On the insidiousness of Depression, Suicide, and Robin Williams

yowoto-aladdin-hugging-genieIt’s hard to see something like this happen to someone like Robin Williams, much like Stephen Fry’s revelation of attempted suicide last year. It reminds me that if I make it to 63 I will still be someone who struggles with depression and who could fail in that struggle at any time. It reminds me that it will never go away. And it reminds me that it doesn’t matter how much I accomplish, accomplishments will never be bulwark enough against the thing.

Living with chronic conditions, including depression and I imagine addiction, is remarkably difficult, even when those conditions are “under control,” because you’re just a bad day or a single wrong step away from them being massively out of control. And the daily grind of dealing with them, all the energy and money poured into treatment and counsel and behavior and environment can build up without warning and pull you down.

I am lucky that all my conditions are treatable to some extent. I’ve been on medication non-stop for 22 years and I will have to take medicine every day until I die. It is remarkable, really, that I’m alive, and I am grateful for it and the science that’s made it possible. But some days are a punch to the gut. And some days I am physically unwell. And some days I am sad. And some days they all happen at the same time. And some weeks are just collections of those kind of days. And some months are collections of those weeks.

I’m having that sort of a month, but I am OK. Because there are a lot of people in the world who love me and who I love and I know that, and many of you are here on Facbeook. Depression lies, but I don’t think it could ever convince me I didn’t love you all. And that is enough for today. And tomorrow I’ll figure out tomorrow.

Salon and Jezebel: Honey Boo Boo and 8 reasons you should be ashamed of yourselves

Honey Boo Boo is a child, not a monsterAs you know, I spend a lot of my time with Honey Boo Boo because of my dissertation, and people often say disparaging things about the show and the weight of the family and other things.  And for the most part, I keep my cool, but occasionally, I read something that makes me incredibly angry.  I am loath to even link to this article, because it is so unfortunate, but here it is: “Honey Boo Boo is a monster: What reality TV did to the pint-size pageant queen” and the Jezebel uncritical repost: “Honey Boo Boo Has Turned Into a ‘Visibly Troubled’ Monster Child.”  (UPDATE: Since this article was posted, Salon has changed the headline to remove the world “monster.” Small victory!)

I am not, in general, a defender of Reality Television.  I find it fascinating, yes, but not always ethical.  That said, blaming ills of the world on Reality Television is ignoring the fact that the world created it in the first place.  Reality Television might reflect societal problems, but it’s very rarely the cause of them.  Unsafe workplaces, brutal contracts, and terrible pay, sure, but they don’t create societal wide poor education, poverty, or violence.

So when I see articles posted that use the word “monster” to describe a real little kid, I find it upsetting.  When those articles purport to be doing it because they care about the girl and come from sources that I generally find reasonable and feminist minded, I become slightly apoplectic.  Here are 8 reasons that the article on Salon, and Jezebel using it for hits without saying anything critical about it, were terrible.

1. Calling a little kid a monster is severely uncool.  Doing it in the headline to get hits is exploitative and uncool.

2. Calling a little kid a “monster” for having a temper tantrum because she doesn’t really like doing interviews on TV and for not wanting to give away her property is blowing things well out of proportion.

3. “The quick wit we’ve come to expect from Honey Boo Boo…” Have you ever even watched the show? The quick wit is from Mama June, Alana is just weird in a charming and amusing way.  Just because she’s in some of your favorite gifs, doesn’t mean she’s quick-witted.

4. Fallon intervening and trying to discipline Alana wasn’t ” Finally someone is addressing this child’s attitude,” it was shaming her in front of a live studio audience and assuming her mother was incapable of doing her job as a parent. Not your role, Mr. Fallon, and not something to be commended, Salon writer.

5. Wishing she had the chance to develop her creativity without television is ignoring the reality that the money and exposure and opportunities she’s been given from this show has meant far more opportunity to develop her creativity.

6. You have no reason to think that being on Reality Television has caused this in her.  She has been remarkably little changed from her first appearance on Toddlers & Tiaras to the second season of her own show.  Newsflash: Little kids can be bratty sometimes, and editors know when it’s amusing or not.  Your own article points to the fact that this is being edited, where on earth are you getting evidence that it is television’s fault?

7. Don’t you think publicly calling a child a monster in Salon is exactly the wrong thing to do if this article expresses your real feelings about her fate?  Do you really think that publicly shaming a little girl makes it look like you care how she is treated — because you’re treating her badly.  You don’t get a pass on that.

