A Haute Mess: Finding your style guru.

It’s time for me to follow the fashion advice I’ve been dutifully doling out during this blog series. And it’s good advice! I’ve done a majority of the grunt work involved in spearheading the makeover I so desperately need. I’ve taken inventory of my clothes and I’ve asked my friends what they think of my current style. Most importantly, I’ve thought about the image I want to project to the world and am now in the process of identifying which style gurus can help bring me in line with said image.

Jennifer AnistonIn my last blog post I emphasized the importance of finding a style statement. I’ve discovered that my own statement is effortless elegance. To put it simply, I want to look good and I don’t want to have to put in a lot of work to do so. The life of a corseted and contoured Instagram baddie isn’t for me. So what is? Well, let’s take a look at my new style gurus, shall we?

Jennifer Aniston: I bet y’all didn’t expect to find a white chick here! I absolutely adore the simple silhouettes a classic beauty like Aniston depends on. It seems as though the actress spends 75 percent of her life in t-shirts and jeans and the other 25 percent in a sleek sheath. And that is the exact fashion goal I have for myself. Aniston’s wardrobe is one made up of dependable classics—white button down shirt, black tank, etc.—that make any and every woman look wonderful.

Renee Elise GoldsberryRenee Elise Goldsberry: I’ve been sweating this woman’s style for a good decade now, so please don’t assume I’m a Hamilton groupie! I love the fact that Goldsberry is able to achieve a look that is so blatantly hyperfeminine with such ease—especially in a society that strives to bar black women from achieving the label of feminine in the first place. You won’t find caked-on makeup or frilly dresses with an exorbitant amount of ruffles. While Goldsberry does enjoy patterns far more than Aniston, the lines are still clean and simple. Goldsberry is very much a natural and elegant beauty.

Toni BraxtonToni Braxton: There have been many many times when Miss Toni arrived on the scene looking like a fashion nightmare in an outfit that was far too tight or too short. I still love her though. One, because I am also guilty of owning a few XS shirts that I should have bought in an M or maybe even an L. Two, because no matter what she is wearing, Toni Braxton always looks dainty. That has been her one true constant through drastically changing styles and weight fluctuations. I’d chalk it up to Toni’s diminutive height, but I’m also absurdly short and haven’t managed to achieve the same. I’ll keep watching the siren to see if I can learn her secret.

Kerry WashingtonKerry Washington: If Toni Braxton always looks dainty, Kerry Washington always looks classy. The woman could walk into a black-tie event in ripped jeans and still be the best dressed person in the room. She has a much wider style range than I could ever hope to achieve, easily swinging from sultry to sweet at a moment’s notice. Never in my life have I been sultry, but her prim and fresh-faced looks speak to me a great deal.

So I have my style gurus! The next step is to take an honest look at my closet and my beauty routine and see if their styles mesh with my own. I know what you’re thinking. Can you possibly ape the style of a woman with a budget so far beyond your own? 

Stay tuned.

Review: The Wild Storm #1.

Let’s talk The Wild Storm #1.

If you’re here I’ll assume that you are somewhat acquainted with the former Wildstorm universe, as well as with my previous post detailing my concerns regarding the art direction for The Wild Storm, the initial series that now serves as the lynchpin of the new pop-up imprint. If not, feel free to click here to catch up!

The Wild Storm #1Color: I stated that I wanted a war between colors in this series—the soothing pastels of modern technology, the vibrant hues of rogue agents and inventors, and the heavy blacks and deep grays of IO hardware. Ivan Plascencia does an incredible job providing readers with the first of the three. The mundane world that Halo dominates looks to be an absolute pleasure to reside in. Unlike the overwhelming and highly saturated colors you’d find in the real Times Square, the Midtown of Wildstorm is filled with baby blues, soft browns, and muted greens. It is relaxing—as deceptively nonthreatening as the company Marlowe has built. Unfortunately, those pastels persist in the underground bunkers of IO, which I think is a poor choice for what should be a grim and off-putting military environment. The struggle between Marlowe and Craven should play out via brightness. Halo hides in not only plain but illuminated sight; IO operates in the shadows.

But both IO and Halo are in different ways the establishment. And that should be shown via color—via a lack of vibrancy. Plascencia capably achieves that, and perhaps also leaves clues as to who our rogue agents will be via saturation. Angela’s independence is marked by color—her bright red blood and the vibrant blue of her transformation. Zealot’s eyes are a vivid blue. Voodoo’s? Green. And of course there is the crimson that bleeds from Cray. All four of these characters wear gray, making the flashes of red, blue, and green seem much more important.

Lettering: Normally you notice lettering only if it is bad. But I noticed Simon Bowland’s excellent lettering because the chosen font is terrible. It’s too narrow and reminds me of Comic Sans. Straight up. A nice nostalgic nod would have been to use the unique fonts found in the first Wildcats (not WildC.A.T.S.) series. And if I can remember a font from 1999 you know it must be good (or else I have an absolutely insane attention to detail).

