Monday, November 25, 2013

On Manifest Destiny and The Consumerization of Thanksgiving

It's that time of year, when we gather all our kin and eat a ton of food and booze, and yell at each other because we really don't want to be together, and celebrate the hostile takeover of most of a continent, and then wake up the next day at the asscrack of dawn to trample all in our path just to get a great deal on a piece of shit "It" toy or a flat screen TV.

Yeah, I'm a buzzkill. I know.

Everyone knows by now that I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving, which I've gleefully and recently coined, "Manifest Destiny Day," which I think sums of the whole thing quite beautifully. But before I get to Manifest Destiny and how Black Friday is a gorgeous metaphor of that long tradition of taking what we want, a little recap on my tenuous relationship with the holiday:

I've never been much a fan of Thanksgiving food. Huge hunks of turkey? Not for me. Stuffing and cranberries and green bean casserole? Yucky. I like corn and potatoes, of course. Because potatoes are glorious, said the Irish girl. And somehow macaroni and cheese always made it into the mix, probably because I hated all the other foods and mac & cheese is also glorious.

Thanksgiving was never much fun in my house. I can count the good childhood Thanksgivings I had on one hand and I remember each good time extremely clearly. I remember splatter painting a table cloth (with permission) with my cousin. I remember eating homemade whipped cream. I remember my boisterous uncle telling a story, which involved wild hand gestures and the subsequent knocking over and splashing of cranberry sauce all over his new and very white house.

Not Thanksgiving, but I couldn't resist sharing one of the many matchy Christmas photos my cousins and I had to do.
But the rest were complete suckass. Usually my mom wouldn't start cooking until late in the day, because she's a world class procrastinator, something she'd find a zillion ways to blame on me or my dad or the dogs or maybe even the bird, while she also refused any help. Part way through the day, we'd all be starving and someone would pick a fight about something stupid, I'd be told I was an ungrateful little shit and go crying in my room and my dad would storm out the front door, slamming it and putting another crack in the door frame, and nobody would be happy. If we were lucky, we might be served dinner around midnight, which would undoubtedly be delicious (meaning the potatoes and corn and mac & cheese), and, while my mom was an excellent cook, I'm sure part of the deliciousness was due in part to our fasting the rest of the day's entirety.

So there's no nostalgia for Thanksgiving in me. There's no holding hands around a warm table filled with my loved ones declaring what we're thankful for. Most of my memories are of stress and tears.

And I also try to put aside that "giving thanks" means thanking the deity in the sky for whatever it is I supposedly didn't earn myself or didn't get by pure chance or serendipity or whatever. If I have things or happiness or love, I suppose I'm supposed to thank Someone with a capital S for it. So if I don't believe in said deity, can I just thank myself?

Then I worked retail. My very first real job out of high school was retail and I worked various sales and management positions for most of my twenties. Now, if there's one thing I am thankful for, it's that I never had to work at Wal Mart and come into work at 1am on Black Friday and dodge the murderous hoards all day. But I did work at malls and I did often have to leave Thanksgiving early (when I was still in contact with my madre) in order to get home at a decent hour to get enough sleep to work the next day at the asscrack of dawn and survive the utter madness that would ensue and continue for the next month.

Needless to say, Thanksgiving for me has, more often than not, signaled the start of stress.

And I still get all stressy thinking about it, even though I don't work retail anymore and I have had a few wonderful (small) Thanksgivings with my little cousin and I am starting to like the holiday season a bit (the lights and the winter and maybe even a little snow). And there are people I love who love this holiday. I get that. I can suck it up and make myself be social for a day and eat my gluten free mac & cheese and drink wine and participate in this odd day.

Le sigh.

I respect that plenty of people like this holiday. Though I'd argue that we should at least know what we're celebrating and it has nothing to do with the story we're raised on. I'll skip the retelling of the Thanksgiving story (because, long). You can read that here.

I do, however, want to talk about Manifest Destiny.

Now if that doesn't describe the entire history of the colonization of North America, I don't know what does. Sure, the term didn't come about until the 19th century, but the sentiment predated that by hundreds of years. We expanded beyond Europe. We took what we wanted and destroyed everything in our path. And we called it our duty and our destiny. And we called all men equal while millions suffered on reservations or in slavery or disenfranchisement.

