Writing is hard

Words come naturally to me – they always have. What I’ve always found difficult is finding the right words to articulate what I want to say. So I guess the words themselves don’t come as naturally to me as the thoughts and feelings I want to convey. Like most people faced with something difficult that I don’t actually have to do, I usually just choose not to write, because that’s easier. Who even knows or cares what I write, anyway? It’s not like I have a huge following, or am in any kind of IRL position of power or authority.

But then I realized (and by ‘then’ I mean literally 10 minutes ago when I decided to take my blog up again), that “I don’t need to write about this or that social justice or political issue, because someone else will” sounds an awful lot like “I don’t need to vote, because someone else will,” or “I don’t need to stop that mugging down the block because someone else will,” and so on. Yes, there are hundreds (probably thousands – I don’t know, I’m not great at numbers) of people out there, just like me, who are telling the interwebs all about their righteous indignance from the relative comfort of their middle class oases. Yes, many of these people are probably even writing about the same things I intend to. And they’re probably better writers than I am, and have more followers!

So why write at all? Because if I’ve learned anything (I’ve actually learned a ton) from this year’s Presidential election, it’s that my voice still matters. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” (Sidebar: we’ll come back to this later, and talk about how it’s about war being bad, not anti-abortion rhetoric, like some people believe.)

I’m going to write about random things – whatever appeals to me at the time. Maybe one day I’ll finish that series I started, where I watch and reflect on every. Disney. movie. ever. I might play devil’s advocate. I might swear a lot. I’ll probably make up some words and will most certainly make wildly liberal use of creative grammar license. It’s a style thing – if you don’t like it, go find something else to read. I’m sure if anyone ever does read this thing, I’ll have angry rednecks and bible thumpers and vegans bitching about one thing or another. I’m fine with that – I’d love to engage someone with different beliefs and opinions in an open, honest, intellectual exchange of ideas!

So sit your asses down, buckle up, and get your thinking caps on. Or don’t. I don’t super care. Just don’t be an asshole in the comments section.


The “Tragic Shooting” in Charleston: a tale of homegrown American terrorism

“This type of mass violence doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.”http://youtu.be/_VnvsGhUp84
If you’ve seen or heard President Obama’s remarks on the murders in Charleston, this was probably the line that really grabbed your attention. The visibly emotional Leader of the Free World sounded like a wounded and disappointed parent, scolding his 318.9 million unruly children – as well he should. 

Ever since the prodigal pilgrims landed on the proverbial Plymouth Rock and promptly carried on the proud European tradition of raping and pillaging savages, it’s been one foul play after another. The Trail of Tears, the Transcontinental Railroad, the enslavement of millions of non-white people, the begrudging release of those slaves…I could go on. You would think that we here in The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave would be eager to live up to that title, but you would be mistaken. As evidenced by the continual race and culture wars we as a society continue to perpetuate, we are far from Free and Brave. 

You think America is the greatest country in the world? When some redneck neo-Nazi nut job terrorist can walk into Walmart and buy a gun, then proceed to shoot up a church – including three pastors (one of whom was an elected official) and six other totally innocent people, in what is just the latest in a trend of mass shootings, and just the latest in a trend of racially-motivated shootings…I think you need to think again. Not only was it a church, this particular church is an historical landmark in the narrative of the struggle for basic civil right by millions of people in this country, whose only “crime” was being born different from the Middle Class Straight White Man we’re supposed to revere. 

This kind of thing connot continue to happen. This is the twenty-first century. When the president of the United States even admits that all the political BS will probably make real social change unlikely…there is something seriously wrong with this country. 

You want America to be the greatest country in the world? Help make it a country where folks can go to Wednesday evening bible study, or go to the movies, or SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL, or walk down the goddamn street without fearing for their lives.
If you’re a praying person, pray. Then nut up or shut up. Put your ballot where your boca is and actually do something about it! This kind of problem is too important to fall by the wayside come election time. So what if some people are allowed to smoke pot or get abortions, or if rich people have to pay more taxes – Americans are being murdered by homegrown terrorists. 
The only way to stop this is stark social and political change. Stricter gun regulations, more money for education and social programs. This kind of violence will continue forever unless we as a country step up to the plate and stop allowing our children to grow up to be ignorant, violent bigots. 
We need a political and cultural revolution in this country! We’ll never cure the disease just by treating the symptoms. We’re so focused on who got sent home on last night’s Dancing with the Stars, or whether we should get the iPhone 6 or the Galaxy, that we’re losing sight of the world we’re living in. Entertainment and sports and technology – these are all very important things, don’t get me wrong. They’re a huge part of the American popular culture, and are things we should be proud of, as global leaders in those industries. We cannot, however, allow ourselves to become absorbed in these distractions to the exclusion of the rest of the world. 
We are smarter than this. YOU are smarter than this. Even if you’re a bigot, you have no right to act on those feelings in a way that is harmful to others – and you owe it to yourself, your children, and your community to acknowledge that while you’re entitled to your opinions, they’re just that. Opinions. 

