I’d Rather Read Than Watch

Once upon a time if you wanted to put any content on the Internet, you had to write it out or make a picture of it. Text and basic graphics was all that the computers and net infrastructure could handle, but that was okay. Remember setting up your own personal website? Words, and the thoughts behind them, out there for everyone to see, and it was good. If there were folks who weren’t quite as capable communicating through the written word, well, that was alright, because you could always skim through what they’d written and get the basic gist of what they were trying to say.

Then came blogs. Blogs made it easier to get your message out, to let people know what you were up to. The blog format meant you didn’t have to learn HTML anymore, you just typed your stuff into a box and hit “publish”. Still, it was text, and pictures, and graphics. Totally visual, and totally still good.

Somewhere after that came podcasts. Podcasts were recorded programs that you downloaded off the net, loaded onto your iPod or whatever device or software you used to play them, and then you’d listen to them. Suddenly, those of us who are very visual started feeling left out a bit. Most people are not very talented speakers, and I find poor speakers absolutely torturous to listen to. There’s no skimming, no skipping through to pick out the meat of the communications. You’re stuck, held hostage, at the mercy of every “um” or “uhh” or other aggravating verbal tic. Even when there are no verbal fillers, there’s still the quality of the actual material, and in my mind disordered speaking is much harder to listen to than disordered writing is to read. I can go back and reread something if the message didn’t get through the first time or get clarification if something seems contradictory, but you can’t do that if you’re just listening to someone talk.

Then came the ultimate in anti-reader technology: YouTube. Sure, for a long time, people just posted cute cat videos and videos of people falling down stairs and such. But then someone got the bright idea of pointing a camera at themselves and just talking about something. Just…talking. It’s called vlogging, like blogging but with a v, get it? And it’s horrible (to me). I can’t stand listening to someone droning on while staring at their face. Oh, sure, many of the better vloggers use editing to add some nice transitional graphics, and use camera cuts to improve the static quality of just filming themselves while talking, but all the problems with podcasts apply.

I’ll fully admit that most of the problem is at my end. Videos are enormously popular, and more and more bloggers I follow are at least dipping a toe into the water of podcasts or videos. Hell, I may at some point myself give it a try, although it’s not likely. But I’m a reader. I prefer words on a page. Since I’m a very fast reader, I’ve always thought that part of the problem is that I can read something much faster than someone can read it to me. Even in the work world, I’ve always preferred to get a memo or a report rather than have someone sit across from my desk and tell me about something. And while I understand that good writing is hard for most people and takes them much more time than just speaking, it’s worth it in my opinion for the permanence and the ease of reviewing later on.

I know, I know. Get off my lawn. I’m an Old, and I understand that I’m at the Old stage where the word “newfangled” as a pejorative has actually started to creep into my vocabulary. I’ve learned and kept up with a lot of changes in technology so far, though, and I’m open minded enough to want to keep up with new stuff as it comes along. I guess my limits just come into play when talking about the difference between written and spoken communication. In my opinion, we need to continue to value the written word and not let the ease of hitting the “record” button overtake the magic of the “publish” button.

So, what’s your preference? Written? Spoken? Pantomimed by a troupe of flying monkeys who smoke unfiltered cigarettes while a chorus of sloths play background music on vuvuzelas?

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Thoughts About “Speech, Conversation, Debate, Engagement, Communication”

So hot on the heels of my rambling post yesterday about people being raging jerks on Twitter, John Scalzi has posted something about how we talk to each other that really says a lot of things I agree with.  Succinctly. Like I wish I could write.

Go read and see how much you agree with, or disagree with. Keep in mind that thanks to Scalzi’s tough moderation, Whatever is one of the few places on the Internet where you should actually read the comments. His commentariat is a smart group, and often has valuable things to add to the original thoughts.

And if you’ve never read Whatever before, you’re welcome.

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Beauty Versus Ugly

The Miss America pageant was held last night. Now, normally, that wouldn’t rate even a minor blip on my radar. In my not so humble opinion, pageants objectify women, no matter how much they try to stand on their heads to make it all about “character”. I don’t care if some contestant gives great answers to all the questions, has a 4.0 average in school and spends all her free time working for orphanages in third world countries; if she isn’t a conventionally attractive woman, she’s not going to win.

Last night, however, something happened that made me have to pay attention to this particular pageant. The winner was Miss New York, Nina Davuluri. Nina is stunning to look at, of course, as befits the winner of one of the biggest beauty pageants in the world. But Nina committed the unpardonable sin (to some) of having been born in Syracuse, New York to…*gasp*…Indian parents.

And cue the online outrage in 3…2…1… Not surprisingly, Twitter exploded.