8. Finally, finally: Christy O’Shoney, I don’t think you’re a very nice person or a person who cares very much about Alana Thompson’s future. And Jezebel, you’re just as bad for uncritically repeating this article because you wanted hits.

I realize my blog is just a tiny corner of the internet, but if you’re decent people who actually care about this little girl you will 1. Change the title of your articles 2. Release an apology for being cruel to a child 3. Think twice before calling a child names in order to get hits.  Frankly, your behavior is far worse than anything Alana Thompson did on the set of Jimmy Fallon’s show.

Introduction to “Redneckaissance: Honey Boo Boo, Tumblr, and the Stereotype of Poor White Trash”

As you may have noticed I have been somewhat absent from these parts of late, because I have been working on my dissertation proposal for my study of Honey Boo Boo and Tumblr.  I have finally finished the proposal and will defend it next week, at which point I will hopefully be cleared to write the second half, which is the actual independent research.  I thought I would share with you the opening of the dissertation.  As you may have guessed, working more than full time and writing a dissertation leaves little time for blogging, but I thought I’d take advantage of my week of breathing room and the fact that I have actually written something.  Enjoy.

Mama June on a waterslide honey boo boo

“Who knew television audiences would be completely enthralled with a Southern family acting out every stereotype of “redneck” on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo…” – Alison F. Slade[1]

My first realization that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo had become a complex discursive phenomenon came with the appearance of an image from the show in my social media feeds.  In this animated image, June Shannon, the overweight matriarch of the show, careens down a water slide in her bathing suit with joy on her face.  This image became popular on Tumblr, with hundreds of reblogs, and spread elsewhere online.[2]  Most of the previous discourse I had encountered around the show was negative and focused on how “trashy” the show was, but, in my social media feeds, people praised the show for fat acceptance of “real” bodies and embraced June’s joy.  There were still negative comments about the show but they were complicated by people claiming identity with her around one of the same signifiers, her weight, that was used to mock her and call her “white trash.”

This study seeks to explore how online content creators engage with television stereotypes online.  Specifically, this study seeks to understand the ways in which online content that is created using a reality television show as source material supports, undermines, and interacts with the tropes of the white trash stereotype.  It also seeks to discover how online content creators participate in the construction of meaning using the show.

In particular, this study will examine a selection of Tumblr posts about Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for the ways in which online content creators uphold, undermine, and “play with” white trash stereotypes. The goal is to gain insight into online content creators’ participation in television culture and its use of the white trash stereotype as well as into how they use Tumblr to communicate. This research uses discourse analysis to examine the Tumblr content created with, around, and about the show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

In seeking to explore this phenomenon, the study addresses the following research questions: How do Tumblr users use Here Comes Honey Boo Boo in discourse explicitly and implicity about race, class, gender, sexuality, and geography?  What are these discourses?  How do these discourses adopt, negotiate, or resist common U.S. stereotypes of “white trash” and “rednecks?” How does the online audience’s role as a secondary content creator change meaning and discourse around and about the show?  Honey Boo Boo represents a unique intersection of poor, white, fat, southern, LGBT-allied, and female-dominated social actors, positioning the show along the power axes respectively of class, race, weight, geography, sexuality, and gender.  This dissertation attempts to understand Tumblr discourse about the show through the framework of intersectional theory. Intersectional theory assumes that social categories of race, class, and gender are intertwined and together constitute identity and describe power relationships. How do these axes of power interact in online discourse?  The study is an attempt to understand the online content creator’s role in creating meaning around a show that relies heavily on negative stereotypes.

Although Here Comes Honey Boo Boo debuted only two years ago, it has already been the subject of scholarly interest.  As a popular reality television show dependent on stereotypes of rural Southerners, it has offered scholars rich ground to explore those stereotypes.  Bevie Tyo examined the redneck stereotype within the show, doing a cultural value analysis of the problematic representation of the main characters and noting that the show was constructed to use those stereotypes for entertainment.[3]  Similarly, Ariel Miller did a quantitative content analysis of the show, alongside Duck Dynasty and Buckwild, to explore the construction of Southern identity on reality television and the frequency with which the shows used stereotypes.[4]  Unsurprisingly, these studies showed heavy reliance on negative stereotypes about “rednecks” and “white trash.”