For my progressive folks out there, you’re just as much to blame. Believing in the cause is a far cry from helping make change a reality. Voter turnout in this country is abysmal – a tragic consequence of a deeply flawed election system. In that respect, we have brought all these issues on ourselves. We continue to elect politicians who spend their campaigns pimping themselves out to the highest bidders, with zero thought for actually doing their jobs and protecting the interests of their constituents. 

So here’s my challenge to you:

  • Read and/or listen to the news for at least 30 minutes each for day for a week. 
  • Learn the names and policy records of your elected officials, from your local town council all the way up to your congressmen. 
  • Talk to the people you know. How do they feel about the world we live in? Do they do anything to change it? What? How? Why?
  • Think about the most unfortunate person you know. Really think. How did this person get this way? Who let him/her down along the way? What services did this person not receive, at any stage in life, that could have made a difference?

If at the end of this challenge you’re not motivated to become more involved in fixing our community and our world, there’s nothing more I can do to help you. If it does get you thinking – wonderful!

Agree with me, disagree, argue, whatever – but please keep this discussion going! 

Who says you can’t go home?

So….as my billions (i.e. handful) of loyal readers may have noted, I have been silent for the past several months. There’s been a lot going on in my life lately. Writing about it might actually have been a better way to deal with everything, but alas…earwax.

Anyone? No. Hmph.

Anyway. Here is a list of the stuff I have/had on my plate. I know it’s none of your business and you probably don’t care, but whatever.

1) In February I was diagnosed with very aggressive Crohn’s disease.

For those of you who don’t know what Crohn’s is, the short story is that my body is trying to kill me, and it makes me poop a lot. I have (very painful) ulcers throughout my digestive tract and have to take chemo drugs to suppress my immune system enough for my body to heal itself. I lost a lot of weight. Like, enough that people who didn’t know I was sick were worried that I was sick. I raked up a lot of medical bills. My depression got worse. It was rough. I’m doing very well now, with treatment and lifestyle adjustments, and have gotten back to a healthy weight, but I’m not in remission yet. Fingers crossed! To learn more about Crohn’s disease and whatnot, check out the CCFA – they’re a really great nonprofit.

2) My depression became almost crippling.

Seriously. If I hadn’t been working 40-80 hours on any given week, and didn’t have my boyfriend and bar friends to keep me going, I don’t know what I would have done. If you’re depressed, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. It’s not your fault, and don’t let anyone try and tell you to “just snap out of it,” or “quit feeling sorry for yourself”. I think everyone, even “normal” people should see therapists. Everyone can benefit from an objective third party who has your best interests in mind and helps you introspect, but it’s especially helpful for people suffering from depression, anxiety, etc. I’m on medication now, which helps with the chemical imbalance that predisposes me to ultra-sensitivity to environmental factors. And the environmental factors, I’m working on with my therapist and family to sort out. So things are looking up!

3) Thanks to Numbers 1 and 2, I amassed actually crippling debt.

It’s really bad. Plus the student loans and a car payment. The most important thing I learned in college, is that if you’re not trying to be a doctor or a lawyer, it doesn’t really matter where you go to college. I wouldn’t have done anything differently, because it’s unhealthy to think that way, and I wouldn’t trade all the friends I’ve made (not to mention my wonderful boyfriend) just to be debt-free. I would just advise anyone getting ready to go to college (or to go into debt for any reason) to think long and hard about your real ability to pay the debt off. Thank god you can consolidate federal loans.

4) I moved back to Ohio.

Not that I didn’t love New York. I’ll always love New York, but because of numbers 1-3 on this list, it just wasn’t working out. I always said I would never really belong to the Boomerang Generation, but I guess when the sticker price on your Bachelor’s degree is $25ok and you can’t balance a budget to save your life, it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I also was just ready for a slower pace of life, cheaper rent, and better job prospects. And so was my boyfriend, which is why he came with me (even though he’s from New England, and the Midwest is like a foreign country to him)! Talk about dedication. Also, it turns out Cincinnati is actually a really cool place. I bitched about it a lot when I was growing up – Cincinnasty and The Nasty ‘Nati were a couple of my friends’ and my favorite nicknames – but for someone who spent the better part of her youth moving around a lot, I didn’t realize I’d put down any roots until I was trying to plant the tree somewhere else.