I will add that I think the removal of bold to indicate speech patterns flattens out the work. It’s used less often now—probably a push back against its previous overuse (and also nonsensical use). American dialects and accents are so rhythmic, musical, and varied. Bolding is a great way to visually emphasize (no pun intended) that sonic uniqueness—that Voodoo doesn’t sound like Angela and Angela doesn’t sound like Zealot, etc.

The Wild Storm #1Pencils: I’d be lying if I stated that my previous concerns regarding the art direction had been alleviated. Jon Davis-Hunt is a talented artist, but the work here in no way presents itself as what one would typically want and expect from a Wildstorm book. The layout is, quite frankly, dull and devoid of dynamic movement. Nine-, six-, and three-panel grids dominate the pages.

I do understand their presence. Opening with a nine-panel grid harkens back to the era of Watchmena work that deals with a slowly unravelling conspiracy. I do not, however, want to go back to that era artistically. Watchmen is not a part of my comics canon (or Wildstorm’s canon) and I do not have an iota of the Anglophilic and nostalgic adoration others have for the work. I grew up on Jim Lee and grew out with Travis Charest and Dustin Nguyen. If I grew up on Ashanti and you give me The Amazons instead of Kehlani we’re going to have a problem.

We have a problem.

It is my hope that as there is a war between colors there is also one in regards to art. That the further removed Angela is from IO the closer we get to the innovative and cinematic layouts that define the glory days of the Wildstorm universe, via artists who not only pay homage to Wildstorm’s past, but push boundaries as well. In comics the marriage of art and script tell a story. A successful reboot must provide the essence of both halves. The art here is quite pretty. But it is in no way the essence of Wildstorm. Readers unfamiliar with the Wildstorm universe will likely not care. For a former reader like myself the change is jarring.

Script: Oh, we’re good. I’ve loved Ellis’ work since Stormwatch and that hasn’t changed in the slightest. It is my hope that the characters involved maintain distinct ways of speaking that feel natural and authentic. A challenging task given the wide variety of ethnicities, classes, and cultures these characters spring from!

All in all, I am pleased with The Wild Storm #1 and am curious to see where this new world leads.

Wildstorm designs.

The Wild Storm #1As I have said before I am excited about the relaunch of the Wildstorm universe, though I do have some concerns. Those concerns do not reside with Warren Ellis, whose breakdowns of the key players and organizations of the Wildstorm universe have only intrigued me. No, rather it is Ellis’ views regarding the art direction for the upcoming The Wild Storm and other untitled tie-in works he plans to launch that have raised warning flares.

I often compare Wildstorm to Milestone. I have an extremely high opinion of the two imprints and I believe the diversity contained within both had a huge impact on the quality and type of work released. Wildstorm and Milestone were clearly multicultural in nature. They made comics about everyone for everyone. However, the story direction at Milestone was led by African American men. The art direction at Wildstorm was led by Asian American men. And it—no pun intended—colored the work. If one is to relaunch Milestone (as Lion Forge has done in spirit with Catalyst Prime) or Wildstorm effectively, I believe this must be duplicated. The heart of both imprints reside with men of color. It is that simple.

Lion Forge has risen to the challenge. Though its selection of writers for Catalyst Prime is diverse, Christopher Priest and Joseph Illidge, both black men present during either the creation of Milestone or its flourishing, are at the helm. Lion Forge is poised to replicate what made Milestone unique in the marketplace—a multicultural band of talented creators building a world envisioned by black men.

Given the dominating presence of skilled writers such as Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, James Robinson, and Mark Millar, it is clear that Wildstorm’s story direction was overwhelmingly Anglophilic in nature even though the imprint’s roots reside with writer Brandon Choi. This is certainly not a negative, but a positive—the works produced were wonderful—and this setup has been reproduced with Warren Ellis’ return. What has not yet been duplicated, and something I think should be duplicated if this imprint is to successfully recapture the “heart” of Wildstorm, is to have Asian American men at the helm in regards to art direction.

Now just as Milestone hired writers of myriad backgrounds, so should Wildstorm have a diverse selection of artists. After all, men like J. Scott Campbell, Matt Broome, and Lee Bermejo all thrived there. But they did so under the watchful eye of Jim Lee. Wildstorm’s artists had multiple influences, of course, but one can clearly see that Asian and Asian American artists were not only among them, but in the early days those influences perhaps dominated.

“When Jim launched WildStorm, the look was best-in-class for commercial superhero comics—computer-assisted colour, pinsharp printing, great paper. We can’t replicate that, and, frankly, I can’t think of a technological way to top it. So let’s try something else. Stripped-down, stark and authentic.”Warren Ellis

Looking at the preview art released it appears as though Jon Davis-Hunt wears the UK on his sleeve. His work is lovely, and in the panel layouts and body language depicted one can see strains of Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon. But an Anglophilic writer paired with an Anglophilic artist leaves one with an imprint highly reminiscent of Vertigo, not Wildstorm. And to follow in the footsteps of Vertigo does a clear disservice to what Wildstorm was and could be again—a marriage of the UK and Asia nestled in a multicultural American setting.

