Monday, May 25, 2015

How do we Tolerate Intolerance

A Slow Start

The 2015 Eurovision Song Contest is a bright and frothy reflection of very dark things. I didn't want to get into it in my Sunday Squee because it is decidedly unSqueeful, but the Eurovision attempt to sing away war happened while a war was going on. Over a year ago, in February 2014, Russian forces invaded Ukraine in the wake of Ukraine trying to formalize stronger ties with Europe, and they've continued to advance their military despite sanctions from a West which has been unwilling to offer up direct military aid. Conflict News, a source which attempts to use citizen reporting about what they observe as a way to get more information about conflicts in areas where journalists are unsafe, has a running line of information about the ongoing conflict on their Ukrainian feed, including an animated gif which gives a sense of the war's size and progression. It is notable that Ukraine had withdrawn from the Eurovision Song Contest citing their unstable political and financial position while Russia remained in the contest, and scored second with a charming song I would have loved if not for the political backdrop.

In addition to Russia showing their intolerance of Ukraine's independence through war, Russia has also spent the last several years spreading prejudice about some of their citizens and codifying the abuse of these same citizens into law in 2013.  There are a lot of ways to interpret this in the face of a West which is becoming increasingly liberal about homosexual people, and to a lesser extent trans* gender people, it came briefly to the attention of a national stage during the 2014 Olympic Games in Moscow but was overshadowed by the attack on Ukraine in 2014. Vladimir Putin defended Russian law as being put in place to encourage population growth in Russia and even contextualized responses to Russia's codification of discrimination of law as foreign propaganda (source). Lithuania pointedly had two same-sex kisses as a highlight of their song This Time, a narrative choice which would have been strengthened by keeping that lineup the whole time instead of prefacing and following it with the expected heterosexual couples. The moment - and the cheers of the crowd - seemed extremely pointed, however, given Russia's contemporary treatment of gays and lesbians.

Image Description: Closeup of a woman holding a microphone and singing with her eyes closed.

And it is into this context that the points scoring section occurred, where the crowd booed when Russia received points - and it happened a lot, since the Russian song and singer were very good. The hosts of the show emphasized several times that “music should stand over politics tonight”, and last year's winner Conchita Wurst, who had been condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church, was seen comforting singer Polina Gagarina who had supported Wurst despite Russian condemnation in the wake of Wurst's 2014 win. Against this backdrop, in the context of individual people making connections while larger countries shift in focus, the question of how we respond to intolerance becomes even more important. It is notable that Gagarina was condemned along with Wurst within Russia and yet was still chosen to represent Russia. Whenever one is talking about a country there is a mix of people with directly opposing beliefs, and all too often a minority of the population can use violence or bureaucracy to monopolize the representation of the country. It's also important to keep in mind that we can use discrimination in other places as a way to draw attention from the local discrimination we condone, offering up a mirage of effortless moral superiority. Where I live in the US the legal discrimination has lessened, but there are still horrible and cruel things done to lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, as well as the broader spectrum of people with variable gender identities.

Discrimination is an act of individuals, but it is also an act of a collective, and so neither individual nor collective response is sufficient. I think that is why these moments can be so fraught, as thousands of people mistook Gagarina for Russia and booed, as other people defended Gagarina hoping the larger context would ally them with the accepting and not the intolerant. To object to something is an act of discrimination, and act of intolerance, and so often that simple fact is used as a weapon against people who object to anything - including intolerance. We don't live in a fairy tale world where the character of the king is reflected in his country, but we do live in a world where the many often go along with the few, and where objecting to the public face of a presumed majority is discouraged. We also live in a world where feelings may be mixed. Even knowing that Gagarina supported Wurst despite the words of prominent people in the country she is representing, I found that the very act of her representing Russia was an emotional challenge for me. I didn't want to like her or her performance - they were very good nonetheless - and despite their inaccuracy in the specific moment, I found the audiences' refusal to let Russia's actions against other countries and it's own citizens go unrecognized.

Image Description: Rear view of a woman in a pink dress with both hands up in the air; a microphone is in one hand.

