Thursday, September 25, 2014

Anger is Magic

“Terry Pratchett isn’t jolly, he’s angry.”

In an article for The Guardian, Neil Gaiman has spoken about his friend and co-author of their best-selling book Good Omens, Sir Terry Pratchett.

Gods. Not small ones. Source: Twitter

Sir Terry, who received his well-deserved knighthood for "services to literature" in 2009, is a comedy fantasy author best known for his Discworld series, and has probably been the biggest influence in my life. His books are works of art - brilliantly written, deathly funny, and ridiculously deep. You cannot read his works and avoid thinking, but he packages incredible life-lessons and commentaries on the world in pure, completely hysterical, entertainment.

He's also angry.

Gaiman's article addresses the widely spread myth that Pratchett is some sort of twinkling little elf. A jolly little Father Christmas. This, Gaiman explains, isn't true.

He recounts a time when Sir Terry got horribly angry. A small mistake, the decision to walk to a studio where they were meant to be interviewed, (it was further than they thought) turned into missing most of the interview, angering the radio station, and infuriating Pratchett. 

He didn't shout and scream.  His anger was silent, but it was there. Boiling, raging, he was livid.

Eventually, Gaiman tentatively suggested it was time to not be angry any more. Sir Terry's response:
Terry looked at me. He said: “Do not underestimate this anger. This anger was the engine that powered Good Omens.” I thought of the driven way that Terry wrote, and of the way that he drove the rest of us with him, and I knew that he was right.
Anyone who's read Pratchett should know immediately that he's right.

All authors tend to have a part of themselves in at least one of their characters. "Write what you know." When you think about Pratchett's most driven characters, his best ones in my opinion, they're driven by anger. Commander Vimes is constantly threatening to bubble over with rage, and Granny Weatherwax is probably the best angry feminist ever written.

It's well known she's held together by rage. Source: PJSM Prints

I'm reminded of Hogfather, where death's granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, is a governess. One of her charges, a six year old girl, mentions advice Susan gave to her on how to deal with fear.
"Susan says don't get afraid, get angry."

It's advice I've given my own children, with mixed results, but I never fully realized it's advice from Sir Terry given to us. I never realized it's how he views anger as something worth having, worth cultivating, and something that can be harnessed and used.

I knew his characters were often angry, but I never realized he didn't consider anger a flaw.

I think again of Granny Weatherwax, a character I love and strongly identify with in a 'I can never be that amazing but I do have the same flaws' kinda way, and something she said in Lords and Ladies that has always stuck with me, one of the first scenes that made me realize how much I can empathize with her,
“When you're lonely, and people around you seem too stupid for words, and the world is full of secrets that no one'll tell you . . . ” 
“Are you reading my mind?” 
“Yours?” Granny's attention snapped back, and her voice lost its distant quality. “Hah!"
I always knew Granny had a willpower of iron, and Commander Vimes, and Terry Pratchett. I've always known it's their best quality. I've just never fully understood what drives that willpower.

It's the anger.

And something clicks. I'm angry as well.

This is often mentioned as something I should be ashamed of, but the only shame I feel is when I use my anger badly, when I don’t harness it.

I don't feel ashamed of being angry, not when my anger is justified. 

Oh, I'm scolded for my anger many times, reminded that anything is better than being angry. 

I'm often told, (by people I usually neither respect nor care to be anything like) that I should learn how to ignore things that bother me, and let injustices and cruelty carry on. I must learn to shut my eyes and ears like others, who merrily spend their lives having free-spirited fun and carefully ignoring anything and everything that might cause them to feel a bit upset about the world and those in it. 

Don't look at it. Don't challenge it. Don't fight it. Quietly ignore it. Always avoid conflict at any costs. Just have fun. Just focus on good vibes. "Fit in or fuck off." Do not, whatever you do, be angry.

You know what? Fuck that.

As Neil Gaiman says,
"That anger, it seems to me, is about Terry’s underlying sense of what is fair and what is not. It is that sense of fairness that underlies Terry’s work and his writing, and it’s what drove him from school to journalism to the press office of the South Western Electricity Board to the position of being one of the best-loved and bestselling writers in the world."
It's ok to be angry. It's natural to be angry. It's good to be angry. The important thing is how you harness and use that anger.

My anger has helped me every step of my life.

Yes, often I haven't used it well, but without my anger, I probably wouldn't be who I am today.

I wouldn't have done any of the things that I'm proud of. I would be this sad and meek little girl, quietly keeping my head down and my nose clean, and seeking approval from people I have no reason to respect or even like.

"Look at how much trouble I'm not causing. Look at how good I am at accepting bullshit. Look at how many waves I'm not making. Please like me."