Academi GRS OperatorsI will paraphrase what I’ve said elsewhere in conversations with friends in regards to the stripped-down, desaturated, and spot-color approach to art and design in the new Wildstorm universe: I am not a fan though I understand its presence. It is my hope that the art and color in The Wild Storm apes multiple styles as a nod to the design wars taking place within the story—Academi (formerly Blackwater) versus Apple versus rogue street tech. I want to see heavy black mecha, sleek white tools, and the inventions of children of color who are working with the vibrant branded refuse discarded by our society.

“By the end of it I’d want an explosion of color as the universe drills down to the street. Renzi on Loose Ends. Or Bellaire brightness.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I think that vivid kinetic faction is where Asian and American artistic influences should make their presence felt. And if or when they do, Wildstorm will have truly become Wildstorm.

“Keep your politics out of my comics!”

Comic books have always been political. Comic books have always made a cultural statement. Much like a fish is not aware of the water surrounding it until the creature has been removed from a lake or an ocean, readers are often not aware of the political statements and cultural agendas promoted in the work they consume until those agendas no longer adhere to the ones they hold dear. A slow-witted Mammy in a Tom & Jerry cartoon was deemed benign by non-black audiences prior to a shift in American attitudes about African Americans. Captain America punching Hitler was deemed acceptable for generations until a resurgence of white nationalists grew increasingly distressed that such depictions were encouraging people to (rightfully) respond to their bigoted desires for genocide and the revocation of civil rights with violence.

While I believe that work that champions the hatred and denigration of a group for whom they inherently are has no place in the art we consume, to remove politics (or in layman’s terms, to remove propaganda or a cultural agenda) from one’s work is wholly impossible. Even something as innocuous as a 1980s sitcom such as Growing Pains championed the traditional nuclear American family. And so long as there is room for other families to be depicted, what is wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing.

I find that there are two distinct groups clamoring for an imaginary era when comics were not political. The first group is comprised of reactionary individuals deeply angered by the presence of subcultures that are not their own in the work they consume. They are your typical racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, etc.  However, there is another group that I believe does not wish to whitewash or censor an industry, but is having difficulty expressing what it really wants, which is a curtailing of ham-fisted depictions of current events or thinly veiled lectures disguised as story arcs.

Sadly, I believe the second group is much smaller than the first. However, it exists and its grievance is a valid one. I’ve enjoyed the work of creators possessing cultural viewpoints and political agendas that differ wildly from my own—and it certainly wasn’t because men like Frank Miller and Chuck Dixon are somehow adept at not letting their agendas and viewpoints bleed through their work. In fact they are absolutely terrible at it! But as long as one is not terrible at crafting a good story, one can enjoy work like Team 7 or Sin City: Hell and Back as much as one enjoys Bitch Planet or Empowered.

And I do.

Catalyst: Prime cuts from Marvel Entertainment.

Catalyst Prime: The EventAfter years of lamenting the loss of Wildstorm and Milestone I am blessed to have both back.

When Valiant spearheaded the 1990s resurgence in 2012 I jokingly said that they were going to “do DC comics better than DC Comics.” The joke was a truthful one. DC was faltering by the time Valiant had geared up for its major creative push and the young upstart had amassed an amazing selection of talent with a familiar approach cribbed from DC’s classic style of storytelling.

With Catalyst Prime—a Milestone in spirit though not name—history is poised to repeat itself. I predict the imprint may just do Marvel comics better than Marvel. For Marvel Entertainment, though blessed with beloved brands and solid creative teams, seems to be floundering. The company is besieged by lackluster events such as Civil War II and Monsters Unleashed and its new directions (ex: Captain America’s current stint as a brainwashed Hydra agent) seemingly irritate long-term fans. While the company is equipped to turn things around, charting a new course for an industry behemoth takes time. And in that time fans can easily be wooed away by the competition.

While DC has claimed a few of those wayward Marvel fans (and will likely capture even more with The Wild Storm), the company cannot easily ape Marvel’s approach. Marvel capitalized on its universe being “the world outside your window.” If your apartment is in New York City, that is. The Marvel universe is akin to the world we live in—messy, diverse, flawed, and fragile—with a generous dollop of fantasy. DC, however, provides its readers with idealized Americana—a true melting pot where the bad guys are supervillains, not the intuitions that guide us.

Enter Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime (as well as Wildstorm, but that is a topic for another post).

Catalyst Prime is poised to give us the world outside our window—and started on said path by hiring the people we could see through that window. The project is helmed by senior editor Joseph Illidge, a man who earned his stripes at DC and Milestone. He in turn has brought on another notable Milestone alum in Christopher Priest and a diverse selection of talent from Marvel, Image, and DC. Surely taking note of the inroads Marvel has made in regards to diversity from the Blaxploitation era on, the project is also peppered with a multi-cultural and visually interesting band of characters. The premise, however, while intriguing, is reminiscent of the launch of the original Wildstorm universe in which a mysterious asteroid hastened the proliferation of super-powered beings. Hopefully Catalyst Prime will discover its own unique direction from that common starting point. If the industry can handle a dozen Superman pastiches it can certainly weather two asteroids!