Emotionally, I would have preferred if one of the bridges built was to Ukraine, even though Ukraine could not be present. Mentioning them, honoring them, would have done a lot to rebalance things in my opinion. Instead, the unmarked absence of Ukraine and the presence of the country which caused their absence felt like cheering on the bully while ignoring the person he put in the hospital - I found it intolerable. Clearly, the powers that be behind Eurovision felt differently - and given the reactions of the women who were the face of Eurovision this year, it felt like one which was congruent for them even while it was intolerable for me. The call to "Build Bridges" while people were being killed seemed painfully tone deaf despite the sheer joy I found in Eurovision. I think that particular flavor of tolerating intolerance by pretending it did not affect any of the people involved - in this case by trying to filter out the booing which was used by residents of the local area to register their dislike for Russia in the face of it's intolerance and aggression - was unreasonable.

I don't know how things would have gone differently if the Eurovision staff had created something recognizing Ukraine as a sibling nation and marking their absence, but I would imagine that it would have added to the individual acts by other countries, like Lithuania, which attempted to mark the intolerance they disliked by displaying a type of public approval of same-sex relationships, or like France and Hungary did with their songs decrying war. The presence of Wurst was an explicit condemnation of Russia as well, but I wish both Wurst and Gagarina had respected the voices that disagreed with the inclusion of Russia in the larger context. Gagarina's song was "A Million Voices," and I am sure her intentions and her desires for peace and healing are sincere, but I think calling for peace and healing while people are dying in their own countries and that isn't being recognized by the people calling for peace and healing is, again, unreasonable.

Image Description: Angry looking woman in a pink dress singing into a microphone on a stage.

A Million Voices should include the people currently being victimized, the people currently being attacked, the people having their children taken away, the people losing their jobs. It should include a country that was attacked and whose resources were drained so they couldn't attend. The Bridge to them shouldn't vanish, while the Bridge to their attacker is maintained, or this isn't true peace, this isn't true healing - it is a call for solidarity on the backs of the dying and dead, and that's no solidarity at all.

Context matters.

The Hermit

Image Description: The front of a large building with stairs going up to it; a woman in a purple dress is bottom left, with an open window top right.

The enormous building smelled faintly of mothballs and moonlight. Arabella approached in a rustle of skirts, bare feet clinging to marble all the way up the steps. The rugs inside were only marginally warmer, misty air singing into velvet pile and drifting absently along the edges of the great hall and slipping through half open doorways. Moisture made her skirts, tumbling over themselves in violent escape, seem heavier with every step and the scent of dust rose from flat surfaces and the pitted surface of paintings. Everything that could shine did, layers of lacquer catching the light in liquid shades of red and gold. In some moments, it was only the brush of silk against velvet which reassured her that there was surface she could rely on. Her eyes were dazzled by sparkles, confused by sumptuousness; only her toes, pressed into the floor they depended on, remained secure.

Image Description: A woman in a purple dress with a worried expression looks back over her shoulder. The rest of the picture shows a long hallways with doors and pictures along the sides and a door at the end.

Carpet gave way to stone again; Arabella's toes began to ache with the chill, but there were advantages to her noiseless journey through halls built for crowd. Mists swirled in her wake, following like a train as she moved from hall to room to hall again, meeting no other living impediments. That she had been sent for, she knew. That there seemed to be no one to have sent for her seemed impossible, but increasingly likely. The lack of and audience seemed like an offense all of its own, having so long lived observed; what use was she if not to be seen? It was a question she would return to time and again in her circuit of the bare building, her feet bare over stone and velvet, reveling in the contrasting textures and growing strong with wear. In time, her voice remade the echoing hallways, her scent replaced mildew and ashes, and her self was revealed through the thousands of different choices she made unobserved. When she returned from her hermitage, few remembered her but she knew herself.

Image Description: Close up of a woman's face; she is looking down left with a wistful expression on her face.

Partially inspired by The Toast.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Squee: Eurovision Song Contest

The Sunday Squee is when I can talk about things that make me happy and excited. The main focus will be on different things people created, from books to movies to television shows to podcasts, and my effort will be to highlight less commonly known things as a way to share what I love. If you want to join in the Sunday Squee, please link back to me so I can enjoy what you love!

N'oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell representing France

I blame you all - yes even you! - for not telling me about this sooner.

Beauty Never Lies by Bojana Stamenov representing Serbia
(Content Notes: Strobe Lights)

I'm angry! I'm really angry! Well, yes, I can't stop smiling and I keep giggling at inopportune moments - but I'm angry, really! I could have known about this years ago, and yet I found out about it last night.

Adio by Knez representing Montenegro
(Content note: flashing lights)

You were all leaving me out.