That doesn't mean I don't think there's anything in the negative stigma surrounding anger. Anger unharnessed can be horribly destructive.

Terry Pratchett taught me how to use fantasy to understand reality. He taught me how stories are used to explain how things really work. And here, I realize, is an analogy:

Anger is magic.

In most fantasy, intelligence and willpower are the two attributes that are the most important for magic. Magic is the ability to create, and to change.

Almost always, the possessor of magic is a danger to herself and others until she learns how to control that magic.

Bring in anger, and it all makes sense.

Harnessed anger can be used to generate willpower. Combine willpower with intelligence and you have the ability to create and change.

You can create art, art that matters. You can change the world. That's sure as hell what Sir Terry Pratchett does with his anger.

But if you never learn to harness and control that anger...

"Boom" Source: Pixabay

Magic-users are often stigmatized, because of the destruction they can cause. There are those who always feel the best way to control magic-users is to take away or suppress their magic.

For example, in the Dragon Age games, sometimes it's decided that a mage's magic needs to be removed completely by making them "Tranquil".



"Don't be angry. Anger is bad."

Maybe that's why it's always so important, in every universe from Discworld to Harry Potter, for magic-users to learn or be taught how to control and use their magic.

It's a pretty cool thought, and one I like quite a bit.

If you want to, follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vivian James: 4chan's ironic daughter

So somewhere between trying to convince themselves that an actual feminism in gaming conspiracy actually exists, and gleefully taking part in a crime that violates women's right to privacy and consent, 4chan* has given birth to a daughter.

It all started when they decided to fund a project by feminist group The Fine Young Capitalists that sponsors female-created video games. As part this initiative's greatest sponsor, 4chan got to design a whole character for The Fine Young Capitalists. A female character.

Thus, Vivian James was born.

Vivian James is not like 4chan's usual creations when they design something female.

She is not reduced to her value as a sex object, not shoved into uncomfortably tight and revealing clothing and compromising positions, and not given boobs and expected to perform gymnastics that would put serious and horrible strain on her back.

She shuffles around in socks, jeans and a baggy tracksuit top, and she's just, as described by one of 4chan's posters, "an average female gamer".

Also, her name is a play on the words "Video Games"

Since her design, 4chan have been as pleased and proud as any parent. I mean, apart from the occasional leering and wanting to see her drawn in pornographic ways, it's almost bizarrely sweet.

4chan has finally mustered up some apparent genuine affection and even respect for a gamer girl. I mean, a fake gamer girl (literally), a gamer girl of their own creation, a gamer girl who they can absolutely control, but a gamer girl nonetheless.

It's almost cruel to point out to them the fact that all parents find out sooner or later: Your children will not necessarily parrot your views and agree with your ways. They're probably going to rebel. Most children question and turn on their parents sooner or later.

And you've gone and made yourselves a teenager.

Fact is, the words "I hate you!" and the slamming of doors are probably in your future.

Yes yes, I know Vivian James is a fictional character created by 4chan and therefore theoretically only 4chan get to say what she does and does not hate, but the thing is, 4chan's own description of Vivian's personality kinda condemns themselves:


"Loathes dishonesty and hypocrisy". That's great. What they're trying to say is, Vivian James loathes anyone who 4chan has (on shaky evidence at best and outright lies at worst) decided is "dishonest and hypocritical".

What they've gone and said is, Vivian James hates 4chan.

See, 4chan isn't exactly known for honesty, but the extra irony here is how much dishonesty and hypocrisy has gone into Vivian's own creation.

Yes, they funded a feminist project, but it's 4chan, so their reasons are entirely self-serving and ultimately another attempt to discredit feminism.

Awhile ago, claims were made that Zoe Quinn, a woman 4chan utterly despises apparently for daring to exist while being female, a feminist, and a gamer at the same time,  tried to sabotage feminist group The Fine Young Capitalists. (These claims have since been debunked by The Fine Young Capitalists themselves, but no one attacking Quinn seems overly concerned about facts right now so I guess that's besides the point.)

4chan, motivated by making Quinn and SJW's (Social Justice Warriors. Mostly they mean feminists. It might sound like it's a good thing to anyone who thinks social justice is, you know, a good thing, but they fully intend it as an insult) look like hypocrites, while making themselves look good, decided to support 'The Fine Young Capitalists' project. Oh, and to cause "asshurt".

Some quotes:

"We will look good if we sponsor this."

"We'll be PR untouchable."


Supporting a project to give an inaccurate impression. Huh, that's almost dishonest. And supporting feminists only to ultimately discredit feminists?

And then calling other people dishonest and hypocritical?