Yet how will Marvel weather two new imprints infiltrating the arenas it once dominated? The answer likely lies within the Secret Empire.

A Haute Mess: Style and substance.

When the world is falling apart you might as well look your best. After all, you never know when a television crew will want a “man on the street” opinion about our ensuing apocalypse. You never know if the love of your life will be waiting around the corner, or at a protest, or tying up the line at Target. So be ready. And if you aren’t ready? Fake it until you make it. To reiterate, always look your best. And please note the emphasis on the word your.

Who am I? Trends come and go, but style is personal. And it is personal because it is tied into your personality. If you feel that you are in a fashion rut the first order of business is to grab a pen, a sheet of paper, and few friends and family members. Why? Because you’re going to need some information on your favorite subject. You.

Ask those closest to you how they would describe you. Make sure to set aside comments about your appearance. Instead zero in on what is said about your temperament and body language. The answers here are key. Are you considered brusque and demanding? Shy and prim? Bawdy and sensual? Consider if the adjectives listed by your loved ones match those you’d give to yourself.

What image am I projecting to the world? Remember all those comments about your appearance that I told you to set aside? Go and get them. You’ll need to mull over those observations in order to gauge whether the way you look is in conflict with the way you act. And should that be the case, it likely explains the style rut that you are in or the inability to feel comfortable in your own skin.

However, please remember that we don’t have full control over the images we project. Issues regarding race, weight, gender, and wealth do have an impact on how the world sees us. That is why it is so important to receive feedback from loved ones rather than fashion magazines or style gurus. You must hear from those who know you and can accurately ascertain the story you are telling with your clothes rather than listen to a stranger who would use bigotry to evaluate your story via your weight or the color of your skin or the shape of your body.

What image do I want to project to the world? This is the fun part. My darlings, it is time for you to create a mood board. Now you can hit up the fashion magazines and style gurus. Open up Pinterest (or Tumblr, or a scrapbook) and start saving images of styles you’d love to take as your own. We are purely in the realm of fantasy here so don’t limit yourself. Yes, go on and throw a photo of Beyoncé in there. And while you’re pulling images together give yourself a style statement as well. What is the look you’re going for? I told a friend that my fashion goal for 2017 was Afro-futuristic Clair Huxtable. Find your own style statement and make sure the images you select reflect it.

Is the image I wish to project who I am? It’s time for a reality check after all that fantasizing. If everyone you know has described you as shy and retiring and your mood board is chock full of half-naked photos of Instagram baddies you’re going to have a problem. That’s not who you are. Make a note that you’d like to emphasize your sensuality and go back to the drawing board with the comments of your loved ones in mind. Start pruning. Eliminate looks you’d never feel comfortable wearing. Add those that bridge the gap between the person you are and who you’d like to be.

Yes, that’s a lot of homework I’ve just given you all! But the end result, mastering that “glo up challenge,” is worth all that hard work in the end.

Twitter Rundown: Nice to tweet you.

I’ve been spending far too much time tweeting and not nearly enough time focused on long-form writing. Or perhaps I should say I’ve been cutting up said writing into 140 characters. I use Twitter in two ways—to hold conversations and to dispense essays. Really, Twitter should be used for self-promotion, but I started off using Twitter as a glorified chat room and old habits die hard. My account is private—and while the digital padlock blissfully cuts interactions with strangers to almost nil it makes it difficult to share one’s work.

My tweets have increased as Trump has usurped the presidency and fascism has taken root in the mainstream. My social circle is comprised largely of folks from marginalized groups (or those who love them) and we are all concerned to say the least. To tweet is to stay in touch, to make sure we are all getting up every morning, and that we know that our getting up is helping someone else get through.

What follows are my tweets regarding the events of the last few days—Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, and how Nazi leader Richard Spencer became an international joke in the span of a few seconds with a mere punch from an Antifa rebel.

On Nazis and not-so-Nazis:

“I know calling regular ol’ American racists Nazis makes white people feel better but if y’all refuse to acknowledge this ish is homegrown and was around long before Nazis ever existed you aren’t going to be able to properly combat it. Right now there’s some dude who voted for Trump and doesn’t think he’s a problem. I mean he’s not a Nazi. He just doesn’t want black people living in his neighborhood. He just doesn’t want a mosque in town. He buys comics at your local shop. He dated your oldest cousin. No Nazis here. He just goes to his job at the school, or the bank, or the plant and pours his poison out unawares while deciding folks’ futures. ‘Russia’ couldn’t have gotten in, ‘Nazis’ couldn’t have gotten in if American bigots (majority of racists here) hadn’t left the door open. And you guys still refuse to shut and lock it. Or even admit there is an opening. Y’all are screwed, because this is a huge weakness—one you broadcast internationally to the world on the regular. And this obsession with Nazis and Russia is like hunting down a fly that got into a house infested with roaches. I don’t like flies either, but at least spray some Raid with the hand that’s not holding the flyswatter.”