Love Injected by Aminata representing Latvia
(Content Note: Strobe lights)

Eurovision is DELIGHTFUL. Yes, the all caps is necessary - you must feel what I am feeling! It is such a divine mix of the serious, the absurd, the portentous, and a pile of giggles. Everyone takes it so seriously - as they should! - without taking it seriously at all, and I am seriously in love.

I watched the whole thing on YouTube.

De La Capat / All Over Again by Voltaj representing Romania

For people new to it like I am, the Eurovision Song Contest is a giant party Europe throws so everyone can trash talk each other, enjoy each other, come together in rage and joy. It began in the wake of World War Two, in 1956, and welcomes not just Europe proper but a small cadre of surrounding countries. The first was held in Switzerland among seven ocuntries, each submitting two songs. The contest this year began with a total of 40 countries, winnowed down to 27 for the Grand Final. A whole ton of countries come together, make a video representing their country, and then sing a song. The songs are judged by panels from each country as well as the residents of each country in a 50/50 split.

Amanecer by Edurne representing Spain
(Content Note: Flashing Lights)

There are all kinds of subtleties I'm sure I'm missing. Tumblr assures me that shade, trash talk, and critique in the form of point refusal is rampant. The videos introducing each country seem pregnant with meaning, what is shown and what is not equally important. All I know is that wonderful people come out with fantastic stage performances and whatever quality they might be on any sort of scale, the sheer dedication and enthusiasm is infectious.

Wars For Nothing by Boggie representing Hungary

I'm putting the videos I enjoyed the most (it was so difficult to pick! I just kept adding!) in between these admittedly short paragraphs. I can't really say much more than they can show - but to my eternal bliss and glory there are years of these on the internet, free to watch. I will be bouncing and giggling for a very long time, and I have you to thank for it, Europe!

Warrior by Nina Sublatti representing Georgia 
(Content Note: Flashing Lights)

The winner this year was Sweden, with Heros.

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw representing Sweden
(Content Note - strobe lights)

Sincerely, thank you! This has been a hard year. Your party makes it much more fun.

Eurovision Grand Final 2012 in Azerbaijan (Song List)
Eurovision Grand Final 2010 in Norway (Song List)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Divergent Purpose

Pulled In Three Directions

Sometimes intent and effect end up at cross purposes. You have a goal, an image you want to share, a mood you want to capture, and you take steps you think you are appropriate... and somehow the entire world ends up watermelon and not drama - appropriate, somehow, since Torley ran across me while I was taking these shots and took a few of her own.

Grief and Rage

Intent is never perfect, and effect often has repercussions beyond your imagining.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

21 Shoe: Ingenue

Ingenue: 21 Shoe

Ingenue is breaking out the teal and tangerine this month, available for Maitreya and Slink feet, atop lightweight cork wedges with a demi-heel. I think my favorite park is the perfect Ingenue bow, though, right above the peep toe. The cork is wonderfully textured and naturalistic, which makes the fabric shoe seem light and airy - perfect for a summer evening. There is more contrast between cork and teal, but both colors are clean and bright, and would go well with a variety of casual looks. Slip them on under a pair of loose shorts or even a frilly frock and you can't go wrong!

Ingenue 21 Shoe

On the 21st of this month, both of these shoes will be available - two for the price of one. I encourage you to swing by Ingenue and pick up a pair!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

21 Shoe: Glamistry

Glamistry: 21 Shoe

This month, Glamistry is offering up two unique colors for her Anemuna heels, just recently released for Belleza, Maitreya, and SLink. The Glamistry shoe system is new to me, so I'm going to take a few minutes to lay it out - the initial shoe purchase is at one price, while subsequent colors are at another, lower price. They all get added to this amazing HUD which allows you to mix and match even if you've only bought a few colors. The Anemuna shoe, for example, has four faces to color - the main shoe, the cord tied around it, the sole of the shoe, and the metal detailing. How many of each you have depends on how many you purchase - and for 21 Shoe Glamistry is giving you the option of adding a bright yellow and a rich royal blue which can be worn all of a piece or mixed and matched to glorious effect. I love how high contrast the two colors on offer are, and so mixed them up in my pictures, but you can keep it singular if you want or even mix it up with other colors that you can purchase at Glamistry at the same time. I really love the versatility this system allows for - along with allowing one to try out a set of shoes in the singular, and add in other colors at a discount if one falls in love.