I believe that's what therapists call justification.

I'm not saying we put aside this major tradition that so many people love; I'm saying let's learn the real story and at least acknowledge that our history is based on murder and subjugation and disenfranchisement and that an entire population of people still think of suffering on this day while we're stuffing our faces and being grateful for such abundance.

I'm just saying we have a little perspective.

So where does Black Friday and consumerism come in? Well where doesn't it? I know we're all lamenting the consumerization of this (and all, really) holiday(s), and no one hates the mentality and stress of it all more than I, but I also think it's completely natural given our history. Black Friday is SO Manifest Destiny!

It's our real life pageant play of colonization. We're not taking over countries and continents, but we each get to be little imperialists and conquer the shopping! Claim all the things! Take all the stuff and who the fuck cares who gets in our way! We deserve it! We were good all year! Gimme gimme gimme gimme!

All we're missing are flags.

It's not a decline in our civilization so much as a fulfillment of our longest traditions.

So I'm torn. I hate the shopping and sheer madness of it all. I mean, does anyone honestly think it's sane behavior? And you won't find me anywhere near a shopping center on the worst Friday of the year. But I also think that maybe this is just a teensy bit karmic. Maybe our karmic punishment for all of the crimes against humanity our civilization has enacted on land is that we'll eat ourselves alive, both literally one day and figuratively the next, until there's nothing left.

But I'll still participate in Thanksgiving.

This year, Eminem and I will be trekking down to Northern California to stay with my older cousin and her family, mostly so he can finally meet some of my family, and I'm sure we'll have a good time. For one, my mother won't be there, which is always a good thing! Two, booze! Three, I love my cousin and her family and I'm confident they aren't the train wreck my immediate family is. Four, I'm armed with GF rolls from my favroite bakery and my cousin is making me a GF mac & cheese and I'm making these Reese's bottom cheesecake cups. Five, road trip with my man! Yeah!

See, I can have fun. I just like to be conscious of why I'm having fun and know what I'm celebrating. I don't think that's unreasonable.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Photo of the Day: Wet Leaves

Autumn light

Wet leaves are as much a part of Portland Fall as the rain itself. It also means that, however pretty, one must walk carefully so as to avoid falling on one's ass in the street.

See more here. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Photo of the Day: Autumn Light

Autumn light

I'm finally taking photos again! Try not to die of shock.

I love Autumn. It's my very favorite and I can't believe I haven't taken more photos of my fave season this year, so I'm making up for it now.

Because I tend to migrate toward macros, I thought I'd play with light and shadow in some full tree shots. What do you think? Isn't this afternoon light just delicious?

See more here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Crazy Bunch

As a kid, I always loved the Brady Bunch, maybe because I was an only child who desperately wanted a houseful of siblings, though, let's be honest - I was also obsessed with Marcia and her gorgeous hair and bellbottoms and I pretty much spent a chunk of my formative years trying to look like her.

And, while I never had a houseful of siblings, I did have two cousins who were just like sisters (seriously, I'm soooo the middle child), and I definitely had a houseful of pets.

Where I'm going with this is that Eminem have our own Brady Bunch-esque house going on. Sure, we don't have children, but we do have two cats that used to be only children and a bulk of our days is consumed by those two furkids.

Truly. Merging the furniture has been surprisingly breezy. We've been able to mostly agree on decorating and style (aside from his occasional affinity for plaid). We've yet to have any huge blowout fights (though that's not really our style) and have survived just a few small tiffs with no casualties. We don't fight over the television. In fact, most evenings, he'll be watching some game on TV while I watch one of my shows on my laptop with my earbuds.

So no issues!

But the cats. Those rascals.

Hobbes desperately wants to be friends with Iggy, which makes sense. The only other cat knew was Jete and those two were the best of friends. In many ways, Hobbes was Jete's cat, while she was mine.

kitty spooning

And now I'm tearing up a little. Dammit if losing our furbabies isn't painful forever.

It also freaks me out a little how much Iggy is like Jete.

He's smaller and has this cute munchkin face, but he's just as smart and moody and mischievous. He's also cuddly in a really demanding way. Saturday mornings, he'll often crawl right up into my face and demand attention and it reminds me soooo much of her.