Regarding Donald Trump’s comment on “peaceful” protests and the Women’s March:

“Please note the ‘peaceful.’ He is trying to bring as many white women back over to his side as he can with that. ‘Peaceful’ will be used as a wedge to separate the issues that affect white women from those which specifically affect women of color. The former will be addressed—after all the white women were ‘peaceful’ and asked so nicely—the latter will not. He is hoping you will turn your backs on us. That when you see black and brown women being brutalized for pleading for their children’s lives you will smugly assume that we did something to deserve it. That we weren’t ‘peaceful.’ Please don’t fall for this. Don’t gather up the birth control and equal pay he might give you and step over our broken bodies to leave.”

On the presence of young anarchists at political protests:

“You want to fight fascism? Whoo, man! That’s great. I’m excited with how down you are. But I just want to make something clear to you before you run out in the street to bash Nazis. This is not Nazi Fucking Germany. This is America—land of Klansmen and black scapegoats. Every brick, every punch, every fire? You own that shit with your skin. Don’t you dare hide behind peaceful black people. Don’t you come to our well-organized protests and throw wrenches into our shit. Nobody sent for you. It’s hard—especially when you are young and especially when you have privilege—to see this as a game or a saga. To put yourself in the role of savior or freedom fighter. Marginalized people aren’t your sidekicks though. Not your princesses. Your passion is appreciated. But these are folks who have been putting in work in arenas you know little about. Let them lead. And speak. And, of course, speak for yourself (no need for translators) in the places those groups can’t access. And that is the work that is hardest to convince the privileged to do. To speak at the dinner table instead of the street. Nobody hands out awards for that. No retweets or photos. Just the quiet work of making your circle better. It’s worth it though.”

On Trump versus the American news media:

“Trump’s whole appeal is making white people feel like winners through his successes. Can’t do that without the platform they are huddled around. And without actual success. Right now the people who wanted confirmation via Trump that whiteness made them inherently good see Trump being humiliated. Trump is a loser and if cable news starts being honest about that those folks will pick a new white person to live vicariously through. Dear God, hopefully Evan McMullin or someone similar. The ‘alt-right’ media (and Trump) pushed a lie to white people that they were inherently better but also unwanted, unappreciated, and enlisted in a culture war. One they could win by voting for Trump. And cable news refused to push back on those lies. The truth is there’s no war and they have a seat at the table. We’d just prefer they’d stop breaking glasses and stabbing folks with shards. We just spent two days marching and laughing about punching Nazis together. If the news media keeps stressing that? The empire falters.”

On the recent debate about engaging Nazi leader Richard Spencer—physically or verbally:

“We should also stress that it is okay and morally right to shun a Nazi. Nazis do not get a spot on the debate team. You do not have to hear them out. Groups who in between murdering print up little garbage booklets advocating genocide do not get airtime. This man was being interviewed by ABC. That is shameful. How many marginalized groups will never have the privilege of that platform? America was about to give a Klansman a reality show. When is the last time you saw a Native American dude on one? Not everybody is built for punching and I’d like all y’all not to go to jail over these losers, but the next time some message board schmuck is like ‘Even Nazis should be heard’ and that ish is not immediately shut down that is a moral failure that needs addressing. There is a thin line between fedoras and swastikas and the right thing to do is build a giant wall there. Shun early. Block often.”

And again as writer Nick Spencer entered the debate:

“The thing about Nick Spencer is while everyone is all ‘Dude, how can you write Cap?’—they don’t understand it’s Falcon that’s the issue. Comics is literally chock full of these white moderates speaking for and over black people through black characters to the point where I feel like I can’t breathe. And every week a new lead is announced with some white person grinning ear-to-ear about it like it helps. This is ruining black characters for me because white moderates are the ones allowed to bring you a simulation of African American culture. It’s not black people. It’s never black people. We get the pretend African country as if it’s not safe for one of us to show you black American thought, love, families, culture. As if these things have to be filtered through white hands like guards handle convict mail. And it makes for terrible books. It makes for a terrible universe the way you silence us—but softly through a lack of opportunity and a refusal to network with us instead of a punch or a law. No wonder you get so bent out of shape with people actually calling out violence with violence. If we go ‘eye for an eye’ we might turn our backs on your work as you’ve turned your backs on us.”

A Haute Mess: Battling body image.

I spent thirty seconds wondering if a garter snake was loose in my bathroom this morning and was amused to find out that the hissing noise was actually the sound of my thighs rubbing together in my “new” yoga pants.

