Announcement Time!

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I swear I’ll give you the rest of the trip photos…eventually… *hangs head in shame*

But first, an announcement! Since I’m horrible about updating lately, and am almost never on Twitter anymore, and haven’t actually dusted off my Tumblr in Goddess knows how long, I decided to start a new social media account on Instagram. Yeah, I don’t know what the logic behind that is either.

The idea is that I’ll use it for posting a Photo Of The Day, something I’ve kinda missed doing since I finished Project 365 a few years ago. We’ll see how well that works out, but I’m optimistic about it at the moment. Plus, it gives me incentive to actually take some pictures while I’m in Colorado, which I haven’t done much of lately.

So, if you like my photography and want to see it on a slightly more regular basis that you’ve been seeing it, head on over to https://instagram.com/gegitravels/ and bookmark or follow. The posts will also be on tumblr for those of you who have that link, and if I can get the apps to speak to each other eventually, they’ll also be on twitter.

Oh, and if you happen to have any ideas or leads for things I could do this autumn/winter, I still don’t have plans… [Edit: A friend just offered me a place to stay in New York state, near Pennsylvania. So I might be headed that way, if I can find a job, too. Yay for the internet!]

Love,

GeGi.

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The Tattoo.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I have this tattoo. I have several, actually, but there’s this one in particular.

before

It was my second time going in to get tattooed. The first time, I had finished designs ready. The second time, I had what apparently looked like a finished design. It was a rough draft actually, but I went to the same artist as before, and he assumed it was finished like the others, and I was too shy and scared and intimidated by, basically, the world, and not in a good head-space for sticking up for myself at the time due to lots of screwed up things that had been happening in my life, and basically, well, I got the tattoo anyway, even though it wasn’t right.

Of course, this not-quite-right tattoo is the one everyone sees all the time; out of five tattoos, this one is the biggest and in the most visible location. People always comment on it, and every time they do, and every time I see it out of the corner of my eye or in the mirror, I’m reminded of that time, and how it isn’t what I wanted, and how I didn’t speak up about something so permanent and important. It’s a reminder of who I never want to be again.

In one week exactly, that tattoo is getting modified and expanded into something I do want. I’ve spent about five years (give or take a year) waiting for this moment — that’s how long it’s been since I got it in the first place, if I’m remembering correctly. I’ve spent all that time thinking about exactly what it was I wanted in the first place, and what I want now, and finding images and writing plans over and over so that I can get exactly the right thing this time.

Today I stopped by the tattoo shop with the best reviews, and talked to an artist there. We talked over the ideas I had, he sketched a few things out and took notes and pictures, and we kept discussing it until we both felt sure we were talking about the same thing and both getting excited about the concept. He has a week to design something beautiful, and will send me pictures to approve before my appointment.

That is the experience I should have had five (or so) years ago. That is the experience I wasn’t capable of having five years ago. The fact that I can do it now — even, especially, when I’ve been feeling depressed and anxious and lost and burnt out — proves how much I can and HAVE changed and grown. Even when I feel like I’ve gone backwards in my growth and stability, I’ve proved it’s not as far back as I think.

This new version of the tattoo will be a reminder of this lesson, a constant beautiful image that strength and growth can’t be taken away, even by ourselves. It will be a reminder that something amazing can come out of something unfortunate. It will be a reminder that mistakes don’t have to be forever, and they don’t have to define us.

Stay strong, even when it doesn’t feel like strength. Some day, it will.

Love,

GeGi.

A Rather Long Post About Being A Fan.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve talked a little before at about fandom, and in particular about the way a fandom can either become a very bullying or very supportive place. If you’ve been following my Twitter account the last couple days, you probably won’t be surprised I’m going to talk about fandom again right now. Everything I’m going to say is from a personal point of view; I don’t pretend I’m speaking for anyone but myself, and I certainly can’t comment about anyone else’s experiences, goals, desires, dislikes, etc.

Okay, disclaimer over, now for the backstory. I’ve never really been a “group” sort of person. Even among close friends, I tend to keep to the edges, watching and listening more than talking and participating. I generally go with the flow, and tend to form strong opinions only after much thought and comparison to other opinions, and only once they seem to make sense. I’m certainly not very vocally, and when I am, I try to be pretty fair and balanced about it. Even on my own personal soap box of this blog, I still try to use positive language to try and educate rather than alienate. When interacting with other people, I look at things from as many sides as possible and keep my observations to myself except for a few occasional pointed comments if I think they are warranted or if I’m particularly passionate about the subject.