Side note: I like Twitter, a lot. I don’t tweet much, mostly blog updates, but Twitter is a great way to get information on breaking news very quickly. It’s not always accurate information, granted, but once you start getting multiple information streams coming in, it’s fairly easy to sort the wheat from the chaff most of the time. 

So, yeah, the tweets. Apparently there are a lot of people who slept through basic civics, history and geography classes in school, and they all came out to play last night. Other sites have done a great job of collecting and posting some of these tweets, notably Jezebel,  Public Shaming, and BuzzFeed, so I’m not going to do that here. But if you think I’m exaggerating about the vileness of the tweets, by all means, go check them out.  I’ll wait here.

People were outraged that she was “a Arab”. They complained that since her heritage is Indian, she wasn’t qualified to be Miss America. Some rocket scientists even implied that she was a terrorist, and tweeted their offense that she won the pageant so close to the anniversary of 9/11.

People, in other words, acted like ignorant, racist shitweasels. Shocking, but not surprising, sadly.

Now, I don’t want to have to defend Nina from anything at all. From what I’ve seen so far, she’s got a major strike against her: She was overheard commenting on the previous Miss America, who was also Miss New York, saying that she was “fat as shit”. Body shaming does NOT fly with me, so I have a problem with this woman immediately.

But the critical tweets were rarely about her actions, or her character as displayed by those actions. Nope. What got the shitweasels good and stirred up was the fact that the new Miss America was just too brown. They immediately went into frothing rages, forgetting their geography (India is not in the Middle East), politics (India has no discernible ties to Al-Qaeda), civics (People born in this country are full-fledged American citizens with birthright citizenship thanks to the concept of jus soli), and history (Except for Native Americans, everyone is in this country thanks to their immigrant heritage!)

Even if these folks forgot all those concepts, what in the world happened to not saying horrible things about someone just because you want to say horrible things? Ok, since I’m officially an Old, I was raised with the whole “don’t say anything if you can’t say something nice” schtick. I’m not really talking about that. I’m just talking about thinking it’s not generally a good idea to just blurt out obviously crappy statements about people.

I have a theory about it. I think that the generalized use of teh intarwebs (no, it makes me chuckle to spell it like that) is so new to us as a society that even people who’ve grown up using it are still trying to get their heads wrapped around exactly how to use it. We’ve only had Internet available to the public since 1995. Facebook was founded in 2004. Twitter came along in 2006. The age of instant communication is very new. Never in history have people been able to broadcast their thoughts and ideas so quickly and so widely. Once upon a time if I or any of my acquaintances said or did something stupid, it was only known by the people who heard/saw it and the people they told. It was then, usually, forgotten about depending on the severity of the malfeasance. But now, people can display their idiocy to others far, far removed from their immediate social circle, and the display can stick around for a very long time. Our parents didn’t have that capability, and the rest of us Olds who’ve since mostly caught up still didn’t really have a handle on it well enough to guide our kids relative to this new medium. So many people are still in the phase where they think that they’re able to say whatever they want because it’s just being shouted out into cyberspace. I like to think, at least, that most of the people saying such ugly things on Twitter would never say such things directly to the person they’re talking about. Personal interaction, where you can see the reaction of someone to your speech, tends to chill at least the outward expression of hateful thoughts for most people. When you can immediately see that using racist (or sexist or ableist or any other -ist) epithets offends or hurts people, you tend not to do it as much, I believe. This doesn’t change the underlying racist (or any other -ist) thoughts and ideas, but at least it makes for more pleasant public social experiences.

Here’s the somewhat good news: there was in immediate response on Twitter protesting the protesters. It was heartening to see folks jump into the fray and post supportive messages and criticism of the knuckle-draggers. Most of the people whose tweets set off such a firestorm of condemnation from other Twitter users have since either deleted their Twitter accounts or have made them private. I like to think, because I’m the hopeless optimist and believer in the basic goodness of humanity that I am, that some of these people have been taken by surprise by the pushback to their ideas, and are rethinking their positions.

Which brings us to the concept of public shaming. I would never argue that the people we’re talking about should have been forced, by any official means, to not say the things they’ve said. Free speech is most definitely one of the most precious rights we have as Americans. Even if it’s speech I disagree with, I will never say that people shouldn’t say things with the intention that they should be somehow formally prohibited from doing so (within some constraints which I see as reasonable; see ‘fire in a crowded theater’, etc). However, I will say that people shouldn’t say things strictly from my personal opinion of social standards point of view.  It’s the difference between saying you should suffer the consequences for “bad” speech by going to jail or by having people tell you you’re a frothing, ignorant, shitweasel. These are two totally different things; public shaming is NOT censorship. You have the right to speak unimpeded by the government, but you do not have the right to speak without possible consequences.

There’s a very relevant discussion going on over at Popehat about speech and public shaming. This initial post talks specifically about the Miss America incident, with some general arguments both pro and con listed for consideration. There are also links to a couple of previous posts that have a great deal of food for thought in them. It’s worth spending some time reading the posts and the comments, I think.