So Hobbes has been surprisingly bold and brave about Iggy. He's doing everything he can to get Iggy to see how sweet and cuddly and harmless he is. But Iggy isn't so sure about Hobbes. Just when it seems he's warming up to my fat boy, Hobbes gets too close and hissing and head batting ensues.

They do seem to get along the water fountain, taking turns at the dripping faucet, but that's their only neutral zone as yet.

So Hobbes has taken a new tactic: making Iggy jealous. He's been sleeping in Iggy's fave spots, cuddling up to Eminem, and eating all the food. Well, he ate all the food before too.

I have to hand to it him; I never would have guessed my big lug would have been smart enough to come up with such a plan. And it seems to be working, sort of. Iggy hasn't warmed up to Hobbes, but he has warmed up more to me. He even slept on my side of the bed last night.

The jury is still out on these two, but I have hope that they'll be best friends soon enough.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Horrifying Shit on Pinterest: Racist Halloween Costumes

Horrifying Pinterest shit is BACK! I had intended to link up a Halloween post before Halloween, you know, so people can learn something. But alas, my laziness and lack of time management skills won out and so you get this gem after Halloween. 

There were so many examples of racist costumes, mostly in the vein of "culture as a costume." If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it. I'll wait. :) 

And, while the cultural appropriation costumes go back a long time (such a long tradition of racism to celebrate, evidently),  but there's an even more perverse issue when it becomes the Sexy Racist costume. At that point, we go beyond the problem of Sexy Halloween monopoly (meaning a woman cannot buy a pre-made costume that isn't uber sexified) and the devaluing of a huge, non-monolithic culture into one stereotype and we now sexualize that monolith, that stereotype. And that has huge consequences. 

See: above. 

I hope that made sense. I didn't want this to be a long post. I highly encourage you to do tons of research on the subject because there's SO much more to be said than I can articulate. 

Thankfully, I've spotted no Blackface pins, probably because at least costume manufacturers, while content to make money off of cultural appropriation and racism, seem to have some line they won't cross. That doesn't stop white people from taking it upon themselves to paint their faces to mimic another race every single damn year. Hey, people, stop it! Just stop it. No more blackface fullstop. 

Aaaaaand discuss. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Grieving Sprocket

The other day, I told you that part of the reason I haven't written was due to my big move (yay!), but the other part is because I've been grieving and haven't wanted to write or take photos or really be expressive at all.

See, the beloved Sprocket Ink is no more. 

And I am very sad. I wasn't there the entire time, but I was there at the beginning and at the end and there's something sweet and sentimental about that. For about 2 years, I was happy to have a forum to write about news and politics, where I was never censored, where I felt a responsibility to talk about what I was passionate about and flex my writing wings.

And I was part of an incredible community there! I left the first time because, with the exception of a couple folks, I didn't feel part of the writing crew. When I came back, I found the greatest group of nerdy, lovable, witty, warm, and brilliant people whom I could always turn to whether I needed to rant about some idiot politician or just about work issues or some stupid facebook debate. 

I really hope those friendships remain with the death of our wonderful site. They're truly wonderful people.

So, as you can imagine, I've been very, very sad. I felt like I was laid off from the best job (even though I wasn't paid). Or I was going through a breakup, except my ex in this instance was gone forever, not living a new life with some hot girl he met in a bar (just kidding. that actually never happened to me). 

I've been truly grieving. And I'm glad I let myself grieve, because now I'm starting to feel myself again. And look at me! Writing again!

I also have a ton of articles over at Sprocket that I have no clue how to pull off and save. If anyone is super techy and smart at Wordpress, I'd very much appreciate the help. 

Some of the ex Sprockets have some ideas in the works for next steps and I'm really hoping to be a a part of that too. I'm not sure what I'll do in the meantime. I hope to write here a hellofa lot more, but I haven't decided if I'll write about politics at all here or just save that for an external site. I just don't know that this is the place for it. I might rant about world issues like racism or sexism, etc., but I don't know that I want my blog to be taken up by politicians and pundits and government. 

Time will tell, I s'pose. 

Bye, Sprocket. It's been too wonderful. 

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