There’s a point to this odd story. I purchased three pair of Russell athletic pants at a closeout sale for $5.00 dollars each over a year ago. (Yes, I am the bargain queen.) They’d been sitting in my closet, neatly folded and unworn, for months. Until yesterday. The last pair of threadbare Hanes sweatpants I own—my daily uniform—have paint all over them and I can no longer wear them out of the house. (I actually did wear them to go pick up more paint at Home Depot, but I’ve developed a healthy sense of shame since then.) And so, I had to do something I hadn’t done in a long time.

I had to wear the clothes in my closet.My "shame" drawer

You see, I normally wear clothes from what is essentially a “shame drawer” filled with cheap clothes I regret purchasing and shapeless items I bought in the hopes that they would render me invisible. The contents are as follows

  • 4 blouses likely made of a highly flammable synthetic material
  • 2 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of paint-covered sweatpants
  • 2 thermal Henley tops
  • 3 t-shirts

I hate everything in the drawer. It is truly the hell to my closet’s heaven. So why does it exist? When I dig deep to answer that question I am horrified by the answer. I don’t deserve nice things. It’s the only explanation I have for why I pass by a closet filled with clothes carefully curated for a stylish woman only to pull on a pair of old sweatpants every day. It’s the only explanation I have for why I consistently buy clothes for a woman who isn’t me. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I bought those yoga pants months ago? They didn’t fit. And when I finally wore them yesterday? I felt anxious for about a good twenty minutes. I felt like a fraud—and probably would have sobbed like a cornered criminal had one of the trophy wives occasionally dotting the landscape commented on my outfit.

So what should you take away from this fairly strange story about my fashion fumbles?

You deserve nice things. Please be aware that I am not cosigning you buying that dress that you know damn well is beyond your budget. What I want to impress upon you is that no matter your size, shade, height, body shape, or income level, you have a good body. And that good body should have stylish and comfortable clothes that fit.

Every day is an event. Look, you’re alive, fam. You’re breathing. That good body got you out of bed this morning. Celebrate it. Every single day. Those jeans that make your butt look incredible? Why have you only worn them twice in the past twelve months? Why should you only feel like a million dollars on date night when you can feel that way standing in line at the grocery store? Life is hard, b. Squeeze every moment of joy out of it you can.

Fashion should never be a punishment. The absolute worst advice I ever heard was a man tell a woman who was unhappy with her weight that she should throw out all of her clothes and buy new clothes in a size six in order to motivate herself to lose weight. Listen, your weight is going to fluctuate. Do not throw out your “fat” clothes! Do not throw out your “skinny” clothes! Keep all the clothes you love and wear them when they fit. There’s only one Oprah. The rest of us can’t afford the financial burden of buying new wardrobes every time we gain or lose ten pounds. And we can’t afford the emotional burden of looking at a closet full of beautiful clothes that don’t fit us. It is damaging to one’s self-esteem. And that damage remains even if the weight is lost. If you can’t rifle through your wardrobe and find three outfits that fit, look good on you, and make you feel good right now? Go shopping.

Wait, I don’t mean right now! After all, we’re about organization and proper planning in 2017. Every mission needs a mission statement. Next up we’ll talk about whether the man or woman you want to be is the one that’s hanging in your closet. And what to do about it if he or she isn’t.

A haute mess of a wardrobe.

ClosetOn December 31 I cleaned out my bedroom closet and made a list of what I needed to complete a basic wardrobe. It wasn’t a difficult task since I am already frighteningly organized. I ordered a few items and the rest I’ll find over the next couple of months at consignment shops. My relatives frequently remark that it’s odd that I have a closet full of clothes and yet wear the same thing every day. And it is. When I worked in an office I wore a turtleneck every single day—the same exact style and brand, five different colors. The situation has gotten worse as turtlenecks and slacks have been replaced by t-shirts and sweatpants. However, this ends now. Or roughly two weeks from now giving shipping timeframes.

In the past I used fashion (or a lack thereof) as a punishment for my weight. This is an absurd and harmful stance to take and if you have the notion in your head that you don’t deserve nice things because of an arbitrary number please seek counseling and the location of your nearest Macy’s immediately.

I am kidding about the Macy’s unless they are having a really good sale.

The fact of the matter is that when I’m anxious I eat and when I’m sad I hike. And I have hiked myself to the point where my anxiety uniforms—Hanes sweatpants and long-sleeved t-shirts—do not fit. I need to wear clothes that (1) fit and (2) do not look threadbare and worn. Dress better to feel better. That motto applies to all.

ClosetThankfully, I have a nearly complete wardrobe hanging in my closet from the first go-round of my “sad hikes” period. And said wardrobe is the reason for this post and the occasional fashion posts that will follow over the course of the year. Building an entire wardrobe from scratch is a ridiculously expensive undertaking—for everyone but me. See, I am the bargain whisperer.

After the cut I make a list of what I believe constitutes a basic wardrobe. (Granted, this list has been tailored to my own personal needs and tastes.) In later posts we’ll discuss what I’ve spent (certainly not much) and where to get the best deals. I’m no fashionista—I have a full-length leopard-print robe that’d look just right on Peggy Bundy—but I can tell you where to go to get what’s best for you and make sure you don’t overspend once you get there.