So, yeah. There’s a lot going on. But never fear – MrsWillShakes is back, and better than ever! In addition to getting back on track with DisneyQuest, I’ll also be starting an exciting new project with my boyfriend. More on that later, but we’re super excited and think y’all will really dig it, so stay tuned!

Disney Quest #11: Make Mine Music

from IMDB

from IMDB

1946, 74 mins., NR

So yeah, it’s been seven months to the day since I posted anything, and I know I suck. I’ve had a LOT  going on in my personal life, so this project had to go to the back burner again. But I’m back now! I think, anyway. I keep saying that though, so who knows. Anyway…

My general impression of this is that it’s a much chiller version of Fantasia. There are cute little vignettes of cartoons paired with music. I’m not really going to spend too much time on this, because it’s more of the same of what we’ve seen already and what’s still to come – a lot of beautiful music, a lot of clever cartoons, some vaguely racist and/or sexist moments, but nothing beyond what you’d expect from the 1940s.

I know these posts are kind of boring, because there’s an awkward decade of a bunch of films like this that, while cute and entertaining and (nearly) timeless, just aren’t super relevant anymore. We can talk more later about why they’re nearly timeless, but even that sort of speaks for itself.

In other news…Fun and Fancy Free is up next, then there’s only one more like this until we start really getting into the features!

Call me old-fashioned: Why I think it’s okay to want to be a housewife

So I read this article from the Times this morning, and it really got me thinking. I realize I’m going a little off point here, but you know how it works when you get to thinking about something and it takes you all over the board. Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t feel the need to “have it all” in the way women these days are supposed to. I’m good at my job, and I enjoy being financially independent, but when I have children, as long as it’s financially feasible for me and my partner, I’d much rather stay home and take care of them than continue to work, or only work part-time, or work from home – you get the idea. That’s not to say that people who don’t stay home with their kids don’t have their priorities right. It’s just that everyone is different, and given the choice, I’d rather be a stay-at-home mom.

I’m all about equal partnership, but I don’t think that necessarily means going 50-50 on income and housework. It seems to me that with mutual understanding and respect, any income:housework ratio can work. Every couple is different, and being progressive just for the sake of being progressive seems counterproductive. As “modern women”, we’re supposed to be able to juggle a career, kids, and housework so we can prove to the world that we can do it all just as well as any man. That pressure, to me, is more entrapping than being a homemaker or staying home with the kids. I think I would feel more empowered making the decision to be a housewife without being judged or disparaged by the hordes of hyper-feminists. Every woman is unique, and has unique desires and needs. Telling me that I’ve been brainwashed by the media and society and calling me a traitor to women doesn’t make me sympathetic to the feminist cause – it shows me that you’re just as closed-minded and pigeonholing as the gender- and heteronormative roles you look down on. All you’ve done is create a new standard that’s just as limiting as the old one.

Why does there even have to be a standard? I think the best thing we as women could do to further our cause is to stop judging each other. Let’s just each make our own choices about how we want to live our lives, and be supportive of one another in whatever we choose to do. That would show the world that we’re empowered enough to do whatever we want to do because we want to do it, not because we feel we are supposed to. If you want to be a career lady and your husband stays home with the kids, and that works for you guys, more power to you! And if I want to work from home while I raise the kids, and that works for us, more power to me! Or if Suzie Q is a powerhouse career lady and president of the PTA, and that works for her marriage, more power to her! Who’s to say that in a marriage situation where income earning is 70:30 and childcare/housework is 30:70, that the “power balance” within the marriage isn’t still 50:50? To bring it back to the Times article, raising children/managing a household is a full-time job in and of itself. Speaking from personal experience, working 80 hours a week sucks. So the idea of working full-time outside the home, then working full-time at home, is less than appealing for me, and the findings of the studies they cite about decreased sex drive totally make sense to me.

I know I only addressed about 10% of what the article actually talks about, but it’s early and I’m just trying to open up a discussion here. Thoughts?

PS. I haven’t forgotten about DisneyQuest, I just suck at life. It’s coming soon, I promise.

DisneyQuest #10: Song of the South

from IMDB

from IMDB

1946, 94 mins., Rated G

Aaaaaaand we’re back! No excuses about why this took so long – I just suck. But I did some homework on this one, and I’m really excited to talk about it!