But scholarship on the show has not exclusively focused on the negatives.  Scholars like Geoffrey Parkes and May Friedman have pushed back against a simplistic understanding of the show as merely exploitative of Southern stereotypes, suggesting instead that it also serves as a site of resistance.[5]  The show includes radical acceptance of fat bodies, female empowerment, and queer individuals in addition to the stereotypes about rednecks.  The show also offers resistance to issues of class expectations and, in that way, serves, at least partially, as a site of resistance against the Southern stereotypes it uses.[6]

Closer to this study’s interest, Andre Cavalcante has done a discourse analysis of the Facebook fan page of the show.[7]  Reality television and social media have been intertwined over the past decade. For example, reality television is dependent on social media for generating interest and in voting on competition shows, and social media frequently focuses on television as a source of conversation topic.  Social media has allowed audiences to interact much more closely with television while reality television has encouraged a sense of intimacy for audiences. These two phenomena have led to the creation of fascinating sites of discourse around reality shows.[8]  The tension between the resistance that Parkes and Freidman note and the dependency on exploitative stereotypes that Tyo and Miller observe is revealed in the attitudes and language used by the commenters on the Facebook page.[9]  Audiences use “the Thompson family and their show as reasons to debate the ‘proper’ and moral parameters of self, family, society and nation.”[10]

This intersection between stereotypes, power structures, identity formation, mass media, social media, reality television, and queer intersectional feminism is exactly where I want to situate my research. These studies help problematize the idea of representation issues in television, especially the relationship between what is presented on screen as the reality of the people’s lives and “actual reality,” and add to the body of feminist and critical television studies.  Cavalcante even extends this research into online social media spaces, where there has been less analysis of stereotypes, by locating his discourse analysis in the medium of Facebook. This study wishes to add to that scholarship by focusing on an area of social media that has been under-studied—Tumblr and the image macro—and that offers new insights into the stereotypes and resistance to cultural expectations while also offering insight into the cutting edge of online communications.



[1] Alison F. Slade, Amber J. Narro, and Burton P. Buchanan, eds., Reality Television: Oddities of Culture (Lexington Books, 2014), vii.

[2] “Chasingapril,” accessed May 12, 2014, http://aprilloveslies.tumblr.com/post/38232075183/http-whrt-it-rjyqn0; “Community Post: 25 Crazy Mama June GIFs,” BuzzFeed Community, October 2, 2012, http://www.buzzfeed.com/hyvesredactie/25-crazy-mama-june-gifs-7j5s.

[3] Bevie Tyo, “Coming to Appreciate the Redneck Stereotype: A Value Analysis of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (California Polytechnic State University, 2013), http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1144&context=comssp.

[4] Ariel Miller, “The Construction of Southern Identity Through Reality TV: A Content Analysis of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Buckwild,” Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 4, no. 2 (2013), http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/824/4/the-construction-of-southern-identity-through-reality-tv-a-content-analysis-of-here-comes-honey-boo-boo-duck-dynasty-and-buckwild.

[5] May Friedman, “Here Comes a Lot of Judgment: Honey Boo Boo as a Site of Reclamation and Resistance,” The Journal of Popular Television 2, no. 1 (April 1, 2014): 77–95, doi:10.1386/jptv.2.1.77_1; Geoff Parkes, “He’s Gonna Be a Little Gay: Redneckognising the Queer American Family in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” in Proceedings of the 4th Annual International Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference (PopCAANZ 2013) (University of Southern Queensland, 2013), 138–46, http://eprints.usq.edu.au/23932/.

[6] Friedman, “Here Comes a Lot of Judgment.”

[7] Andre Cavalcante, “You Better ‘Redneckognize’!: Deploying the Discourses of Realness, Social Defiance, and Happiness to Defend Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Facebook,” in Reality Television: Oddities of Culture, ed. Alison F. Slade, Amber J. Narro, and Burton P. Buchanan (Lexington Books, 2014).

[8] Beverley Skeggs and Helen Wood, “The Labour of Transformation and Circuits of Value ‘around’reality Television,” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 22, no. 4 (2008): 565.

[9] Cavalcante, “You Better ‘Redneckognize’!: Deploying the Discourses of Realness, Social Defiance, and Happiness to Defend Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Facebook.”

[10] Ibid., 42.