Make no mistake, I DO have loyalties and preferences, and in the right environment I’m as susceptible to “fan-flailing” as the next excited and passionate person. But more often than not, I simply don’t want to get dragged into arguments if someone disagrees with me. I have very little patience for that sort of thing, having been constantly exposed to it growing up. Those kinds of things very often have little to do with actually sharing different points of view for mutual education and enlightenment, and more to do with “THIS IS WHY YOU’RE SO WRONG AND SUCK AS A PERSON”, especially when they happen in most places on the internet. I’d much rather have conversations that go more like “YOU ARE AN AWESOME PERSON AND I’M SO GLAD WE GOT TO SHARE THESE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS”.

So usually, my fandom interaction goes something like this: there will be a thing I like, and I’ll see some other people liking that same thing, and they might have different things to say about it, and I’ll listen and go “oh, cool, I totally see that now” or “oh, cool, never thought of that before” and I may or may not actually agree with those things, but it doesn’t matter because we’re all enjoying this things and learning from each other and sharing our passions. I love that kind of stuff. And if I really like you, I might even start ranting about cinematography or something!

And then sometimes someone will come along and tell all the people sharing and liking this one thing why that thing is a X Y or Z bad thing, and it will escalate back and forth, and sometimes the cool people rally, and something the not-cool people will make death threats, and it’s all just very unpleasant and nasty and often enabled by a lot of the cultural problems we’re dealing with more and more these days. I’ve talked about some of those problems before on the blog. Check the archives.

Anyway.

In fandom, these two scenarios are pretty frequently played out. However, I’m relatively new to being active enough to observe it happening in the moment. I’ve been a fan of various things all my life, but due to the aforementioned “sticking to the edges”, I never really interacted with other fans all that much. I might read articles, but would skip the discussion boards and comment sections due to all the arguing and insulting and hating and bullying it often seemed to degrade into. I’d rather just enjoy the thing I loved on my own and keep all the excitement and theories to myself, rather than risk being attacked online. I had enough going on my life already, and made the choice not to add more stress.

That all started to change a year or two ago, with the oh-so-excellent Snark Squad, who run a website with one of the most polite, intelligent, respectful comments sections I’ve ever heard of. To be sure, they’re had their difficulties with hate and threats and insults and bullies too, but the Snark Ladies are some truly classy women, and they — with the help of the regulars — would always address the problems and bring the discussion back from the explosive potential.

I finally had a place where I could venture out of my shell and leave comments, without the fear of attack from all sides. It was a revelation. I created a Twitter account solely to be able to interact more with these incredibly awesome people. I started a blog because they had shown me how meaningful someone can make their own little corner of the internet, and how supportive an online community can be. They inspired me, and helped me feel safe putting myself out there. Even if I was attacked or threatened, I knew they would have my back.

I’ve branched out a bit since then; the last few days on Twitter, as I mentioned, have been full of fandom posts for a particular ‘shipper corner of the internet connected to the TV show Supernatural. Actually, my semi-involvement with them has been going on a bit longer. It started with the earlier blog post here (linked above in the intro to this post), when I talked about how divided and hurt the fandom was, and how irresponsible some of the actors had been about the issues causing it.

Things flared up again more recently when an online journalist was falsely flagged as a security threat and escorted from the convention she was reporting at, all without any investigation into the matter. Turns out, a bully with an agenda and a friendship with the actors’ bodyguard had sent an out-of-context screencap of the journalist tweeting a quote from a different show. Some “threat”, huh?

Some fans rallied to her defense, and others continued to attack. Look for the hashtags #IStandWithEmily and #EmilyDeservesAnswers for those who support her. The matter still hasn’t been fully settled; the convention apologized and refunded her, but their hands had been tied anyway during the whole thing. The show, the network, the stars and the bodyguard involved all still have yet to address the incident, apart from some vicious tweets from the bodyguard immediately after that he’s since erased.

To add insult to injury, the same journalist had been organizing and fundraising commemorative mugs and gift baskets for the cast and crew, to celebrate their tenth season and 200th episode (aired earlier this week).

The 200th episode itself was another touchy subject. Supernatural seems to have no qualms about meta commentary and breaking the fourth wall on occasion, and has multiple entire episodes pretty much centered around doing just that. The results are…mixed, to put it diplomatically. Reception among the fans depends greatly on who you talk to.

It’s not surprising; the show has a history of not understanding fandom, of not handling PR well, and of inadvertently condoning or deliberately ignoring bullying behavior of some of the fans towards many others. Of course they’re going to be a little “off” when it comes to trying to break the fourth wall on the show and have meta commentary on something they don’t actually seem to understand all that well. They give us broad strokes, and the reality is very nuanced. It’s an obvious and understandable mistake, but one they could have handled much better in the past if they’d not been so blind to their own privileges and the damage they were causing.

