Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why People are Rioting in Ferguson

Would you like to know why people are rioting in Ferguson? Hint: Its not because a black kid was murdered by a cop. Hint 2: Nor is it because an uppity black kid attacked a cop.

The black & minority community has tried to do things the nonviolent way. The system all down the line has failed them.

I encourage you to read up on the Kerner Commission report that investigated the LA/Chicago/Newark race riots of the 1960s & what it found & suggested. Its findings still pretty much hold up today.

I also encourage you to read Michelle Alexander's "the New Jim Crow" where it illustrates how the War on Drugs & their criminal justice enablers have legally & systematically reinforced a caste system, one for affluent America (usually suburban white) and one that's not (rural whites as a well as urban Blacks & Latinos).

I encourage you to read/listen to NCPR's Brian Mann's work on the 40th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in how its passage & the rise of the Prison Industrial complex has become jobs program for ultra rural America. Not only that, locking people up became a socially acceptable cure for society's ills instead of addressing those root problems. You can probably find more elsewhere but this is a good hyperlink as a start.

I encourage you to read Shelby County V Holder & the twisted logic the Supreme Court used to strike down parts of the Voting Rights Act; its implication was almost immediate because FL, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, SC, PA to name a few passed laws restricting voting elligibility provisions for voters & rolled back the windows a person can vote.

The rioting is the result in the sand of the Black community saying no more to the status quo. Those in power have made it a fight to the death, if that's the way they want it than so be it. Because, as they see it, the world the status quo wants is one that black community thinks isn't one worth living.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mass Shooting Emotional Fatigue

I was visiting my mother recently. She asked me if I'd heard about Seattle. I'd like to think I'm a pretty well informed individual but told her that no, I have not & asked what happened. She went on to describe what happened on 5 June at Seattle Pacific University.

All I could do in response was shrug my shoulders. My mother seemed offend & rightfully so. I call it mass-shooting emotional fatigue, also known as apathy.

I have already registered my emotional outrage back in January 2013 in my blog entry, "Talking Gun Sense" which addressed the Newtown, CT incident where 20+ children under the age of 12 (if not younger) were massacred in their elementary school.

The Seattle Pacific incident comes less than 2 weeks after an Isla Vista shooting in California where a perpatrator specifically targeted women. In the CA case, the media passed him off as being "sexually frustrated." I call bullshit. If he had targeted Jews or African-Americans or Gays/Lesbians, we'd call it for what it is, a hate crime or just straight-up misogny. Instead it gets passed off as something considerably less dire.

Nor does this factor in his VERY long track record of YouTube rants (going back at least 4 years) laying out his motive, nor the 140-page manifesto he sent to police the day of. That is premediated. This isn't the work of a person who is mentally ill & just "snaps". The guy's a sociopath. He knows very well what the difference is between right & wrong, he just doesn't give a damn.

If we're not going to address (in my opinion) the real issue, peoples entitlement & inability to solve their problems in an adult manner, we're left with frittering around the edges. In this case, the mental health aspect & indentifying the perpatrators before they commit their carnage. But since we're either unwilling or unable to address the mental health aspect, we're left with narrowing the edges in what we can address, in this case, HOW they commit their violence (95% of the time using firearms). But since, god forbid, we can't even address that because person's 2nd amendment rights are more important than another person's Right to Life, Liberty, & an opportunity to Pursue Their Own Happiness, we're left with the status quo. The status quo means we're going to see more of these horrific acts & in greater frequency. The end result of which is that we grow tolerate to the violence, bullshit that we've "always lived in a violent society", or simply become indifferent to peoples suffering.

Indifference is what effects me. I'm ashamed to say it but its the truth.

Gun ownership is a right but its ALSO a priveledge. If gun owners & those who support them aren't willing to step up & police themselves & keep these weapons out of individuals who really shouldn't be handling them (particularly if they are a clear & present danger to others), I guarantee you either Uncle Sam or the States will. In which case, they'll be addressing it on the grounds of a public health & safety issue.

If precedent in other nongun related incidents is any indication, the Courts have been generally more receptive in government stepping in. Thanks to Oklahoma City & Timothy McVeigh, you can't buy X-amount of fertilizer at any one time without getting a knock on your door by the FBI. Thanks to Triangle Shirt Factory, you can't chain the doors closed in a workplace while operations are going on. Thanks to auto regulations, you can't drive without a seatbelt without getting pulled over & ticketed.

In other news...

This here is Bree. We mutually have called this the "Slutty Minnie" set.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

In Favor of the Valentines Day Concept

I am single, and I am a male, and I'm in favor of Valentine's Day.