Isn't that just a tad hypocritical?

Vivian's own design is not born of any noble belief than female gamers and females in games deserve to be treated with more respect and depicted better. They just wanted to troll people.


And so Vivian is, as Vice pointed out, born from the "muck of cynicism and spite".

But that's OK.

It's OK to have horrible parents. It's OK to be born under horrible circumstances. None of that matters. What matters, is what you become.

There are, of course, images like this one of Vivian sounding and acting exactly like her father. No major surprises there. Kids do, at first, tend to imitate their parents and parrot what they've learned from the environment they've grown up in.

Then there's really awesome images like this one by catbib on deviantart, in which she literally looks like a Social Justice Warrior, suggesting there's something to Vivian that makes her inherently so much more than a puppet for her misogynistic father:


I think that something is the fact that, even when trying to stick it to feminists, even after pushing and promoting the idea that girls only play games for attention, that fake geek girls is really a thing, and that women mainly exist to be perved over and sexualized...

Even 4chan realizes in its collective conscious that an "average female gamer" is just someone who plays video games while happening to be female at the same time.

There's also that whole fact that she's allowed to be arrogant, confident, and a bit of an asshole, without anyone screaming about how unacceptable her tone is. Usually only guys get to do that.

All in all, I like Vivian James. She can stay.

And I don't believe that, if she were real, she'd stay an anti-feminist for long. Her ability to recognize bullshit seems to supposed to be really good and her tolerance for bullshit seems to be really low. She also values honesty and integrity.

It's only a matter of time before someone like that would see through 4chan's crap and tell them where they can stick their misogynistic aggression.

From this cartoon. TW: rape reference

The complete 'Birth of Vivian' story can be viewed here.

* Not all of 4chan. Not everyone on 4chan.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Trolling of Laura Shortridge

So I have been neglecting this poor blog, mostly because I now work at Women24 and have been since the beginning of the year. It is quite simply my dream job: I love the job, I love the people I work with, and most of all, I love getting to sit down, really over-think a topic, and then write about it.

I've decided to start showing my blog some love again though, so we'll see how that goes.

For today, I want to talk about trolls. 

As you know, I like to keep to nice, safe, uncontroversial topics and always have. 


So naturally I have collected my fair share of trolls, as one does, and that's all very expected and understandable and I honestly can't say I object to it too much.

However, when a person who was banned (not by me) for his repeated and unrelenting racist comments on this article appeared in my comments section, raging about "dictatorial censorship" on Women24, I rolled my eyes and hit delete, not really considering it my duty to explain the concept of what it means to agree to a website's Terms and Conditions:



Or the fact that, when your comments are removed and you are banned because you broke the agreement, you really don't get to complain. 

What's more, you really don't get to come over here and complain.

This is my space. This is where I post my little ramblings and my friends interact with me about them if they feel like it. This is not a place where you are owed a platform, and I will not apologise for deleting any angry, trollish, shrill comments I damn well feel like deleting. 

Of course, since this person had initially arrived to complain about having comments deleted, deleting this one enraged him and he posted another, which I deleted with barely a glance. After 3 more comments, (which I deleted, again with barely a glance,) he stopped. 

A bit in the last comment about an article he planned to link me to caught my eye though, and, curious, I read the emails I get each time a comment is posted. 

What I found was quite hilarious, and I actually do regret deleting the comments now. To make up for it, I have decided to post them here. 

That's right, "John Doe", a whole blog post dedicated to you, where your comments can be read by all. I've even replied to them. 



John, if you had actually read the article you commented on, you would have noticed that Tim Minchin talks, specifically, about rethinking the idea of rebellion. Spoiler alert: It doesn't include posting racist comments on a website that has a policy against racism.

"I want you to rebel. I want you to be anti-conservative. I want you to be the CEO who changes how the mining sector sees its environmental responsibility. I want you to be the politician who stands up in parliament and says, why is it only women who are talking about gender equality? I want you to be the kid who stands up on the oval at lunchtime and says, 'You guys are using the word 'gay' as a negative adjective - it's lazy and boring and stupid and damaging. Grow up'." 

And later,

"You can most effectively rebel by using your brain very carefully, by using your education wisely. Rebellion is not actually skipping classes or disrespecting teachers."

And it's not about blatantly refusing to listen to a website's terms and conditions, terms and conditions you agreed to, then hunting down the blog of the author of the article where you posted, and had deleted, racist comments, so that you can see the word "rebellion", ignore anything that's said in the post, and whine about how angry you are because your racism is not being tolerated or given a platform.

That's not rebellion. That is, as Tim Minchin says, "just intellectually lazy".