It’s understandable that fans who have had a painful experience at the hands of the people in charge of a thing they love, and at the hands of other people proclaiming to love that thing, might be a bit wary, a little mistrustful, and just too tired to keep hoping and fighting for what they love. It’s understandable they might not feel safe in the general fandom. It’s understandable they might decide they need a break, or some reassurance from people like them, before they risk exposing themselves again.

If the thing you love has been a cause of pain, betrayal, attacks, threats, and all manner of not feeling welcome or safe, and if the people perpetuating that behavior feel vindicated doing so due to comments made by the people who are ACTUALLY in charge of that thing, then yes, taking a break or even leaving it forever are totally legit options. That’s kind of obvious.

I’m new to this fandom, and while I do already have some pretty strong loyalties, I haven’t been on the front lines of this fight. I haven’t been attacked for years, as some have. I haven’t had to go through the roller-coaster of hints and hopes and disappointment. I went into this thing pretty late in the run, and I was pretty heavily aware of exactly what to expect from it. I went in, but I did it with my eyes open and my guard up. The fans I’ve paid attention to are fabulous people. I avoid the ones who aren’t adding to my experience of the show, the ones who are attacking those things I feel loyalty towards, the ones who are bullies. It’s a survival method. I get to bask in the good stuff, while aware enough of the bad to try and avoid stepping in it. I stick to the edges still, but now there’s some interaction going on, too.

Back to the 200th episode. It was promoted as a “love letter to the fans”, which made some of those fans very nervous. Not only is the fandom heavily divided and antagonistic with a history of bullying, but the show itself has a track record during some of those meta episodes AND in the real world of belittling and insulting many of the very fans who’ve supported it and kept it on the air for those ten years. There was a very strong and skeptical “wait and see” vibe on my Twitter feed.

Then people started live-tweeting as they watched the episode.

Reports trickled in that sounded more hopeful, and then some started doing that “fan-flailing” sort of excited all-caps tweets that are probably about half the reason I love being around fandoms. The show had actually given the fans something they could enjoy, to various degrees. Not everyone loved it, of course, and like everything in life it could have been even better. Yes, all those other issues still existed. Yes, there is still all the baggage and bullying to contend with. But the 200th was far better than a lot of us had feared, and it gave those who analyze the meta a lot of new material to work with (which is probably another quarter of the reason I love fandom — meta analysis is addictive when you’re already an over-thinking geek who loves mythos and the process and ideas behind storytelling).

I’m not holding my breath for things to get any better in the fandom or the show. Despite what all my positivity may suggest, I’m much more pragmatic than optimistic. But because I stick to the edges, because I went in with my eyes open and never had to have the painful process of disappointment and attacks, I can set all the politics and social issues and bigger picture to one side for a moment, and just enjoy the ride of the 200th as a stand-alone, isolating it for the moment from this history attached to it and enjoying it at face-value only. From that point of view, it was a pretty fantastic episode; full of giggles and nods and surprisingly insightful yet utterly ridiculous songs. There were plenty of things to flail over, even if they turn out not to be as meaningful in that bigger picture in the future. For one hour, I could just enjoy being a fangirl.

The episode is called Fan Fiction, and I think what I want to take away from it as the moral of the story is this: the story belongs to anyone who loves it enough to care about it, to anyone with the passion to fight for it and believe in it, even if the story they’re focused on is slightly (or very) different than someone else’s. It’s not about what’s “canon” and what isn’t. It’s about the heart of storytelling — drawing people together, taking them into someone else’s life and bringing them on a journey, letting them experience emotions and situations they wouldn’t otherwise, and leave them feeling a little more connected to the people around them afterwards. Fanfic or canon doesn’t matter; at this level, all good storytelling becomes equal. It’s the story that’s valid, not the origins. And good storytellers are valuable, whatever they’re credentials, because they’re how stories stay alive and relevant and able to grow.

In that respect, I’d say the little corner of fandom I’ve been on the edges of is doing things exactly right. Storytelling and fiction exist to be shared. Studies show that people who are exposed to fiction develop more empathy for others, because it helps them understand who are different than them, people whose lives look nothing like their own but whose emotions and struggles are just as real. Clearly it isn’t a magic cure, or else no one in a fandom would be bullying anyone else, but it’s a good starting place. The friendships and support that can come out of shared storytelling and fandom can last a lifetime, and are the foundation of a functioning society of any size. We need empathy to survive as a people, and we certainly need it to thrive and grow ourselves.