So I’m finally ready to tackle Disney’s Secret Taboo Shame. I think it’s really hilarious how hard Disney has tried to pretend that this film never happened. It’s pretty common knowledge that Walt Disney was a bigot, but so were most of his contemporaries, right? All the other films that deal with (read: perpetuate) racial stereotypes are easily accessible, and even seen as quaint in their Silly, Ignorant White People neatness. But because of the subject matter this particular “racist” picture is suuuuper not kosher. And I’ll probably get hate mail for saying this, but I’m not really even convinced that the film, or the intentions of the folks who made it, is racist. Just hear me out.

First of all, let me make a note of how hard it is to get your hands on this thing. It was never released in its entirety on VHS or DVD, and it’s not available to stream on any of the legit sites (Netflix, Hulu, etc.). Really the only plausible way to get your hands on a bona fide copy is a European PAL, which then requires the proper equipment, or an expensive DVD or digital transfer. The next option would be one of the numerous bootleg DVDs. These are mostly crappy DIY transfers from the PAL or the single time the film was broadcast on television, and only available from very shady-looking online retailers. So really, my only option was to procure it by other means. I plead the Fifth. But really, if they don’t want people going behind their backs, they should just make the damn thing available. It’s an historical document and should be treated as such. This smells a little like Germany insisting the Holocaust never happened, or American schools teaching our children that the Pilgrims and Indians were BFFs. Except that this movie isn’t anything to be ashamed of, so Disney are just making fools of themselves and wasting everyone’s time. Okay, end of rant.

I will now attempt to defend this film in as tactful, respectful, and accurate a manner as possible. Bear with me, please.

Have you ever read the Uncle Remus stories? No? I didn’t think so. I have, and the folks who made this film certainly did. Before I started researching for this post, I’d only ever heard the name Uncle Remus in association with this film, and had never heard any of the tales. If you didn’t know, it is a collection of folk tales influenced by the African-American and Native American aural traditions, and published by a white man named Joel Chandler Harris during the Reconstruction era (just after the Civil War, when the South was tore to shit and they had to rebuild everything). Mr. Harris was a journalist, novelist, and a champion of reconciliation (both racial, and between the North and South). Little Johnny’s father seems to be modeled after Harris – the film opens with a discussion between the grown-ups about folks not liking what Daddy has to say in his newspaper, and he leaves Johnny and Sally at the plantation to get back to Atlanta to keep working.

Uncle Remus spins tales of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox and all their adventures and misadventures. There are cautionary tales and creation mythologies. Br’er Rabbit is characterized almost as an Arlecchino (from the commedia dell’arte tradition), or a Jim Crow (from the minstrel tradition). Much like Tom Sawyer or Tyrion Lannister, Br’er Rabbit uses his wits and cunning to avoid work, often creating an even bigger mess for himself in the process.

I found the film charming, particularly the framing story of Little Johnny and his family. I don’t understand why it’s seen as racist. Does it show liberated slaves still living and working at the plantation? Yes. Is that what they did in real life? Yes, a lot of them. Is there a tar baby in one of the Br’er Rabbit tales? Yes. Did Walt Disney make up the tar baby story because he hated black people? No. It was already part of the Uncle Remus tradition. If anything, pretending that these aspects of history never existed and disparaging anyone who depicts them in popular culture is more harmful than people seem to think this movie is. Could the animation sequences have been handled better? Yes. Could we have done without the use of dialect? Probably. As we discussed with Snow White, Saludos Amigos, and  The Three Caballeros, the Disneyfication of cultural mythology is not always helpful, but does at least bring exposure. What about Hercules – is that disrespectful of the mythological tradition of Ancient Greece? Or is The Hunchback of Notre Dame racist against the Romani? Yes and yes. I say just take it at face value. If you don’t like it, that’s your personal prerogative – but I don’t understand the crusade against this film in particular.

On a related note, this film happens to be very finely acted and sung by the very talented James Baskett and Hattie McDaniel (who you may know as Mammy from Gone with the Wind). And speaking of singing, I think this film marks the beginning of the Disney tradition of coining words for catchy tunes. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” is one of the best-known and best-loved Disney songs ever, though many people couldn’t tell you what film it’s from. They also went to the next level with the combination of animation and live actors (which will obviously come in handy down the road for Mary Poppins).