My opinions and thoughts about speech on teh intarwebs is still evolving as I keep reading and researching more. But the whole kerfuffle here is a great starting point for anyone who wants to evolve a bit in relation to racist attitudes and how saying racist things on the Internet may not work out exactly as you’d planned.


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Zeroes of Cosplay

The new Syfy series Heroes of Cosplay isn’t for everyone. If you’re not into science fiction/fantasy, gaming, crafting, dressing up in costumes or just general fun and goofiness, this show definitely isn’t for you. It’s especially not for you if you prefer to watch people treating others kindly and being all around good folks.

For anyone who’s been living under a rock: The show follows several cosplayers as they create and model costumes based on geek pop culture. These costumes are displayed at “cons”, conventions of like-minded folks who get together for a few days of fun centered around said geek pop culture.

Except for some of these folks, it’s anything but fun. I’m sure there’s a good bit of reality show editing done to show us folks at their worst, because hey, that’s what we watch reality television for, right? But there’s no getting around that some of the things said are just plain ugly. Some of these people treat their significant others as just so much slave labor. Friends are a convenience, to be given up as soon as their aesthetic or craftsmanship doesn’t match your own. I started watching this show to learn more about cosplaying, expecting to find people enjoying the process of creation and self-expression. Instead, it’s a toxic mess of hypercompetitive, dysfunctional personalities who are hard at work sucking the fun out of cosplay.

Let’s give kudos to those who deserve them, first of all. There’s Jessica and Holly, who I love like the long lost daughters I never had. I can easily picture hanging out with them, playing video games, talking about our favorite movies, and practicing effects makeup techniques. Seriously, call me, you guys. I’m rarely in Cali, but we’ll make it work. I’ll bring some killer munchies and we’ll geek out, as long as you don’t mind that I’m an Old. Likewise, Chloe Dykstra, who was honestly taken aback when a group of the ‘players indulged in body shaming others. (Apparently, if you’re not shaped like a fitness model with ginormous fake boobs, then you’re not allowed to cosplay. No, it’s not my rule, just what I gathered from the conversation shown.) Chloe is all about the joy of being with like-minded people in a costume you had fun (there’s that word again!) putting together and enjoy wearing.

And there’s Jesse, the only male cosplayer featured on the show. Jesse has amazing fabrication skills, and puts together some very cool costumes. Personally, I can do without the steampunk, but I can appreciate that he obviously puts a lot of thought and effort into his gear. So far he’s been bewildered that he hasn’t won anything, but he comes across as a decent guy.

The rest of the cast? Mostly, just ugh. Where to begin? How about that no matter what position their significant others inhabit in their sphere, they treat them like full-on slave laborers. We’ve seen husbands, boyfriends, even roommates berated and abused for issues they had nothing to do with. Being a powerful woman doesn’t mean you get to walk all over your man and make him your personal drudge! It doesn’t mean you get to shriek at him like a harpy when something doesn’t go right, either. Respect goes both ways, and we sure don’t see a lot of it extended to the male counterparts of the women on this show.

Respect for others seems to be a problem all around. Monika, my most unfavorite, seems to think her mother is there simply to get in the way, and talks to her like the most spoiled of brats. Monika also tells a friend and fellow cosplayer that she’s not good enough for Monika to consider doing any kind of team costume with her, in just about those terms. Victoria acts like Jinyo is her very own sweatshop employee, isn’t at all contrite when she makes more work for him because of her bad choices, and isn’t gracious enough to give him credit when asked if she made all of her costume (Spoiler: He made just about the whole damn dress). A panel judge whose name I missed mocks competitors for losing/forgetting the number they were assigned. Yaya, the imperious queen bee of the group, always has a snarky comment about someone’s work or ability. Riki blames her husband for a badly molded costume component.

They come across badly. Really badly. And the show doesn’t make cosplaying seem like fun because of it. If it’s meant to inspire people to get involved in cosplaying, then I’m not sure it’s going to be successful. The feeling is that unless your outfit is completely 100% handmade by you and “authentic” (whatever that means in the context of fictional characters and stories!) you shouldn’t even bother to show up. What the show is, however, is a good example of how badly competition can mess up a good thing. I mean, what’s a person’s feelings worth against the possibility of WINNING?!

I’m willing to hope that the major problems are with the show itself, and not with the individuals it follows. Apparently Syfy has had problems with using still photography of some of the cosplayers without approval from or credit given to the photographers. Here’s hoping that’s indicative of a larger problem with the show, and that all these people are just badly portrayed as horrible, because I’d hate to think that a culture I’m so fond of is welcoming of this particular kind of horribleness.