Interview with Board Game Designer Justin Waggle

Lineage ArtworkSome friends of mine from the before times when I lived in Los Angeles have been working on a board game for several years and are doing a Kickstarter to raise money for it.  They’ve already raised over $13,000 and have just over three weeks to raise the rest of what they need to do a big printing.  The nice thing is that, at the Purple Belt level, you’re essentially just buying the game ahead of time so they can produce it for you at a very reasonable cost.  The artwork alone is worth the purchase price, it’s gorgeous.

The game is called Lineage and it is interesting in a lot of ways, not least of all because you can learn about Eastern philosophy from it.  I’ve played many a board game with these fellows and they know what they’re about.  It’s gotten a couple of reviews, and they’ve been very positive.

I reached out to Justin Waggle to ask him some questions about designing games and this game in particular.  Enjoy.  I don’t miss LA, but I do miss the awesome people there.

1. Give me the briefest pitch of the game.

Lineage is an abstract strategy game for 2-6 players that plays in about 60 minutes. LINEAGE is deeply rooted in Chinese philosophy and carries with it the concepts of yin and yang, the four seasons, chi (energy), and the eight directions.

It’s most like these other games, ranked in order of similarity:

1) Settlers of Catan (resource exchange)
2) Tsuro (path finding)
3) Agricola (dealing with seasons and accumulation)
4) Pandemic (cooperation)
5) Arkham Horror (changing circumstances)

 

2. Who are you, what’s your background?

Rick Robinson and I started a board game company called Gray Wolf Games. We are both active members of the gaming, web series, and theatre communities while still managing to hold on to those dreaded day jobs (I am a Software Engineer and Rick is a Technical Writer).

 

3. Did you invent this game on your own?  What was the process of making it like?

I developed this game based on my ongoing training in Tai Chi and Kung Fu. It has taken three years to get it to this point. The game went through many permutations including combat dice, spinners, and directional markers (all of which were cut to simplify and streamline the game). Rick was instrumental in organizing play tests and discussing ideas. I took on the arduous task of documenting every change in thirty nine different versions of the rules. If not for my passionate interest in martial arts AND gaming, I don’t know if I would have persevered.

 

4. How’s the fundraising going?  It seems like a lot of money to make a game, is it?  Are there other things people can do to support you other than give money?  What happens if you don’t get all the money?

We are currently 33% funded. That’s just over 13K of 40K with 24 days left. In order to make the games affordable for everyone, we need to order 2000 copies. At that quantity, we are able to offer the game at $39 and if you contribute at the level, you will receive a copy of the game. If we don’t make it to 40K by the end of the month, we don’t get a penny. That’s the pressure cooker that is Kickstarter! If you’re not in a position to donate, sharing our Kickstarter link really helps us. We’re trying to reach those people that have an interest in board games or an interest in martial arts and hopefully those magic crossovers like me that love both.

Lineage Artwork

5. Give me the slightly longer pitch of the game. (How it works, how many players, how long it takes, all that jazz)

Our new tag line (I just invented it): “Think like a Martial Artist.”

In this tabletop adventure, masters secretly train students to become martial arts lineage holders, while an ambitious new Emperor tries to unify his people under one banner. Leap into the world of LINEAGE and sharpen your skills with new strategies and ever-changing circumstances.

Number of Players: 2-6 players
Age Range: 12 and up
Setup Time: Less than 10 minutes
Game Length: 20 minutes per player
Random Chance: Some
Skills Required: Strategic thought, tactics, cooperation

 

6. OK, so it seems really complicated to my untrained eyes, will someone who is impatient and not familiar with a lot of games be able to figure this out?

The actual game play is rather simple. Each player gets two pieces. Every turn, players move one of these pieces up to three spaces. The students are trying to collect five cards by visiting masters around the board and the masters are trying to hold onto their lineage. If they can accomplish these tasks and get to the center tile, they win. One player controls the Emperor and General and tries to place stones in the four corners of the board.

Throughout the game, the seasons changes, spaces become blocked or unblocked, and glass stones (chi) can be used to increase your movement. Every move you make creates a ripple effect through the game that effects all of the players. That’s where the conflict appears and strategic thinking comes into play.

 

7. Will I learn martial arts from the game?

Will you be able to master the legendary five animals of Kung Fu from playing this board game? No. You will, however, be introduced to a number of concepts that have a direct influence on real life combat situations. There’s a push and pull aspect to the game taken directly from Tai Chi’s “Push Hands”. The circle, triangle, and square are the basic building blocks of every move in martial arts. In Kung Fu class we often talk about dealing multiple assailants. This game gives you a bird’s eye view of those situations. The concept of chi (energy) is really just another way of talking about proper structure and application of force. Knowing when to fight and when to cooperate is a big lesson built into the game. LINEAGE might inspire you to take another look at martial arts (I hope it does).