My point here is not to offend anyone, just to offer my own thoughts about the films I watch in the most respectful way possible. If you read something you don’t like and have an informed, thoughtful response, please feel free to leave it in the comments below and I will respond in turn. I am not, however, interested in hate speech. Comments that are rude, hateful, or unsubstantiated will be screened out. This is a forum for discussion, not a platform for hate.

In other news…stay tuned for Make Mine Music!

Christmas in California

Hey y’all. Merry Christmas!

Sorry I’ve been bad about DisneyQuest stuff lately. It’s been a really bizarre couple of months, especially December – it came and went before I had time to blink. I’m working on Song of the South now, and will hopefully have it up tonight or tomorrow!

So anyway…

I’m spending Christmas/New Year’s in California as a traveling nanny for a family I’ve done casual babysitting for back in New York. They’re super nice and the kid (a rambunctious 4-year-old girl) is great, but something feels kind of…off. I think it’s a combination of several things that are making me feel uncomfortable, and maybe it’ll help me to talk through them. My shrink is always telling me to talk to people about my problems, and since I’m 2,500 miles away from my closest friend or family member, this will have to do. Not sure it’s exactly what she had in mind, but whatever.

First off, Christmas has always been a super huge deal for me and my family. For me, the Christmas season begins September 13, the day after my birthday. I love the cooking and baking, the shopping and decorating, praying for snow (then cursing it when there’s enough to be annoying, but not enough to cancel school or work), planning really thoughtful gifts for people, and, most importantly, the warm sense of togetherness and family. Growing up, even when money was tight, Christmas was always huge and magical, and in my adult life I’ve tried to maintain that feeling, even living far away from any family. And although the place I now call home is 600 miles away from the place I call my hometown, and even further from where most of my family live, I’ve still managed to spend Christmas and New Years with family every year.

It’s strange. I travel all the time, don’t mind being on my own, and am generally just fine being far away from my family. I figured that taking this one year off (in exchange for a considerable amount of money) would be okay, and that I was tough and independent enough to not feel lonely. But boy, was I wrong. I was doing mostly okay (even enjoyed myself at Christmas Eve dinner surrounded by very friendly strangers) until I woke up this morning and started scrolling through my Facebook feed. Seeing all my friends and family (especially the ones with whom I normally spend the holiday) posting all their present-opening photos and statuses was the first blow. It suddenly struck me how utterly alone was feeling. Then I saw the time stamps on the posts and remembered that these posts were all several hours old. Most of my family and friends are on the East Coast and in Australia, so waking up on West Coast time, it was like I had missed Christmas all together. As I sobbed silently in the shower this morning, I coined the term “Loneliness Radius”. Mine extends 5,000 miles to the west and 2,500 to the east.

Skipped Christmas traditions aside, I’m also extremely uncomfortable being around new people – particularly in family settings – and all I’ve done since we arrived in the Bay Area two days ago is spend time with other people’s friends and families. The MBTI says I’m an E, but only by a very narrow margin. Being constantly introduced to new people is exhausting and uncomfortable, and never having any private time during which to process all this new information only exacerbates the feeling. I share a hotel room with the 4-year-old (her parents are in a nicer hotel across the street), and am at the beck and call of the parents and family who live in town (none of whom believe in making and sticking to a schedule), 24/7, for the next two weeks. I’ve had perhaps an hour of waking privacy in the past three days. It’s very uncomfortable, especially for someone who’s never been a live-in nanny before.

Also, California itself is making me uncomfortable. I’ve never been here outside an airport before, and it’s like a foreign country. Which would be fine, if I had the freedom to explore and familiarize myself with the place. But I’m on a pretty short leash, and haven’t been able to get used to being here. Having spent 5 years in New York (usually walking several miles a day), and 5 months living in and exploring Europe, walking is typically the way I get my bearings in a new place. Apparently no one walks anywhere here, and even if I weren’t bound by all this “Just sit tight at the hotel all day in case we decide we want to take our kid somewhere, but we’ll only let you know for sure 5 minutes before we come over”, the kid can’t do as much walking as I’d like to do. And if I happen to find myself with a day off, I’d like to spend it doing touristy things down in San Francisco, rather than trying to get comfortable with my immediate surroundings. To this more practical problem, the only solution I can think of is to come back to San Francisco some other time, on an actual vacation, and try to isolate why California makes me uncomfortable, and go from there to familiarize myself with it.

I always used to tell my friends, when they would ask why I put up with this internship, or that babysitting family, that it’s because I’m for sale to the highest bidder. But I think now I’ve found my limit. I suppose we all have to find our personal thresholds of what we will and won’t do for money, and now I know that my Christmas isn’t for sale.