Thanksgiving in Ferguson

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And beyond meaning that you get to stuff your face uncontrollably for hours on end, it also means you get to spend quality time with your family.

In this upcoming holiday, meant to give thanks for the things we have, I have a bit of advice: Don’t talk about controversial stuff. Don’t do it. You may be tempted to bring up how the pilgrims basically used the natives for their own gain, or that we would later murder them in mass numbers and force the rest of them to live on isolated lands of our choosing. You might want to talk politics and about how Obama helping immigrants is the Christianly thing to do. You may bring up religion alone and talk about how Islam isn’t that bad and is often cast in a negative light. Hell, you may even be tempted to bring up the most controversial topic of all and finally admit to your family as a whole that Star Wars Episode I wasn’t really terrible and it’s a movie that sort of holds up, if you ignore the blatant racism.

Just don’t do it. Don’t talk about any of these things because they usually end in a shouting match and someone storming off into the cold November world until someone else comes chasing after them to remind them that none of us agree on anything wholly and not to worry about it.

However, there is one thing we should all talk about—or, at the very least, not avoid.

We should talk, together and openly and without personal spite, about Michael Brown. Especially if your family, like mine, is all white. We need to talk about it because there are still some misconceptions about what happened. We need to talk about it because this isn’t an isolated incident. We need to talk about it because all over the country tomorrow, families of color will be getting together just the same as ours—and you can bet your ass that they’ll be talking about it.

Most importantly, we should talk about it because out there in Ferguson, Missouri, there will be one family in particular gathering together for a family meal, minus one. Perhaps they will leave a seat open for their son—only just a man in the eyes of the law—which will not be filled tomorrow. Perhaps they will cancel their Thanksgiving all together. I can’t say for sure.

But what I can say for sure is that my own family will be together for a large meal in which we will all stuff our faces uncontrollably, and we will all be there. My mother won’t have to weep over her turkey and stuffing; my father won’t have to hold in his anger for the rest of my family’s sake; my sisters can worry more about the parade far off in New York rather than riots and protests just outside.

This post is not about taking sides in what was clearly a horrific event. It’s about realizing that, whatever side you’re seeing the entire thing from, you should—for tomorrow, at least—see it from the perspective of the family who lost a son sixty-five years too soon.

And be grateful for what you have.

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Mystery Drama Greenscreen Presents: EXPLOSIONS!

This was another one of those videos that seemed hilarious when I first thought of it and then, as I filmed and edited it, I realized nope, just weird.

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Club Dancing as the Night Progresses

I'm sleepy. Are you guys sleepy? I'm just going to lay down right here and...don't...dance...on...me...

I’m sleepy. Are you guys sleepy? I’m just going to lie down right here and…don’t…dance…on…me…

I haven’t been out dancing in forever, but whenever I do, this is pretty much how things go. How these kids stay up so late with their house musics is beyond me. Now excuse me while I take a nap on the dance floor.

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America

A bit late on this Sunday afternoon, but only because of all the hard work I pretended to put into my new campaign video! In truth, there was simply a lot of tedious editing. After a while, I just gave up on decent editing and let the green screen effects go to crap. But then, that’s what politicians do, right? Give up and let stuff go to crap?

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The Age of Pics

Way back in the year 2006 I had a little part-time job working for the horticulture department of the Louisville Zoo. I didn’t get paid much, but with zero bills, it was all spendable money. I saved up quite a bit of it and bought various bits of technology: Movies, CD’s, a laptop, and, finally, a camera.

And from then on, you couldn’t find me out in public without that camera. I loved that camera; I took pictures of everything, everywhere. I still have many of those pictures up on my Facebook and a handful of them are decent. The camera quickly became one of my most prized possessions—not because it was particularly expensive or a great camera, but because it opened up a new world for me in photography. It was a good camera and it taught me a lot about photography.

Probably the very first picture I took with my Fujifilm digital camera.

Probably the very first picture I took with my Fujifilm digital camera.

