your monitor.

Stage 10: "The Inevitable Result." Yes . . . Godwin. Just because the word Hitler or Nazi may not be explicitly used (many modern political threads also leap to "socialist" and "commie,") doesn't mean your thread hasn't gone there. This particular thread went off the cliff when anyone who didn't agree and apologize to EO was a psychopath. That is effectively Godwin'd.

At this point, your thread is dead. It cannot be saved.

If you don't kill it, expect a passive-aggressive DO . . . LOOP to creep into your discussion. You will hear about EO's tragic past and how hard-earned their EO truly is. There will be accusations of stalking and terroristic threats and the EO will opine on the general lack of civility on the Internet. The bad thing about this snippet of code is that unless you programmed in an EXIT, it is on an indefinite play. It will never end.

If your EO compares the emotional suffering they have endured trying to educate you to the experience of either combat veterans or rape victims, you are entitled, no you are required, to reach through cyberspace and junk punch them.

Know the warning signs and you may be able to avoid a full-on troll infestation. If you see any of these signs in yourself, back away from the computer slowly. If you can't resist, then junk punch yourself.