Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dead End

If you haven't read this column and you're feeling either perky and don't want to stay that way or are depressed and want more fuel for the fire, go check out Unemployment Stories over at Gawker:  http://gawker.com/tag/hello-from-the-underclass

It's an amazing compilation of letters from real Americans without jobs. How they got there, what they're doing and how it has affected them.  I deeply connect with many of the writers and sometimes have angry reactions to others. I even submitted my own letter to them awhile back. It's a grim view inside the carcass of America.

The reason I'm writing this today is that the hammer has finally fallen for me. My unemployment insurance has run out. My savings are dwindling. I just notified my credit card companies and student loan offices that no more money will be forthcoming. I'll be selling my car since I can no longer afford insurance or gas.

It's been 15 months since I was laid off. While I have a huge burning hatred for the owners of the company that laid me off, I don't blame them for my situation since then. There's no one thing or person to blame really. I could blame the government or the economy or corporatism or my parents or myself - but to no useful end.

I've done my best to be responsible since then - financially, socially, emotionally. But there's no doubt that it has taken its toll on all fronts. Intellectually, I find it truly sad. While it's impossible not to take a hit to your ego, to your self-esteem, in a situation like this, what hits me harder is that this entire country is hurting and I'm a resource that's going to waste. I'm a healthy, hard working, intelligent adult. There's no reason that I shouldn't be part of the work force.

Instead, after more than 200 applications to everyone from Microsoft to an adult bookstore, I got this from Target the other day: "Thank you for taking the time to apply with us. We are unable to offer you a position at this time, but we do appreciate your interest in Target." Which sums up everything pretty nicely.

I'm still writing fiction, and I'm happy to say that writing has become a huge part of my life in the last year. I'll probably continue to do it for the rest of my life now. But it's not going to pay the bills, probably ever. Which leads me to the last question:  What do you do when you're out of options?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Furry, A Rape Victim and a Black Guy Walk Into A Bar

There's been a big dust up lately regarding rape culture, rape jokes, misogyny, bad male behavior at Cons, the list goes on (I've written about some of this in previous posts). This evening, a friend posted a link to this debate between Lindy West and Jim Norton on the topic of rape jokes and I felt like it was time to jump in and throw out my white male privileged opinion.

Before I do though, here's the link to the debate. Go watch it. (Props to @MistressMatisse for tweeting it to my attention)


Okay, so here's my two cents. There IS a way to tell a rape joke and have it be funny (wait for it...). In my humble opinion, comedy is about sharing pain. We laugh at things because we've either experienced them directly or indirectly ourselves. Much like music or sex or even eating, laughing is something we do as a species that is a communal experience. It's meant to bring us closer together.

I'm going to defend my statement that it is possible to tell a rape joke and have it be funny by using three examples.

First, a comedian tells a joke about furries to a crowd (Google it if you don't know). Regardless of the content of the joke, there are a few things to consider. One, are there furries in the audience? Since most don't go to comedy shows in their outfits, we won't know. So, one should assume there *might* be a furry in the audience. Does it change things? No, and the reason it doesn't is that a person who is a furry has chosen this lifestyle and unless they are mentally deficient, they understand that it is a lifestyle that is outside the mainstream. While furries take themselves seriously and have every right to do so, they should also be prepared for the world at large to not get their lifestyle and have some thick skin about it. As long as the comedian isn't making fun of the actual furry in the crowd, I think we can all agree that this is fair game.

But here's a second part of that equation. What if the comedian is a furry? It changes the tone of the joke entirely. Almost unequivocally it makes the joke funnier because by making the joke, the comedian is giving us permission to laugh along *with* him. This means that everyone is included now. The comedian, the audience and even other furries in the audience can all laugh along without feeling like they are a target.

Second scenario. A comedian tells a joke about a black person. Same list of parameters. Are there black people in the audience? Does it change things? No, it doesn't. The difference here is that black people are born black and it is inherent to who they are. Unlike furries, no one chooses the color of their skin any more than they choose what country to be born in, what gender they are or how tall they are. Right there we have a deviation. But when we get to the second factor, that is, is the comedian telling the joke black, everything changes again. This is why Michael Richards calling someone a nigger was so offensive when Chris Rock's bit on the word is funny.

Again, the difference is about inclusion. In the video clip above, Mr. Bell actually makes a few jokes about being black and that's okay because it's at his expense. He's inviting us into his world and saying 'laugh along with me'. Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock are masters of this kind of comedy. I can't count how many white people I've heard say that they feel guilty for laughing at some of the stuff that Dave Chapelle does. I promise you, that stuff would not be funny if Michael Richards did it. It's about inclusion.

Which brings us to the third and final example, rape jokes. The reason I used furries and black people in my two examples above is that there are elements of each situation in rape jokes. In the second scenario, we saw that a lack of choice (a denial of consent as it were) was an element in racist jokes. The exact same things can be said for rape victims. Like race, people do not choose to be rape victims (If you disagree with this statement just stop reading now and never return to my blog). However, the same cannot be said for rapists, the perpetrators. They, like furries, have a choice. They chose to be rapists. Rapists chose to take someone's consent from them.

So, how can a rape joke be funny? Take the elements from the first two examples and combine them. Two ways rape jokes can be funny! If a comedian wants to make fun of rapists...that's funny! Cut loose with your jokes about rapists. The sooner we make fun of them, the better off we'll all be. The second way that a rape joke can be funny is if a rape victim makes it. And if any of you know a person (or are a person) who has been the victim of a sexual assault, you know that you'll be waiting to hear that joke for a very....very....very long time. (Hint: It's not ever coming)

Comedy is a weapon. In the right hands it's a deadly one. Time to point it at the right people.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Did That?

Just a quick note of amazement. Last August I began writing a blog under a pseudonym that by November, I'd decided to turn into a book. That same November, I jumped into National Novel Writing Month with both feet and began writing Five's Fate under my own name.

By January, the book under my pen name was out (more than 400 pages!). By April, Five's Fate was out (more than 350 pages). I also have begun two new books, one under my pen name and one under my real name. The pen name book has close to 50,000 words already and the book under my name is at about 33,000 words.

Both books I plan to have finished before August, or at least into the editing process. The fact that I might have four books published in a year is kind of surreal to me. Every few days, I stop and think about it and say, "I did that?"