Be kind to each other, and read more. Both acts are good for you.

Love,
GeGi.

Read Your Book Case

A Brief Rant about Film Noir.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today’s topic is not so much a review, as it is a rant. Please allow me to indulge as I strive to vent all my thoughts on the matter.

For those not familiar with classic Film Noir, here’s a quick primer:

tumblr_lnxjqqvvuw1qzehxco1_500

That’s a good basic overview of what elements go into creating the unique atmosphere and themes of classic Film Noir. And of course, there is the obvious cross-over into the Hard-Boiled Detective, but for the sake of this rant, let us set that aside as an overlapping but separate subcategory.

I just finished watching a movie that described itself as “neo-Noir”. Now, I’m not sure exactly what it is they’re trying to do with that genre, but one thing I CAN tell you: It Was Not Noir.

I went through a phase in my teenage years where I was deeply captivated by the imagery and emotions which could be evoked with skillfully mastered black-and-white film. I (briefly, off and on) wanted to be a cinematographer almost solely due to classic Film Noir imagery. It was powerful, each frame deliberate, full of symbolism and art. It showed care and skill not seen in modern Hollywood — not often, anyway.

Those filmmakers didn’t have a lot of resources around with which to tell the story. But what they had, they used to great effect. Every shadow and interplay was a reflection of morality and emotion, the inner world of the character playing out around them with parallels and mirroring. The silences and pauses, the beats between words and scenes, were laden with tension and meaning.

In contrast, this “neo-Noir” film held NONE of that. Yes, it had a lot of silent scenes, but they added nothing to the ambiance. They lacked a feeling of deliberate meaning. They were instead like empty space without significant edges to define it. The characters were disconnected, flat, and their moral ambiguity was neither sympathetic nor tense. There was no meaning in the locations, no interplay at work to enrich the story, no journey into a dark night of the soul to give weight and credence to the protagonist’s struggle. Every aspect felt boring and familiar; a story we’ve already seen, with nothing new to add.

This is not unique to the film I just watched. This is problem I’ve been seeing again and again in various subcategories of the supposed “action/thriller” genre, as it’s been trying to reinvent itself in recent years. This “neo-Noir” sub-genre in particular seems to go hand-in-hand with the Hollywood tradition of remaking successful foreign films; I’ve found the trend especially prevalent with stories originating from Sweden, Finland, etc.

The problem then becomes cultural translation. I’m not an expert, just a geek, but I have noticed a lot of meaningful silent imagery in a lot of Scandinavian films. It works there, at least for me, because it’s part of the culture and part of the dialogue between filmmaker and audience. It works in the same way classic Film Noir does, because in both cases the filmmakers know what they’re doing, and are using a silent visual language as part of their storytelling.

Some contemporary American filmmakers can do this, but for the most part it seems a skill that we’ve lost over the years as films became more focused on other aspects. Tastes change, and that’s fine. People experiment, and that’s fine, too. People remake things they admire, and that’s a great way to learn to be more, sometimes.

But sometimes, you need to take a step back and really consider what it is you’re trying to say, and what it is you’re trying to emulate. It is really a lack of dialogue between characters and a lot of scenery shots that you’re after, or is there maybe suppose to be a deeper meaning in those pauses and landscapes? Are you actually telling the story you want to tell, and evoking the atmosphere you want to evoke? Or are you just making a not-so-hot mess of everything?

Let’s return to the subject of the Hard-Boiled Detective again. It, too, has had several remakes and reinventions in modern Hollywood — Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Brick both spring to mind right away — as well as on TV — Veronica Mars, anyone? These examples all show a far more successful pilfering of the past for inspiration. And it’s not just because of the snappy dialogue, either, although it certain helps.

These films (and TV show) all have successful use of theme and reoccurring imagery throughout. Watch repeatedly, and you catch more hints and clues to the outcomes, more reflections and parallels to the inner landscapes and moral turmoils. Watch with a friend, and they catch even more that you missed.

This, then, is a key to what creates the genre. And this creates even more possibilities as to films that might actually qualify. Think about Fight Club, and go look at the Film Noir list again up at the top of this post. How many of those boxes does it check off? Heck, even The Boondock Saints had water imagery when the boys receive their divine inspiration to go kill everyone evil! (Yes, that was a slight spoiler; but honestly, it doesn’t ruin the film or anything. If you haven’t seen it yet, go do so after you finish reading this post. I promise it will be just as good.)