 

8. Will I learn eastern philosophy from the game?  Could I justify making my undergrad philosophy class play it when we talk about Taoism?

I would love it if this game was used to teach undergrads. Just send me a picture so I can I can laugh my ass off. That would be a dream class for me. There’s a famous quote from Taoism that states, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” Taoism is all about going along with the natural order of things. It’s not about belief. It’s about experience. The game shows the changing seasons, changing terrain, changing chi (energy). It gives you the Yin aspect in the student and the Yang aspect in the Master. It’s a constant balancing act. You have a goal but if you go about it in a way that doesn’t respect the current circumstances of the board the you will most likely fail to accomplish it. It’s a re-training or reintegration of certain thought patterns. Hell yeah teach it to college kids. Remind them of the real world outside the fish bowl of college.

Lineage Artwork

9. WTF is sacred geometry?  Are you trying to convert me to Buddhism or something?  It’s an atheist site, we’re very suspicious.

I went to all boys Catholic school growing up so I know all about the pressure to believe and to conform. So did Rick. Sacred geometry is really just an indication that we are all intrinsically connected. From the smallest cell to the Milky Way Galaxy, the mathematics of life give us a road map to better understanding ourselves. One concept that my teacher Sijo Carl Totton likes to remind me of is that because we are all connected (through the air we breathe, through direct and indirect contact, through our intentions), we are ultimately responsible for everything that comes into our life. With our thoughts we make the world. Now who said that? Ha ha ha! I consider myself a Taoist but I’m really a dabbler and I’m always willing to question my beliefs. Google sacred geometry and trip out!

 

10. Let’s say I’m really not interested in board games where I have to learn things, can I enjoy this game just on a strictly it’s fun to game level?

I guarantee you will be able to understand this game in a few turns. I hate “educational” games because they are typically unoriginal and hit you over the head with some “lesson”. LINEAGE comes from deep philosophy but just like life, it’s up to you how deep you want to go! I personally love getting together with folks and using my devious mind to come up with dastardly moves. It’s fun! The great thing about LINEAGE is that you get to come up with clever ways to block other players and run away with victory. If you like to compete, this is great. If you like to socialize, this is great. It’s the type of game that changes according to the players.

 

11. Dude, the artwork.  I realize this isn’t a question, but damn it’s beautiful.

Thank you very much! I worked with an artist from China named Yan Li to develop the paintings. She also created the animals and chi types in the style of traditional Chinese family seals. The prototypes are very expensive to make. That’s why I only have 6 currently and why we’re trying to get the bulk discount.

 

12. Finally, will I get an actual purple belt for buying the game through Kickstarter?

After playing it, you may very well be inspired to take Kenpo or Kung Fu and earn your purple belt/sash. I’ll talk to my teacher and see we can work out some kind of outreach program for beltless people. In the meantime, keep holding onto your pants!

Lineage Artwork

Ashley’s 2014 Oscar’s Predictions

oscars_leadAs you may or may not know, I get screeners every year, so I usually see most of the nominated movies.  Here are my predictions and opinions on the categories for this year (except the shorts).

EDIT: I missed 3 out of 21, most disappointingly, The Act of Killing did not win Documentary Feature.

 

BEST PICTURE

“American Hustle”

“Captain Phillips”

“Dallas Buyers Club”

“Gravity”

“Her”

“Nebraska”

“Philomena”

“12 Years a Slave”

“The Wolf of Wall Street”

 

WILL WIN: “12 Years a Slave”

SHOULD WIN: “Gravity”

 

DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”

Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”

David O. Russell, “American Hustle”

Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

 

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”

SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”

 

ACTOR

Christian Bale, “American Hustle”

Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

 

WILL WIN: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

 

ACTRESS

Amy Adams, “American Hustle”

Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”

Judi Dench, “Philomena”

Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

 

WILL WIN: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

SHOULD WIN: I have no feelings on this matter

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”

Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”

Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”

Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

 

WILL WIN: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

SHOULD WIN: I have no feelings on this matter

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”

Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”

June Squibb, “Nebraska”

 

WILL WIN: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

SHOULD WIN: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

 

 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“Before Midnight,” Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

“Captain Phillips,” Billy Ray

“Philomena,” Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

“12 Years a Slave,” John Ridley

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” Terence Winter

 