I say it was a good camera, but in reality, it’s a terrible camera eight years later. Most cellphones come standard with cameras at higher megapixels than that little Fujifilm pseudo-DSLR. Nowadays, less than a decade later, everyone has a high quality camera in their pockets. And with every single one of those high quality cameras comes software that makes them even better (or worse, if you’re much into Instagram filters—and who isn’t?).

Years later I would get a new DSLR of much better quality—a Canon Rebel XS. I nearly doubled my megapixels, got an interchangeable lens, better modes and options, and I was actually able to begin messing with things like shutter speed and aperture levels. If my Fujifilm taught me a new skill, my Rebel XS honed those skills.

Eventually I would move on to a new Canon Rebel T2i, mostly for the high definition video. To this day, that’s the one I use to record my vlog videos and take pictures, when I do.

When I do, because, honestly, I don’t take many pictures anymore. Besides the occasional self-portrait* and series of macro pictures, I hardly use my T2i for photographing anymore. Why bother? The internet is so saturated with photos that it’s hard to think anyone would actually take the time to look through any ones I’d take.

A picture I took of myself last week with my T2i.

A picture I took of myself last week with my T2i.

This isn’t a sad-sack deal, it’s just how it is. I hardly ever go through my friends’ photo albums on Facebook. I don’t even keep up with my Instagram feed anymore. I’ll click a link every now and then to see a picture, but I don’t go out of my way to see what shots my friends have snapped.

And that’s unfortunate, because I used to really like viewing pictures taken by people I know online. I used to really like taking pictures myself. Anymore, it’s a form of art I’ve let go for the most part.

I’m not the only one, either. Last year the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their full-time staff photographers. Why? Because in this day-and-age, professional photographers aren’t appreciated.

And that’s fucking sad, because photographers do something that a teenager with a cellphone can never do. They don’t just capture a picture on their memory card; they capture a moment to share with the world. Photographers are probably the most underappreciated artists around. It’s not just due to new technology, either.

You see, we kind of expect photos to be free, and we always have. You expect to be able to see a picture that’s been taken, to get a copy of it for cheap or free, to download it from the internet. It’s hard to stop people from doing that, too. Prints are easy to make, especially in the digital age, but they’re just as easy to steal. Photography is slipping away from the realm of art, and quickly into the world of belongs-to-everyone.

We see a picture and we nod our heads and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.” But we hardly ever stop to look at it, examine it. Photos can be glanced at and gotten the general idea of, but it’s so much less likely for someone to take pause and truly soak in all the little details of a photograph. We simply don’t treat photography as we do paintings or drawings or any other form of art anymore.

I’m not really all that great at photography—especially since I’ve quit taking pictures regularly—but I know a few people who are better than great at it. I have friends who have a real eye for snapping a great shot; I have family who can make grabbing a fantastic picture look as easy as whipping out a cellphone and taking a selfie with your BFF.

Unfortunately, taking great photos isn’t so easy as the world would have you think. We’re bombarded by so many pictures on a daily basis that people are finding it increasingly difficult to appreciate not only decent photography, but amazing photography.

So next time you’re considering taking a picture of the food you just ordered from a restaurant, or you just feel that the internet needs one more picture of you sticking your lips out at your phone, just don’t. What the world (and the world wide web) needs isn’t another generic photo—it’s something we can stare at for a long time.

And appreciate.

Footenotes:
*Note my general lack of use of the word “selfie” here. I’m not against selfies, but selfies indicate a particular style of photographing oneself. Usually involving peace signs and duck faces.
†To be fair, I’ve done my fair share of food pictures and lips-sticking-out photos. But I’m mostly making fun of people, because I’m a nice fucking guy.
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A Complete List of Words You Can’t Say On TV

But, wait! There’s more! Here’s a very special link to the uncensored version.

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Feminism and Return of Kings

There’s a website out there in the world called “Return of Kings”. And before you think it’s probably an awesome Lord of the Rings fan-fic site, let me disappoint you by saying that it’s not. It’s far from a Lord of the Rings fan-fic site; for “Return of the Kings” (you can Google it, because I refuse to link to it) is a website for and by anti-feminists.