Obviously, we have some talented filmmakers still capable of creating good Noir films with a modern twist. I completely love that. But I also really wish the ones who aren’t — the ones who don’t understand the language of visual symbolism, who can’t paint with light and shadow, who think silence is the same as a lack of dialogue, who think landscape and set dressing only exists as scenery rather than part of the story, who fail to grasp the importance and role of foreshadowing, who had never even heard of what makes classic Film Noir worth watching — I wish those people would leave the genre alone.

What are you thoughts on the matter? Seen other movies that fit the genre, or ones that sucked? Interested in hearing my opinion on other genres? Leave a message in the comments below! And please, always remember to play nice with the other geeks.

Love,

GeGi.

New Art.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

This is my last week on the ranch. For the final two weeks the guests are Adults-Only, so some of the activities are a little different. For example, a professional artist is here and running a painting workshop. She was impressed with my ability, so I got to do two: same scene, different seasons.

Love,
GeGi.

Mythology and Secret Worlds.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

When I was young and impressionable my brother would read The Sandman comics, written by Neil Gaiman, to me. Our mum was not too pleased when she found out, due to the graphic violence depicted in some of the stories, but I don’t remember being bothered by it. I was too fascinated by the mythology, and by the concept of the secret lives and worlds happening within and alongside the everyday.

The first Neil Gaiman novel I read on my own was Neverwhere. The plot itself plays out a bit predictably, like a modern fairy tale, but that wasn’t what captivated me. It was the world itself; the way an ordinary thing in the everyday world could be turned into a realm of the strange and weird, the way it made the magic world fit within the mundane one and it made more sense than if it wasn’t there at all. Like the mythology and world-building within The Sandman, it felt like having a secret curtain pulled back just for me to glimpse behind.

When I read American Gods, it was like all those ideas from the earlier works had grown up. It was subtle and grounded, balancing both the macro focus of the world and the micro focus of the personal stories. Once again, I was being allowed into a secret world that made sense, that had rules and interactions with the familiar world; one that was still magical and strange and scary, yet as the same time felt utterly familiar because it was so deeply reflecting the ordinary.

These are the stories that shaped me. They formed and changed the way I thought, and the way I saw the world. They created a taste for fantasy that was grounded in reality, stories that revealed a hidden meaning behind the everyday, tales that brought out secret worlds within familiar spaces.

Not every story is an epic. Not every epic has to feel like one. The potential impact of the small tales about ordinary lives muddling through extraordinary things can be just as impressive. Neil Gaiman is a master at this kind of storytelling.

Within the pages there is an obvious love of language; poetry written into every sentence. There are dark and fantastical worlds, haunting images and emotions, characters who are familiar as old friends, and those who are taken from fairy-tales and nightmares. All of this is set within something accessible, stories that twist your mind and perception but never lose the sense of this could really be happening. They are reality blended seamlessly with dream, until you can no longer be sure of the edges, of what is reflection and what is solid.

Neil Gaiman, his words and his worlds, will live in my heart always. He created the stories which helped create who I am in life and in imagination. I’m drawn to dreamlike and fantastic worlds in all media forms now, because of the impact his writing had on me.

Since the very first, I’ve wanted to live in the worlds he created. My friend @TinyLionRoars recently called me “a PunkRock Pixie” — a description I love, by the way. To me, this shows that even my tastes in things such as fashion and make-up reflect his influence (among similar others); some of the colors I’ve dyed my hair would never had happened if I hadn’t fallen in love with Delirium’s ever-changing hair in The Sandman, for instance.

delirium hair

Whatever your tastes, I hope they’ve enriched your life as much. Keep dreaming…

Love,

GeGi.

Daytime friendly.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Time for another home-made make-up look!

Today’s eye makeup is daytime-friendly, that can easily transition to evening.

Image

Image

For this look, I started with a base of arrowroot/mica powder, applied with a blending brush.

Then I took the darker shadow mix I created (from this post) and used a dome smudge brush to apply along the upper lid and slightly into the outer crease.

I took a clean blending brush to smooth out the edges, and then used it to apply arrowroot/mica as a finishing powder along the underside of the eyebrows and the lower lid, blending it into the edges of the shadow.

I took a detail liner brush, and applied a cream eyeshadow I made out of a dark purple mica powder (look for a future DYI Friday post on making that!) along and slightly beyond the outer edge of the lash line, top and bottom.

This makeup wears well. I didn’t noticed the color migrating — like it did in last week’s look — until I teared up during a particularly feels-filled scene of a movie later in the evening. After that, the shadow was definitely heavier in the creases of the eyelid. But I find that an acceptable exception. We’ll see how much that happens with the powder base verses a cream base in future looks.

Also, on the rest of my face, I’m wearing a homemade face cream, concealer, and finishing powder! Those will all get future blog posts as well.

Love,

GeGi.