The shoes themselves are intricate and fun, bands and cords meeting and parting again to wrap snugly around the foot. The heel shape is straightforward and long, and the platform is stacked to dual layers with opportunities for coloring them in different colors. They have a fantastic edgy appeal that would jazz up any club they clack into.

Glamistry: 21 Shoe

On the 21st of this month, both of these shoes will be available - two for the price of one. I encourage you to swing by Glamistry and pick up a pair!

21 Shoe: Bliensen + MaiTai

Bliensen + MaiTai: 21 Shoe

Bliensen + MaiTai is really knocking it out of the ballpark this month with a striking spiral-designed shoe in black and white or red. I love the curve over the foot, and the way the thin bands spread out and them come together again along the edges. Along the inner sole the bands are closer together; along the outside, they stretch all the way up to the arch. The heels themselves are thin and delicate with slightly wider cap ends and an equally narrow ankle strap. I just love the curve of leather over the foot - it is such a striking shape, two sets of curves meeting and parting in symphony.

Bliensen + MaiTai: 21 Shoe

On the 21st of this month, both of these shoes will be available - two for the price of one. I encourage you to swing by Bliensen + MaiTai and pick up a pair!

21 Shoe: KC Couture

KC Couture: 21 Shoe

KC Couture has a couple of awesome shoes out this month, riffing off of the shades of black and denim blue, available for SLink, Maitreya, and Belleza feet. At first look it's a simple T-Strap with a single band across the toes. The ankle strap is actually a tear drop shape, with the rounded edge against the band up the heel. The sole and heel are both thick, heavy and solid enough to support an otherwise fragile design. The chain down the center mark and across the toe band with initials KC in the center bar. I love the color choices - one a dark black and the other a silvery blue which catches the light beautifully. I love how sleek they are in their simplicity - the teardrop motif in particular is striking - and these would work as well under a loose pair of jeans as paired with a gown.

KC Couture: 21 Shoe

On the 21st of this month, both of these shoes will be available - two for the price of one. I encourage you to swing by KC Couture and pick up a pair!

21 Shoe: YS & YS

YS & YS: 21 Shoe

Perfect for summer, YS & YS textured a pair of sunny sandals with tasty treats for SLink and Maitreya feet. Designed as cork heels that are almost wedges, the rest of the shoe is charmingly brief - a cross strap vamp and ankle straps which cross at the heel and latch with a large, oblong clasp by the Achilles tendon. I love the textures - from the strawberry on white of the red to the layered bananas over bananas over bananas of the yellow, the textures are bright and summery and the style is perfect for the beach. I can just see these with a flirty print dress and a wide brimmed hat at a garden party amongst the glitterati.

The animations I'm using in this picture and others are actually a free gift from Thirty Loop Animations - a glorious set of shoe-focused poses and stances that are perfect for photography. I really like how expressive and varying they are, from ones in full motion to gentle pauses on a pedestal. All of them are free if you're a member of the 21 Shoe group!

YS & YS: 21 Shoe

On the 21st of this month, both of these shoes will be available - two for the price of one. I encourage you to swing by YS & YS and pick up a pair!

21 Shoe: Lassitude & Ennui

Lassitude & Ennui: 21 Shoe

Lassitude & Ennui is offering up some sleek and gorgeous heels for SLink and Maitreya. A matching set of black and white, the large bow which curves high against the heel and falls almost to the base of the heel is color changeable between four colors - black, white, dark red, and lavender. The initial design is simple enough, a very high pump with a slight platform. The bow is a lovely sleek waterfall of color, though, rendered for a smooth fall and realistic hang. I love the color change, and like all Lassitude & Ennui shoes, these can be tinted. The pump and shoe are on different faces, so you can modify to your hearts' content!I especially appreciate this with a white shoe, since I can tint to match or contrast with just about anything.

My body and feet are all from SLink, the latest releases which work beautifully under the skin from Fallen Gods. It's an interesting effect - much smoother than the default mesh and helping to make close ups look more polished in a straightforward shot. Fallen Gods is matching his skin beautifully to the SLink shape, and included a ton of other appliers with his latest mermish release. The SLink applier is particularly nice - converting hands, feet, and body all with a single button.

Lassitude & Ennui: 21 Shoe

On the 21st of this month, both of these shoes will be available - two for the price of one. I encourage you to swing by Lassitude & Ennui and pick up a pair!