Let’s take a look at the list! Continue reading A haute mess of a wardrobe.

The year-end critique (non-fiction edition)!

I’ve been delving into non-fiction and documentaries as 2016 draws to a close—completely surprising myself. And I’ve stumbled across quite a few pleasurable finds. I want to list what I’ve read and seen just in case the works strike the fancy of anyone else. I’m not one for critiques and am often frustrated by those who confuse what is enjoyable to them in particular for some universal indication of “goodness.”  However, samples can be downloaded at Google Play or Amazon. See for yourself! After all, you’re the best critic around when the topic is what you like.

Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White. Whew! Detailed, illuminating, and most unbearably heartbreaking. I don’t know if I would have been able to make it through this work had I not known in advance that White’s streak of involuntary solitude had been happily broken by the time she had completed her study on loneliness. Her findings—particularly the studies on how loneliness is physically harmful—were unnerving to read. Yet as a single freelancer the information was vital for me to receive. I plan to adjust my work habits at the start of 2017 in order to avoid a similar fate.

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. As someone who was completely transformed by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was surprised to find that I did not connect at all with this work. The book is primarily an in-depth examination of work already covered—something I honestly did not need. While I believe that Kondo’s large-scale approach to organizing is universally applicable, when she deals with minutiae she loses me as a reader. I don’t believe it is necessary or helpful for everyone to fold their clothes in the manner that Kondo dictates. Organization on a smaller scale really depends upon the individual and his or her particular needs.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Fan-tas-tic! What an incredible work! I initially picked the book up to learn how to cultivate better work habits and avoid relapses in regards to junk food and social media. What I did not expect to find was a detailed exposé on modern marketing and large-scale industrial productivity. I wish every editor and sales rep who worked for a publishing firm could read the chapter on Target and targeted marketing.

Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. It’s on Netflix right now, so feel free to add it to your queue. I enjoyed the documentary fully and I’m a huge proponent of the new minimalism crusade, but I think the work absolutely highlights and reinforces the critiques so many have about the concept. It is very easily to be a minimalist when you are rich, white, and straight. Because people who are rich, white, and straight have a much easier time depending upon the kindness of strangers (or their bank cards) to provide what they currently lack. Minimalism relies on faith in an unseen and untapped communal abundance that many quite honestly do not have access to due to their circumstances. And I wish “minimalism gurus” would address that. That said, any middle-class or wealthy adult who was once a child of a chaotic working-class environment would absolutely embrace this documentary or the concept of minimalism itself. The physical sparseness is undeniably soothing—as soothing as a massive demonstration of excess would be to one who endured a life of barren poverty and physical restriction.

Sugar Coated. By the end of this documentary I was furious—and felt wholly impotent. The sugar industry is most certainly on par with the tobacco industry in regards to duplicitous behavior—and yet unlike the tobacco industry, it seems to have suffered absolutely no consequences for said actions. I have been affected far too personally by the scourge of cancer and diabetes. To think that the pain and suffering of those I love was preventable and only occurred due to the avarice of handful of empty suits purporting to “do no harm” is devastating. That I am powerless to do anything about it? Even more so.

Take Two: Interactions with IDW Publishing.

I love Rockstar Games.

But I’ve said that before. I admire the marketing savvy of its sales teams, the satirical slant of its writers, and the beauty of its game design. Rockstar Games is an industry titan and its accolades are well deserved.

Max Payne 3 cover artSo when its parent company, Take Two Interactive, announced its foray into the comic book industry I was ecstatic. I envisioned a series of Grand Theft Auto graphic novels that bridged the gap between Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto IV. I anticipated the release of a Max Payne miniseries in the same vein as The Punisher sans the justified censorship of the Disney corporation. I imagined a satirical look at internet bullies and red pillers with a comedic action series based off Bully.

And I believed the successes would extend far past the realm of Rockstar Games to other intellectual properties under the Take Two banner such as Bioshock and Mafia—two 2K Games darlings.

That, however, did not happen.

What did happen was the launch of Double Take, a small company focused on a slate of comics set in the Night of the Living Dead universe helmed by former Marvel publisher Bill Jemas. That company has now gone under for a host of reasons I shall not go into here. Others, however, have provided an interesting post-mortem.

What I am focused on is how best to get the future I envisioned onto the printed page. I do not believe that Take Two Interactive should launch yet another comic company; I do believe it should partner with an existing one—IDW Publishing. In a short amount of time IDW has become the king of licensed publishing, challenged only by perennial purchaser DC Comics. It has the skills to successfully push favored brands in the comic book marketplace while adhering closely to themes and designs established in other media.

For Take Two Interactive a partnership with IDW is outsourced research, marketing, and development. The comics produced at IDW would provide frames for new games to be built upon. The books would also bolster brand allegiance during the space between game releases. For example, characters introduced in the comics could pop up as new options during multiplayer games. And most importantly, Take Two Interactive would have the opportunity to use IDW as a talent scout and poach artists and writers accordingly.