There, I said it.

This day can be one of the loneliest times of the year if you're not romantically attached to someone. Its a knawing reminder that you live in a society that values the couple. Once you've made the commitment, its expected that you'll produce a family. Once you produce a family, you're expected to produce MORE children. This doesn't even touch upon the overcommercialization of the holiday.

Its poppy-cock & here's why.

What you're seeing is an overfocus on what is called "amorous" love. The love shared between one romantic partner & another. We forget that there are 3 other lovse: affection, friendship, & charity.

Affection is the kind of love you give to another creature (like a horse, dog, or cat). Parental love can also be in this same umbrella. Friendship is a love between equals like your best friend or a professional colleague. Think of charity love as helping out your fellow man, giving the downtrodden a helping hand in some way, particularly when there's no direct benefit to you.

So the next time you're bitching about how miserable you are because you're single on Valentine's Day or how commercialized its become, pause, take a deep breath, & quit whining. Because in the grand scheme of things, maybe this world we all share could use a little more love instead of focusing on the self.

In other news...

Below is Dayna & her husband.

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Feel free to comment on any part of this if you so desire.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Blurred Lines and Promotion of the Rape Culture

Its been over a month since the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards was held & I'm still hearing about the outrage over Miley Cyrus' controversial performance.

For those not in the know, she did a wacky dance routine with a foam sports finger while dressing in a skimpy outfit, stripping out of it into an even skimpier outfit, & then gyrating with her dance/singing partner. As someone who grew up watching Madonna wearing a white wedding dress & rolling around stage, faking an orgasm, I'm befuddled by this current brouhaha.

The outrage went like this: Miley's "off-her-rocker" or is going the "slut" route or she's "being a whore." All the focus is on her specifically as a person, not on her allegedly terrible performance.

Think about it.

Her costar performer Robin Thicke is singing a song entitled, "Blurred Lines." A song that promotes & excuses the blurred lines of consent & glorifies our society's permissive rape & sexual assault cultures (as best exemplified by the Steubenville rape case). The unrated version of the music video has women prancing around gratuitously topless while the men are fully clothed. Yet no one is calling Robin Thicke a "pimp" or an "abuser" or a "whore" or a "misogynist". Nobody cares because the lyrics are accompanied to an obnoxiously catchy beat.

Its double standard & I fundamentally reject it.

If a male enjoys sex & sleeps around, he's a "stud." But if a woman enjoys sex & sleeps around, she's a "whore." A man can sits down with his legs wide open while wearing trousers, no one cares. But if a woman sits down with her legs wide open while wearing trousers, she's "unladylike." If an adult has sex with a 15-year old male, that teenaged male is "lucky." But if an adult has sex with a 15-year old female, that teenager is a "victim." Except for their equipment downstairs, pre-adolescent males & females are for all intents & purposes the same. Yet boys are allowed to run around topless on a sweltering summer's day while girls need to cover themselves.

Don't even get me started on how the media covered the incident. It went something like... "reporting" on the incident (& I use that term loosely), saying how sluttified it all was, criticizing her as a person (versus her as an artist or the quality of the dance routine), & then showing a long clip of it every hour on the hour to boost their own ratings (ensuring themselves a hefty profit from the ratings). It is culture disaster porn we're eating it up like a fat kid on Halloween.

The media (& by extension us) attack the person because they make for an easy target when we should be attack & address the very issue that they're both either promoting or condoning, the glorification of the male dominated rape culture.

Why am I a male so passionate about this issue? Because the implication is that it gives dirtbags who rape & sexually assault women a free pass. You've heard the BS, "Boys will be boys" or "I couldn't control myself." I call bullsh*t & here's why. Yes, you can control just CHOOSE not to do so. The other implication is IF males indeed cannot control themselves, it puts every single solitary daughter, sister, cousin, & mother on notice because they have a reason to fear every single solitary male in society. Even if they are their husband, brother, uncle, or son and has never given them a reason to fear them.

If that basis in society actually exists & I'm to blind to see it, is this the kind of society that's even worth having? You be the judge.

Edit: I found an interesting Tumblr link that juxtaposes the "Blurred Lines" lyrics side by side with pictures from Project Unbreakable. Here's another hyperlink that analyzes the song & the rape survivor quotes on a deeper level.

In other news...

This is family friend & classically trained dancer Christina of the Libertina Dance Company (pictured below), participating my abandonment project.