WILL WIN: ”12 Years a Slave,” John Ridley

SHOULD WIN: ”12 Years a Slave,” John Ridley

 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“American Hustle,” Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

“Blue Jasmine,” Woody Allen

“Dallas Buyers Club,” Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

“Her,” Spike Jonze

“Nebraska,” Bob Nelson

 

WILL WIN: American Hustle,” Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

SHOULD WIN: “American Hustle,” Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“The Act of Killing”

“Cutie and the Boxer”

“Dirty Wars”

“The Square”

“20 Feet From Stardom”

 

WILL WIN: “The Act of Killing”

SHOULD WIN: “The Act of Killing”

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“The Broken Circle Breakdown”

“The Great Beauty”

“The Hunt”

“The Missing Picture”

“Omar”

 

WILL WIN: “The Great Beauty”

SHOULD WIN: I have no feelings on this matter

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“The Grandmaster,” Philippe Le Sourd

“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel

“Nebraska,” Phedon Papamichael

“Prisoners,” Roger A. Deakins

 

WILL WIN: “Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki

SHOULD WIN: “Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki

 

COSTUME DESIGN

“American Hustle,” Michael Wilkinson

“The Grandmaster,” William Chang Suk Ping

“The Great Gatsby,” Catherine Martin

“The Invisible Woman,” Michael O’Connor

“12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

 

WILL WIN: “12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

SHOULD WIN: “12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

 

 

ANIMATED FEATURE

“The Croods”

“Despicable Me 2”

“Ernest & Celestine”

“Frozen”

“The Wind Rises”

 

WILL WIN: “Frozen”

SHOULD WIN: “Frozen”

 

EDITING

“American Hustle,” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten

“Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse

“Dallas Buyers Club,” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa

“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

“12 Years a Slave,” Joe Walker

 

WILL WIN: “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

SHOULD WIN: “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” Stephen Prouty

“The Lone Ranger,” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

 

WILL WIN: “Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

SHOULD WIN: “Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

 

ORIGINAL SONG

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams

“Let It Go” from “Frozen,” music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

“The Moon Song” from “Her,” music by Karen O; lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze

“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, lyrics by Paul Hewson

 

WILL WIN: “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

SHOULD WIN: “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

 

 

ORIGINAL SCORE

“The Book Thief,” John Williams

“Gravity,” Stephen Price

“Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett

“Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat

“Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman

 

WILL WIN: “Gravity,” Stephen Price

SHOULD WIN: I have no feelings on this matter

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“American Hustle,” production design: Judy Becker; set decoration: Heather Loeffler

“Gravity,” production design: Andy Nicholson; set decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard

“The Great Gatsby,” production design: Catherine Martin; set decoration: Beverley Dunn

“Her,” production design: K.K. Barrett; set decoration: Gene Serdena

“12 Years a Slave,” production design: Adam Stockhausen; set decoration: Alice Baker.

 

WILL WIN: “The Great Gatsby,” production design: Catherine Martin; set decoration: Beverley Dunn

SHOULD WIN: “American Hustle,” production design: Judy Becker; set decoration: Heather Loeffler

 

SOUND EDITING

“All Is Lost,” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns

“Captain Phillips,” Oliver Tarney

“Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Brent Burge and Chris Ward

“Lone Survivor,” Wylie Stateman

 

WILL WIN: “Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle

SHOULD WIN: “Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle

 

SOUND MIXING

“Captain Phillips,” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro

“Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

“Lone Survivor,” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

 

WILL WIN: “Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

SHOULD WIN: “Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

 

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds

“Iron Man 3,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

“The Lone Ranger,” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

 

WILL WIN: “Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould

SHOULD WIN: “Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould

 

As for the shorts, I have no idea.

How to make that cheap plastic wig look good

Just after last Halloween I got a couple $5 wigs from the post-Halloween clearance sale.  One of them was rainbow, which I was very excited about, but the fact that it was $5 was pretty obvious.  It was bent from being in a package and impossible to brush and generally not very cute.  It looked nothing like the picture.

Fantasy & Reality

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This wig is not even the same colors.  It’s clearly been cut and also styled some way that made it pastel.  And there’s a whole pink layer that doesn’t even appear to be visible here.

Suffice to say, not accurate advertising.  You can see how sketchy it looks on the sides in the picture of me, just bent and weird.  With a hat on and me twisting it to the side I could get a decent photo, but it was way too ratty to wear, which was too bad because I quite liked the colors.  I gave up on it, but not quite enough to throw it away.