Anti-feminism is all the rage among douchebag guys who don’t know how to treat other human beings decently, have been rejected for that reason, and have decided to take it out on everyone. It’s men (and sometimes women, for some reason) who feel that anyone associating themselves with the term “feminist” is a man-hating woman plotting to eradicate the male gender.

Like any group of people, you’ll find extremists, but also moderates in the anti-feminist movement. The moderates being guys who simply think women should get back in the kitchen and stop their bitching. Unfortunately, even that “moderate” attitude is extremely sexist.

The idea that comes with anti-feminism isn’t “any guy that doesn’t call himself a feminist is anti-feminism,” thankfully. But it’s close, and it comes with a whole lifestyle; a lifestyle that hasn’t been all that present since the 1950’s. A lifestyle that includes mainly a line of thinking, but also putting down these thoughts all over the worst place to live: The internet.

Which brings me back around to Return of Kings. Besides taking their name from a badass subtitle, there’s not much else good about Return of Kings. Their website is full of articles that would drop anyone’s jaw, sans assholes. At the top of their site they have listed their categories for clicking: “Culture,” “Games,” “Masculinity”—which is about where you’d stop and say, “I’m sorry, what?”

They have an entire link for articles on “masculinity.”

In my experience, anytime someone talks about their (or anyone else’s) masculinity, it’s filled with a plethora of underlining subtext about anti-women and anti-homosexuals.

And in case you’re thinking that I’m just putting Return of Kings into a small box, here’s the first paragraph of their “About” section:

“Return Of Kings is a blog for heterosexual, masculine men. It’s meant for a small but vocal collection of men in America today who believe men should be masculine and women should be feminine.”

There’s not really any subtext there—they lay it all out. “Heterosexual, masculine men” who believe “men should be masculine and women should be feminine.”

A couple of paragraphs down it also warns that, “Women and homosexuals are discouraged from commenting here.” I can’t quite blame them for this, either, because the site is so full of pieces that would make anyone with any sense of conscience to become immediately incensed. After all, they’ve got me talking about it, right?

But something always nags me about this site. It’s too clean-cut. It’s too heterosexual, masculine men. I repeatedly try to tell myself that this entire thing is an Onion-esque parody site. Yet when you do a tag search for “satire” on the Return of Kings website it comes up with a single article titled “You’re A Misogynist”.

Allow me to take a minute to subside my outrage of the very existence of this site so that I can bring about my point of all this.

Okay.

I don’t think I’ve ever in my life called myself a feminist. Simply put, I didn’t think I was. That’s because there is a certain image that’s associated with feminism. I’m not talking about a physical association, but more a grainy, black-and-white image of women burning bras in the ‘60’s. The image I think of when someone says they’re a feminist is of street protestors, in short.

And I am not a protestor—not in the traditional sense—of anything. I may protest in my own way, like boycotting products or writing long-winded essays on my blog, but I’ve never gone to the streets to show my disdain for anything at all.

However, over the past couple of years the definition of feminism has changed. They are no longer angry women (who were always pretty much rightfully angry) shouting in the street. The modern feminist is anyone that agrees that women (and all people of all gender-identifications) should be treated equally to men.

The modern feminist is the husband that’s okay with watching the kid while the wife goes off to work or school. The modern feminist is the dad that wants his daughter to make as much as her male coworkers. The modern feminist is any guy who understands that following a woman down the street catcalling at her is pretty much terrifying.

The modern feminist is anyone of any gender who wants one simple thing: A society in which all women have all the privileges of the other half.

Thus, I’ll say something I’ve never said (and never thought I’d have to say) in my entire life:

I’m a feminist.

Because if the alternative is thinking of myself as part of Return of Kings or anti-feminists alike, I’d rather start wearing a bra just so that I could take it off and burn it in the streets.

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