Feel free to comment on any part of this blog entry if you so desire.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Fifty Shades of Grey Should Disturb You

Fifty Shades of Grey catapulted onto the book-selling scene during the Summer of 2012, selling over 65 million copies in 37 countries; setting the record for the fastest selling paperback of all-time beating the Harry Potter series. Its been so successful, so fast there's an adaptation being produced by Hollywood.

I think I understand why I'm so uncomfortable w/ the book. Its not remotely the content because I'm comfortable with people having their kinks. What goes on behind closed doors between consenting adults is, quite frankly, none of my business. I'm uncomfortable w/ the book because each time I think about the main character, Christian Grey, I'm convinced I'm reading about a domestic abuser & his apologist.

What did you just say?

I say again, this is a budding story between a domestic abuser & his apologist.

Christian is a stalker. He knows where Ana lives. He knows where she's was partying. He races to her rescue from across town & arrives at the exact moment she needs to be "saved". He claims he found her utilizing technology available through his shipping firm. But just because you have the technology, doesn't make it cool to it for private use. I may have a Hollywood crush with actress Dina Meyers but just because I can track her movements, doesn't give me the right to randomly show up. How is this not creepy?!

Christian at no point whatsoever does he ever use the word "please". He tells her when to eat, even when she doesn't want to. Tells her what to drink, even when she wants something else. All framed as he knows what's best for her. This is all framed as "improving" her behavior as if her "old" behavior is something that should be ashamed of. He's constantly telling her not to bite her lip because he can't control himself. Let's step back a minute. Is that not the same justification rapists use as to why they rape. "It was her fault. She was wearing a sexy dress & I just couldn't help myself."

Same with the gift giving. He initially starts w/ an over the top, 1st edition early 19th century English novel (I forget which ones specifically). He has her clothes sent out the night she got drunk & of course by the time she comes to the next morning, they've still not been returned. She's been brought by his private helicopter to some far away exotic locale where even if she wanted to leave, she couldn't. Same with him giving her a top-of-line computer to "help" her do research about the infamous sex slave contract. The same with him insisting that she come work for his multimillion dollar shipping company. He even instructs her when she can & cannot contact her friends & family The end result is that he's made her so completely dependent on him that she'd never be able to leave even if she wanted to.

How is this relationship not born out of coercion?

Keep in mind all this is BEFORE Ana agreed to be his little contract love slave. I'm not going to get into anything beyond that because the issue of consent (whether its a wise or otherwise) is a different set of ethical questions that only murkifies the purpose of this blog entry.

Don't even get me started on Christian's origin story. He's the adopted son of a crackwhore & was introduced to the BDSM by a pedophilia female lover. Thank you E.L. James for promoting the stereotype that if you're into BDSM (or have any fetishes for that matter), you're a freak & that there's something "wrong" with you. On top of all this, Ana spends the rest of the book trying to "fix" the guy as if there's something "wrong" with him & even makes apologizing when he crosses her boundaries. Again, how is this not the making of "battered spouse syndrome"?

Am I saying people shouldn't read this? Hell no! Lord knows there's plenty of mindless entertainment fluff out there. The Fast & the Furious series targets the suburbia SUV driving demographic that pines for something more "exciting" in their dreary lives. Same with just about everything written by Tom Clancy targeting the gun-toting, wannabe Medal of Honor video game playing demographic. I'm just concerned that by not looking beneath the surface of what's being written in Fifty Shades & being AWARE of those messages, we as a society are telling women that such behavior is not only acceptable but to be condoned.

If someone were to ask me whether Fifty Shades was worth reading? I'd tell them no. My reasons has nothing to do w/ the content, nor the messages it sends. Its simply a badly written book. The prose makes the Twilight series look like Nobel Prize material (something I never thought I'd hear myself say). The male lead isn't described as anything other than an Adonis. There's even less about the female lead. Beyond knowing she's an English Lit graduate & young & off, on her own for the first time in her adult life, we the readers know basically get zilch about her. At least w/ Twilight's Bella Swann, she has "chocolate" brown eyes & long hair. Same w/ her vampire lover Edward Cullen, he "sparkles" in sunlight. The set descriptions in Fifty Shades are practically no existent. Ana's inner voice, who's also the narrator, is uneven; sometimes she narrates in the first person, sometimes its narrated in the third person. I honestly feel Fifty Shades of Grey is the novel version of the Napoleon Dynamite movie, its literally 400+ pages of drivel.