Then I got invited to the SC Pride Sweetheart Gala for Valentine’s and I felt like it would be criminal not to try to make the wig work, so I did some research and, with my short amount of time, fixed it up to the point that people were asking if it was my real hair.  There are other methods (boiling or blowdrying on low with plastic curlers), but this is what I did.

1. Wash the wig — I used All laundry detergent and lukewarm water.  Fill the bathtub a couple inches with a bit of detergent, let the wig sit in the soapy water for a minute.  Rinse in lukewarm water.  Smoosh in a towel to get excess water.

2. Fabric Softener — I stole a Bounce dryer sheet from my boyfriend and just rubbed it through the damp wig, trying to get every strand.

3. Towel dry more, remove big snarls with your fingers, and then hang to dry.  The cap will take a while to get semi-dry.  I let it dry for 4-5 hours before the next step.

4.  The fabric softener made it much easier to comb through the hair and it was quite soft, but it didn’t fix the weird bends in the hair. The wig and the internet tells you not to use curling irons on synthetic wigs, but I only had about 4 hours until the Gala, so I was willing to experiment.  The wig was still slightly damp from the fabric softener.  I have a Conair Instant 1″ Iron with 25 heat settings — the highest is 380, I don’t  know what the lowest one is in degrees — but I put it on the lowest setting of 1.  It was too hot to leave my fingers on, but didn’t burn me if I touched it briefly.

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5. Then I curled it two layers of hair tracks at a time — or in five layers, excluding the bangs, which I dealt with separately.  The way I curl is the front inch of hair is curled away from the face, Farrah Fawcett style, and the rest of the hair is parted in the middle and curled towards the face.  Bigger curling iron gives you wavy hair rather than ringlets, if that’s how you want to go.

THIS IS A SLOW PROCESS.  It took me three episodes of Doctor Who to do the whole wig.

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I left the curler on for a bit longer than I would my normal hair, until the hair felt hot through, always checking to makes sure it didn’t feel melty, but it never did.  Lots of places recommend you clip the curls to let them set, but I let them cool hanging down because I wanted more of a wavy effect than a very curly one.  It still set quite curly.  Much easier to curl than real hair.

The really nice thing about the curls is that they revealed some variations in the color that just weren’t apparent in the wig as it was.  It also made the hair look much softer and less frayed at the ends. (These pics are next day, after having worn it for 5 hours, including for some dancing — the curls held well).

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6. Style the bangs when you’ve put the wig on your head.  There’s too much guesswork, even if you’ve got a fake head to style on.  The long bangs on this were nice because they hid my hair up front and allowed me to pull back the hair in bobby pins to reveal the layers better, and get the unflattering green off my face.

7. Go be fabulous and if someone asks if it’s your hair be like, “I own it, so yeah!”

Before and After

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Women Protagonists in YA: A List and Resources

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This is a work in progress, any feedback from the audience/readers will be incorporated into the list.  I am especially interested in finding any good works about female friendship.  Here is a wonderful tumblr devoted to diversity in YA.  Here is a wonderfully comprehensive list of protagonists of color in YA and another specifically looking at SF and fantasy.

Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor

I cannot recommend this book enough.  It deals with being an outsider on multiple levels — because of looks, because of talents, because of being a girl in a patriarchal society, and because of culture.  It’s about an albino girl in Nigeria, who was born in America and spent years there before being brought back to Nigeria with her family.  She discovers that she has magic powers.  Imagine Harry Potter, but based entirely on Nigerian culture.  I’ve not read Nnedi Okorafor’s other work, but I am going to as soon as I can.  The beautiful art above is from the cover of this novel.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

While this book does have a love triangle in it, it is otherwise a fantastic dystopian novel with a female lead.  Katniss is smart and driven by her desire to help her family and herself.  She can be quite selfish and uninterested in the feelings of others.  These flaws make her far more interesting than many women in YA novels and far from a passive participant in the events.  She is also written with olive skin and dark hair, which many interpret as being a person of color but, at the very least, is resistant to the blonde haired, blue eyed tradition.