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The best things on television

We don’t watch much television these days. Most of it is dreck, sure. We do give the DVR a workout with a couple of dramatic series, and I have a couple of reality shows that I wouldn’t dream of missing. There’s even a show or two I hate-watch with shameful regularity.

But honestly, the best things on television are commercials. This has been true for quite a few years as far as I’m concerned, but lately it seems like advertisers have really stepped up their game. The very best commercials tell a little story; the cream of the crop are great examples of how to pare down ideas to just their barest essentials so that you can get the whole plot out there within 15 or 30 seconds.

Now, keep in mind that I hate, hate, HATE being marketed to. I’m just one of those people who is likely to avoid buying your product if your advertising is overly intrusive, or stupid, or smacks of some sort of exploitation, or any one of a number of other problems. But the one way to get through to me is with humor. I might not be any more likely to buy the product being advertised, but I sure will remember the commercial and talk about it. And isn’t that one of the main things good advertising tries to do? Good, truly funny commercials are television gold! Even the husbeast will stop flipping past the commercials on the DVR if we notice a good commercial in there.

Here are a few recent faves:

Potato chips in a nail salon? Recipe for disaster!

Ugh. Eeek! Owwww…

Seriously?  *sigh*

And what’s probably one of my top ten EVER favorites:

I don’t think that camel will ever get old.

(Obligatory note: I have no connection whatsoever with Lays, T-Mobile, or GEICO, and none of this is to be construed as an endorsement. These are just commercials I find amusing…as always, caveat emptor!)

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Not another damn blog!

Blogging is dead, yeah? I’ve read that. You may have, too. Everyone uses the almighty social media these days to get their communication on. We Tweet, we Facebook, we Instagram…heck, we’re even Vining these days. What in the world makes me think I have anything to say that someone else hasn’t said to date? Do I really think that there’s room out there for another blog?

Well, I think there’s room for my blog, that’s for sure. And maybe, just maybe, there will be people who want to read the things I write. If so, that’s cool. We’ll chat, maybe. Talk it all over in a way that respects each other. Poke gentle fun at each other over our beliefs, walk away feeling warm and fuzzy about the connections we’ve made. But mostly I’m interested in just having a place on the wonderful intarwebs for my stuff. Despite having hung around online for more than a decade, this is my first serious attempt at putting something out there for the whole world to see. Scary! But at the same time, it feels great. I want to write about the thinks I think, and that means I need a place to put said thinks. Voila! FPLB is born.

So, what kind of posts might you find here at Fluffy Pink Lady Brainz headquarters? This very question was part of what kept me from blogging until this point: I had no idea what to write about. But I’ve finally gotten to the point where I realized that it doesn’t really matter what I write about as long as it’s something that interests me, and then it’s all good. So, just what is it that interests me? Ah, for that, you’ll have to keep reading! In all seriousness, I’m kind of an oddball amalgamation of interests. Mostly, what I hope to accomplish is to have a space where “mainstream” folks can look inside the mind of someone who could very well be their neighbor and see that just because the person next door seems to be such a nice, normal, suburbanized individual, they may hold some really radical ideas. They may be, dare I say, a closet feminist. Or an atheist. Or politically moderate with some progressive leanings. Middle America (and other places) may just discover that their neighbor, the person who waves as they drive by and brings over your mail that was delivered to their house in error, has some “weird” ideas and interests, but by golly all in all they seem like a decent person to live next to.

Cuz I’m really not so different from most people. I want a nice place to live, nice people to live near, a job that at the very least doesn’t drive me crazy and brings in a bit of income, and some entertainment that I enjoy. (I also want everyone else to have the opportunity to have those things, too, which is just crazy talk in some circles.) Just because I have a really warped and occasionally silly sense of humor doesn’t make me a bad person. Just because I believe that all people should be treated with respect doesn’t mean I’m a wild-eyed radical! Sure, there are things that make me angry, and I’m sure I’ll get around to ranting about them from time to time. There are things I believe that mark me as not really one of the average populace. Sometimes, I expect if there’s anyone out there reading that they’ll see something I put here and say “Wow, that is OUT there!” But if you met me on the street, just had a typical interaction like you might have with any stranger you meet, you would think I’m perfectly “normal”. So this is the space where hopefully maybe one or two people will read the things I write and think for just a second before they condemn another person’s choices and ideas. Perhaps, just maybe, something I write here will give someone pause before they start a knee-jerk reaction to criticize, demonize, or otherize. Hopefully they’ll think “Hey, that Fluffy Pink person thinks that same thing, and she doesn’t seem all bad…”

I’m an Old. I’m a woman. I’m a wife and a mother. I’m out there, and at the same time, I’m conventional. I think some things have changed too much in my lifetime, and others have changed too little. So this is the place for me to write about all that.

And if you choose to stay and read, welcome!

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