If we are products of the very media that we consume, I dred knowing today's woman sees a character like Ana or Bella & thinks its something that should be aspired to. Throughout both books I kept thinking, "You're going to let a man define YOUR existence? Girl, stand up for yourself! Stop apologizing for his rotten behavior." Just because a person is a dom doesn't absolve them from being a decent human being.

I once said I was conflicted as to whether I should be happy people are turning off the boob-tube & picking up a novel or whether I should be concerned about the quality of said content. That inner conflict remains. I CAN safely say that if you're looking for mindless entertainment; the kind where your schedule revolves around watching crap like reality TV, this book is up your alley. If you're looking for a quality read looking for either an interesting writing style or compelling characters or a descriptive prose or even a post-read discussion fodder, your time is better spent playing the Xbox or Wii.

In other news...

This is one of the pictures from Lauren & David's wedding.

I won't remotely BS you that they have a perfect marriage. But unlike Christian & Ana or Bella & Edward for that matter, their relationship is based on communication & mutual respect. God willing they'll work out the difficulties ALL long-term relationships have.


Feel free to comment on any part of this if you so desire.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Talking Gun Sense

I, like many other Americans, was completely horrified when news broke on December 14, 2012 of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. There were 27 dead (20 students, 6 faculty members, plus the perpetrators mother). None of the students were older than 8 years old, many of them had multiple gunshot wounds.

As someone who vividly remembers where they was when the Columbine happened, I wish I could say something like surprises me. It doesn't. While overall gun violence has gone down in the US, these mass shootings really feel like they're becoming more frequent. After the Virginia Tech massacre (2007), this current one had the highest death toll. Newtown was less 6 months after the Aurora, CO theater shooting where a guy opened up at the premiere of "the Dark Knight Rises" killing 12 & injuring 52.

The NRA's post-Newtown statement was completely tone deaf (not that I expected it'd be otherwise). They cited the prevalence of video games & diminished cultural values & then proposed that to stop "a bad guy w/ a gun is to arm a good guy w/ a gun." I'm not stranger to out-there ideas but this one's a doozie.

The big question I have to ask is who do they think is going to pay for this? Its certainly not going to come from the federal level, the Paul Ryan budget alone has already called for an across the board 15% cuts in discretionary spending (where education & health care is apart of). It sure as hell isn't going to come from the states. Here in NYS, they've already reduce education funding where schools have already cut class offerings, discontinued after-school programs, & consolidated services w/ nearby districts. Many teacher's unions have forgone their cost of living increases for the last 5 years (which means work more, paid less), increased their health care contributions. Many districts have left open positions vacant as well as seriously consider going to a 4-day week as a way to reduce their busing gas costs.

But let's look at the video games violence is the cause theory. What Mr LaPierre is not (convientantly) telling you is that the very same video game makers he decries producing many of these first-person shooter games work hand-in-hand w/ many of the arms manufacturers. Like a weapon you fired in the game like "Call to Duty"? Follow the partners link located on the game's website where you can get the real thing or something like it. Course this was before Newtown. Now nobody wants anything to do w/ the arms manufactures.

The other problem w/ "the only way to stop a bad guy w/ a gun is w/ a good guy w/ a gun" is because its to subjective. Take the Trayvon Martin case. There's nothing to stop that "good guy" simply misreading a situation, getting a burr up his rear, looking to reassert his alpha-maleness, & someone that doesn't need to be dead dies. I won't even claim in bullsh***ing that I know what happened. Zimmerman felt wronged & was specifically told by the 911 operator that he need not follow Tray. One thing lead to another, the situation probably got out of hand, & an unarmed Trayvon is dead.

Everyone agrees "something" needs to be done. Everyone agrees that those 27 people need not have been murdered. But what frustrates me about the discourse is when anyone proposes anything, they're immediately met w/ the old stand-bye "criminals aren't going to care about the laws". In some cases that's true but just because everyone speeds on the highway isn't a reason to not have a speed limit. These same people when confronted about what it is THEY propose, their silence is deafening. Its much easier to scoff why someone else's ideas won't work (even when the proposer openly acknowledges its flawed) than put your hide on the line & propose something of your own.

"Gun control" discourse should really be renamed "gun sense."

When I visit the VA & the first-hand the wreckage firearms can do to a person, I'd be more than happy to see blanket ban on anything beyond a 6-shooter hand-gun, a single shot rifle, & a double barreled shotgun. But I also know very well it ain't going to happen. When a firearms enthusiast hears "gun control", they freak out that they'll have no means to protect themselves. I may be a bleeding-heart liberal & a fierce defender of the 1st Amendment but I also acknowledge the 1st Amendment is NOT, I repeat, NOT absolute. I cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater because of a threat to public safety. Nor can I as a newspaper publisher print troop movements. Nor can I legally marry multiple wives as a tenant of my religion. Why then are 2nd Amendment Rights viewed as being absolute? Why does their right to bear arms supercede my right to life, liberty, & property w/o due process?