His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman

These books are really fascinating from an atheist perspective, but also just a really good fantasy story.  The lead character is a pre-pubescent girl who is an expert liar.  Her journey is fascinating.  The book is also notable for the importance and fundamental goodness of the Gyptian people (based on Gypsies) to the storyline.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an incredible book about a girl who is outcast from her high school because she called the cops when she was at a party.  She called the cops because she had been raped, but she is unable to talk about it.  In fact, she doesn’t speak much at all.  The book is about her coping with what happened to her and learning to be herself again.  It was made into a completely watchable movie starring Kristen Stewart pre-Twilight.

Princess Academy – Shannon Hale

I am a sucker for books about princesses, especially if they’re princesses who buck the trend and do something totally unusual like have opinions and fight battles and refuse to get married.  The lead character of this book is a young woman who feels like an outcast and, in the end, does not want the prince and doesn’t get him.  The book is really about the importance of education for women and the role of one’s home and family.

Tiffany Aching Series – Terry Pratchett

My reviews of Tiffany Aching books are here and here.  I love Terry Pratchett, I hope some day to write something I enjoy as much as Terry Pratchett books.  Tiffany Aching is a marvelous lead.  Her first book is the most compelling, but I really wish that someone would turn Tiffany Aching into a TV series.  It’s like a pre-teen Buffy.

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

My review from a couple years ago: Third in the Discworld series and by far my favorite of them all.  This introduces Granny Weatherwax, who is my favorite Pratchett character, followed closely by Death.  Pratchett’s greatest skill as a writer, in my opinion, is that none of his characters are particularly attractive and they all have terrible flaws, but you like them and they never get over their flaws.  People don’t become pretty, or overcome their inherent selfishness or cowardice, they’re just regular people.

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh

This is one of my favorite books. She also seems to be on the spectrum as well — she’s very into routine and order and not good at empathizing with others.  I tried to watch the movie version again recently and was unable to get through it, so stick to the book I think.  Many people read Harriet and her friends as queer as well.  I personally see far more traits of autism than indications of any kind of sexuality.

Enchanted Forest Chronicles – Patricia C. Wrede

This is a brilliant series about a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess and has no interest in boring princes trying to rescue her.  She runs away to live with a dragon because that’s much more interesting.  And the dragons are much more into gender equality than humans, teaching some interesting lessons about the roles of men and women.

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Despite the terrible movie, the book is actually a really good examination of societal expectations of women.  I really like Gail Carson Levine’s writing style, but her books are fairly short on people of color.

Coraline – Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman, and the character of Coraline is great.  The story is not my favorite, I thought The Graveyard Book, which was similar in tone, was a much better read.  If you like YA horror, however, you can’t get a much better character than Coraline.

 

On My To-Read

Divergent – Veronica Roth

Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Books by Tamora Pierce, not sure which

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

Ash – Malinda Lo

Liar – Justine Larbalestier

Chaos – Nalo Hopkinson

Half-World - Hiromi Goto

Eon – Alison Goodman

Book of 1000 Days – Shannon Hale

Tonight at 7PM: The Ashley F Miller Show Episode 5

Delicious

Delicious

I feel like 5 episodes makes it seem legit.  A show in its own right, standing on two feet.  No longer a total babe in the woods, maybe more of a toddler.

Join me, Jason Thibeault of Lousy Canuck, and Heina Dadabhoy of Skepchick as we talk:

Politics: Rape in Dubai
Media: Comic Con — women and minorities in geek culture (politics of cosplay?)
Guest Choice: FreethoughtBlogs Conference and the future of online conferences

You can RSVP to the “event” here and, when the hangout is on-air, it should send you a link of the YouTube page, or just come back here at 7 and the YouTube link will be up.

This is filmed in front of a live internet audience — if you’ve got input feel free to get in touch before or during the show by commenting here, on youtube, or on the event page.

It will also be edited and released as a podcast.

Podcast website: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/webpage

Tonight at 7PM: The Ashley F Miller Show Episode 4

Join me, Ian Cromwell of Crommunist Manifesto, and Andrew Tripp of Considered Exclamations and More than Men as we talk:

Politics: The Zimmerman verdict

Media: Ender’s Game and the boycott

Guest choice: Representation issues in YA Lit.

You can RSVP to the “event” here and, when the hangout is on-air, it should send you a link of the YouTube page, or just come back here at 7 and the YouTube link will be up.

This is filmed in front of a live internet audience — if you’ve got input feel free to get in touch before or during the show by commenting here, on youtube, or on the event page.

It will also be edited and released as a podcast.

Podcast website: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/webpage

Podcast RSS: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/rss

Podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ashley-f-miller-show/id666564480