Wait, *I* get to decide what comments get to stay up on MY blog?


Deleting a torrent of comments that, 1) don't actually respond to the post that they're on, 2) are trollish and insulting and 3) have absolutely no value at all besides entertainment is not "tyranny". It's simply, well, this comic from xkcd explained it best:



As I said, I wasn't actually reading when I was deleting these comments (after the first one), on the basis that anything that followed that couldn't possibly have any value, but I admit, I was wrong.

These comments are gold.

You wouldn't be the first to write an angry article about me, so no, I don't mind.


I. LOVE. IT.

I put the "Nazi" in "feminazi"? I NEED TO HAVE THIS PRINTED ON A T-SHIRT. Preferably with this image above it:


I have to say though, anti-feminists seem to be the only people who still, without shame, have no problem invoking Godwin's Law. So props to you for tenacity.


Is it ready yet? Is it ready NOW? I honestly can't wait to read this article. Please please please let me know the MOMENT you go live with it.

Much love :)

Kitty

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Goodbye, My Dear, Dear Car

I learned how to drive on a Mazda 626 that had already passed through a few family members before it got to me.

Not a recent picture

This car carried me around as I learned how to drive properly, taking on all the bumps, scrapes, dents and scratches that go along with a naturally un-coordinated person trying to get used to driving. Over the years, it has lost shape, paint, side-mirrors, and more. It even started leaking in the rain, making winter driving a freezing, wet, and, since the water dripping down marks the inside of the windscreen, slightly more dangerous than it should be experience.

I haven't actually driven the poor thing into anything for years, (well apart from that one time and it was a tiny little bump, didn't even dent and only scratched the paint a little, and I swear the other car came out of no where; and, well, the rock), but by the time I learned how to drive without scraping walls, trees, pavements etc, the damage was done. I have received many a Stare, pitying, amused, even disgusted, all because of how awful my car looks.

But for years, it has soldiered on as I put it through drive after challenging drive, at one point even taking me from Table View to Stellenbosch and back (about 100km in total) daily. It has been mostly reliable, and rarely in need of much attention. It might not always have kept me warm and dry, but it's kept me safe and has taken me where-ever I need to go, whenever I do.

And it's dead.

Gutted.

Literally.


A recent picture

I was heading home at around 5am when I found my route blocked by burning tires. Protesters had blocked off certain roads, and there was no getting around them. I tried to take a detour down a side road, but it was dark and I could see more fires up ahead and that's when I road over a rock. A giant freaking rock that was, for no apparent reason, just chilling in the middle of the road.

One of these. Drove right over it.

My car was instantly very clearly not going anywhere anytime soon.

I thought I had probably burst a tire, but with the confusion, darkness, protesters and the fires getting bigger, I wasn't about to attempt to change it. Five minutes later my boyfriend was driving me home, where I phoned the AA to find out I would absolutely have to be with the car when they fetch it, so I arranged for them to fetch it a few hours later, once the protests had stopped, traffic had died down, and it was light.

When we returned, I found my tires were fine, but not my poor car. The floor of the car was wrecked, dented inwards, the rock had torn open the oil tank, and, when I tried to start the car, it became immediately clear that the gear box was wrecked.

A mechanic did think, for awhile, that it might still be repairable, but today I found out the news that it absolutely is not. On top of everything else, the engine has been pushed back and it's just not worth fixing. The only option is to scrap.

I'm surprised at how sad I am.

It's not the fact that I no longer have the convenience of a car. I have needed to think about getting a new car for awhile, and I can manage at least for awhile without my own transport.

It's the sense of loss of something I really was very attached to. My poor, faithful, ugly to everyone but me, reliable car. I feel... mourning. As if a very dear pet has died.

Even the thought that my car is in a garage with strangers all around it makes me feel wretched. It's probably in pain, and scared, and feeling alone. It probably is wondering why it's there, and where I am, and....

I know. I know. I'm being ridiculous. Frankly I shouldn't have been allowed to watch movies like A Brave Little Toaster and Toy Story, I was clearly far too impressionable a child.

But still.

I'm so sad. And I'm going to try go see my car one last time. And I'm going to cry. And I don't think any car will ever quite live up to its memory. Nothing's going to quite feel right.

Goodbye, Mazda 626, who's description of "burgundy" has never failed to instantly require me to explain "like a dark red", who patiently accepted the knocks and scrapes that came with being my faithful transport, and who carried on driving beautifully long after many cars would have started regularly breaking down.

I'll never accidentally lock my keys in you again, or accidentally knock off your side-mirror, or apply masking tape to the parts of you that really needed a bit of bandaging up. You have been so faithful, so steadfast, so reliable. It's time for you to finally rest.