As a long-time believer in not only diagnosing problems but offering solutions, below are my "Gun Sense" proposals. In no particular order:

1- restrict the kinds of weapons that can be bought & produced on the civilian market (why ordinary citizens can buy clones of the same types of weapons that rival the military & law enforcement is beyond me)

2- restricting the size of clips (why does a person need a 20-round clip to kill a deer? In the Marines, we had a saying, "1 shot, 1 kill")

3- restricting the amount of ammo a person can buy at any one time (when a person buys a certain quantity of fertilizer at any one time, they get a knock on the door by the FBI)

4- universal background checks

5- restricting the kinds of ammo people can use. There is ammo the military uses that is specifically designed to not only shred flesh but bounce around & destroy it. Why can't effing up the person really bad but the person will live be sufficient?

6- greater funding for police "buy back" programs that help get guns off the street

7- greater regulation of the firearms industry itself. The toy industry comes under great Federal scrutiny, same w/ car & driver safety, same w/ the food industry all significantly have more regulations & watch-dog groups after them because they effect the public's health & safety. Why do firearms get a free pass?

8- create a gun insurance regulatory aspect. If I drive a fast Ferrari, you bet your bottom dollar my car insurance will be through the roof. Likewise if my car is equipped w/ an airbag or seat-belts, that insurance will be lower. The point is to that if it costs money to do their hobby, it might give them pause in doing that hobby. Same goes whether if they have a mentally unbalanced family member in the house or a young child getting their hands on the weapon & injuring themself or another.

9- greater mental health screenings. Heck w/ all the whackos out there, this would help society as a whole & hopefully getting people the help they so desperately need.

10- reinstate & update the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

11- tighten inter & intra-state gun transport. NYC & Boston has a big problem where people bring weapons from either upstate or across state lines where gun purchasing laws are loosen. Same w/ Boston. I propose making it a felony in failing to notify local law-enforcement within 2 weeks of you bringing a firearm into the district.

12- a media blackout of the perpetrators name. Considering we live in a free society, I simply propose a 5 month media-naming-the-perp blackout. Many of these killers do what they do SPECIFICALLY because of the notoriety that comes w/ the act. Almost nobody remembers the victims but we all now know who the killers are. & I'm suggested a 5-month naming-the-perp blackout because by the time the blackout expires, the media will have moved onto something else & its impact will be diminished.

I don't pretend any of these proposals are but it needs to be discussed & w/ luck acted upon. By doing nothing we guarantee that more tragedies like Newtown, CT happen again & on a more devastating scale.

In other news...

This here is Jamie. I remember her being a cool cat & having an infectious personality. Very fun to work w/.


Feel free to comment on any part of this blog.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Project Unbreakable

Like everyone else in the country, I am truly shocked & horrified at yet another senseless shooting this past Friday at an elementary school in Newton, CT. You will eventually hear my own thoughts on this but at the moment, I'm still trying to process & articulate what I want to say.

In the meantime I'm bringing you something constructive. Bringing to light another tragedy that is equally horrific to those involved & how they've chosen to deal with the situation.

Its called "Project Unbreakable". Giving you the short version, its a campaign addressing & combating sexual violence & assault.

Below is a YouTube video from the founder.

As a photographer, I'm impressed with its simplicity. No elaborate concepts, no fancy illustrative reenactment of the violence. Just the victim & a placard w/ the words the perpetrator used in quotes. The very definition of the K.I.S.S. Principle (keep it simple, stupid).

Its revolting to read what the perpetrator says. Its even revolting to read what people have said who are SUPPOSED TO BE supporting the victim, people like family & law enforcement.

Its nice knowing a project that starts as simple as helping a friend can completely take on a life of its own in a good way.

Moving on...

As a photographer, its an extra special treat working w/ people on an unintentionally long-term basis. You're blessed with being a part of the big moments in their lives. See them find love (& sometimes heartbreak), get hitched, start a family, sometimes even seeing those family members grow up & having them in front of my camera.

Ceri is one of those people.

This was taken back in 2008 for my never-ending Abandonment Project. The locations may change but my interest in the visual contrast between the "dirty, blah" environment (something most people overlook) juxtaposed against the "pretty" model hasn't.


Feel free to comment away if you so desire.