For a moment, I'm going to willingly suspend my disbelief, and imagine you're heading to car heaven. You'll like it there. It never rains.

Much love

Kitty

Monday, November 4, 2013

R for Rebellion

Fan of V for Vendetta? Well it's the 5th of November, and what better way to celebrate than to rebel. Grab your mask, sit down, and... read. Yup. This speech on rebellion is the best thing you'll read today.

On the 18th of September, Tim Minchin addressed Christ Church Grammar School, the school he once attended.  This is what he said:




Much love x

Kitty

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cosplaying Tim Minchin

As most know, I adore cosplay, and I adore dressing up, so the two were going to collide sooner or later. My boyfriend Lloyd is really into it too, and our first cosplay was Princess Bubblegum and Finn the Human from Adventure Time.

I made the crown and Finn's backback and hat, Lloyd made Finn's amazing sword.

For Halloween, Lloyd decided to cosplay Tim Minchin. I helped with his hair, and I have to say, I'm really bloody proud of the result of our joint effort. This is Lloyd normally:


And images like these were our inspiration:


 

I used hairspray and a teasing brush for the back of his hair, and he used hair wax for the front streaks. We used black eye shadow and an eyeliner for the eyes. The whole process probably took about an hour to an hour and a half:









Needless to say, I forgot to even think about getting a picture of me: an "original character" pink witch. Yeah I had a broomstick and a book with an eye in it, but "My boyfriend is cosplaying Tim Minchin" was pretty much my real outfit for the night. Lloyd's hair is still messy. I'm not complaining.



Much love x

Kitty

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kicking the Crab Bucket

In Terry Pratchett's "Unseen Academicals", he mentions an analogy known as the "crab bucket". It works like this.

When you keep crabs in a bucket, you don't need to worry about putting a lid on the bucket. No crabs will escape. They won't escape, because any attempt to climb out of the bucket will fail, as the other crabs will grab onto the climber and refuse to let it go. 

Let me give an example.

Today I discovered it wasn't only #Movember on Twitter, it was #nofilterday as well. (People who hate hashtags, twitter, and fairly good causes, you might want to stop reading now.)

I asked what #NoFilterDay is, and received this tweet from one of its co-founders, @cupcakemummy:


Basically nobody's perfect, but a lot of people pretend to be on social networks, and this feel-good movement is about trying to remind everyone that we're all human beings and that's OK. Maybe not a hashtag for everyone but a fairly sweet and harmless initiative, right?

Apparently not. Some people seem actively repulsed by #nofilterday. I was told it was about people who are "to [sic] vain for their own good" who "love selfies". Another person took it upon himself to tell @cupcakemummy and me that it was vapid, and then go on to mock it with his own hashtag. Looking around, saw a lot of people whining and bitching about #nofilterday as if it somehow is an affront to god and man, and they all seem to feel the need to tweet their objections to those who are taking part in it.

Good grief. All over a nice, feel-good hashtag that exists to uplift spirits and promote self-happiness.

Unsurprisingly, insulting these people back results in hurt feelings. It's apparently very mean to call someone who is actively mocking a group of self-proclaimed not-always-secure people who have admitted to needing a bit of a lift in spirits a cunt. It's not nice to correct the spelling of someone who bitches about other people who take selfies. Suddenly they're paragons for everyone being nice and nonjudgmental, at least for everyone being nice and nonjudgmental towards them.

I'm going to be frank. #nofilterday is not for me. Generally speaking I am honest, many times to my detriment, and when I'm not, it's usually for a good reason. I'm also quite happy not being perfect, and quite aware that it's plain silly to be envious of others as you never really know what they're going through. I would gain nothing from taking part. That said, the spitefulness and small-minded nastiness that's being spurted at those who are taking part has made me want to shout the hashtag from the rooftops.

What is it about seeing other people at least try to gain a sense of self-worth that we just despise? Why is it that there can't be one, just one feel-good initiative that isn't hijacked by nastiness? I'm not even going to moan about trolls here. Many of the people objecting to #nofilterday are generally speaking quite amicable people, so what about this pisses them off?

So here's my #nofilterday contribution: 

If the sight of people trying to be open and honest for once really bothers you to the extent where you actually are going to try to make them feel bad about themselves, fuck you. It's not a scam, it's not an attempt to indoctrinate or spread propaganda, it's not a "like this post if" styled initiative. There is no real reason to object to this other than your own personal hatred of seeing anyone, absolutely anyone, trying to climb their way out of the crab bucket.

Fuck you, crab. 

For those who don't know, this excellent and ironically applicable image is from Ricky Gervais' "Derek"