IDW PublishingBut what would IDW get out of the deal? Well, increased exposure is nice, but I’d argue that increased revenue would be much nicer. Were I an IDW representative I would push for a fiscally conservative licensing package given all that I would be bringing to the table. But in the back of my mind I would also acknowledge that, if successful, a Take Two imprint would increase the size of my company allowing me to overtake BOOM and nip at Image’s heels. I would also be certain to act as a liaison for the individuals at my company working on creator-owned projects who might have an interest in pushing their works into additional entertainment realms.

I would advise the two companies to start small—but not too small. Start with one major intellectual property such as Bioshock or Grand Theft Auto. Should that partnership conclude successfully? Continue to build.

Fragility of the ghost in the shell.

Ghost in the Shell is an irritating instance of racism.

To use the term racism seems harsh, but to use the other term that has been bandied about—whitewashing—doesn’t seem correct. I don’t believe that taking a notable work and changing the setting or race of the characters is an issue if you are using said change to make a point about a specific culture or spotlight a particular aspect of said culture. That applies to white people as well as people of color.

The Handmaiden, a Korean drama which pulls its plot from the novel Fingersmith, does not use Korean actors for a Victorian tale. It does not put an Asian face upon a European cultural product. Instead it reassembles a new work upon a neutral frame and uses it to tell a fascinating story about Korea during colonial rule as well as explore Korean-Japanese relations in the past to shed light on relations today. It is a commendable work of art.

As is The Wiz, which borrows from The Wizard of Oz to showcase African-American culture in an amazingly beautiful way. I would also add the tale of Cinderella, which takes the basis of the Chinese Ye Xian and places it in a European setting. And one cannot forget one of the most modern successful examples in the show Friends, a white American version of the African American Living Single.

But the upcoming Ghost in the Shell is not like the projects listed above. It is an embarrassment, for its attention to detail simply results in Asian cultures being used as a backdrop for a white ingénue. It sends a sinister message—that the cultures of people of color are acceptable, but the autonomous presence of people of color is not. It sends the message that white Americans can reproduce foreign cultures more skillfully than said foreigners because they are inherently better than them.

Blade RunnerThe movie’s one potential saving grace is that it might handle race and culture in the same manner as Blade Runner, in which predominately white characters maneuver through a Los Angeles that is overwhelmingly culturally Asian and Latino. Blade Runner told a story about race, about whiteness—perhaps inadvertently—through its near lack of characters of color. It touched upon the paranoia of poor and working-class white people through their placement in a fantasy world where they are subjected to the inhumane treatment and alienation that immigrants and abductees of color once faced (and currently face) in the United States.

However, I think the two movies that Ghost in the Shell could have been would have been infinitely more effective and important to our society than the movie that has been produced. A Ghost in the Shell featuring Asian characters in a culturally Asian city would have allowed for Asian American actors to have the opportunity to showcase their talents in an industry that often ignores them. It would have given Asian Americans a chance to explore what it means to represent oneself as Asian and American in a world increasingly impacted by technology, augmentation, and globalization—and share that with American people.

The other movie that has been lost is a purely American adaptation featuring an American cast in a culturally American city—a futuristic one with elements of dozens of subcultures. This movie still could have featured Scarlett Johansson in the lead role and allowed for a fascinating exploration of what it means to be white in a world where one’s image is wholly changeable. What does it mean to be white in a world shaking off the last vestiges of white supremacy? So many American movies center white people and whiteness without any examination of it—a lost opportunity to create powerful life-changing art. A project that centers whiteness sans examination is a celebration of it. To have all projects center whiteness sans examination is dangerous propaganda.

However, there is still a chance for those two lost movies! And though they would not be able to assume the benefits of an internationally known brand, they would still have an opportunity to be successful. Who knows? Perhaps one of those movies is already here.

Donald Trump’s escape hatch.

Donald Trump does not want to be president, for Donald Trump does not want a job that is difficult and extraordinarily tedious. What Donald Trump wants is to humble Barack Obama, the Bush family, the Clintons, and every individual he believes has wronged him. Donald Trump also wants money, attention, and respect—as do many people, to be fair.

He can get all of those things by relinquishing the presidency—and would not have to work for any of it. He can only get money by being president. And he will have to toil and suffer for every penny of it. His life would become a nightmare of protests, public humiliations, heckling, and constant media scrutiny. No more extramarital affairs, no more extended vacations and complete freedom of movement. For once in his life, Donald Trump would have to answer to someone—the American people. And for all the galas and television cameras, for all the pomp and circumstance, the truth is that being president is an excruciating job physically, mentally, and emotionally—much of it done quietly, sans fanfare, while sitting in an office. The greatest presidents have been those with a drive to serve and make America better. The worst have done it for prestige, money, or the obligation of nepotism. And America has suffered greatly for the latter.

A petition has been created begging the assigned Electors of the Electoral College to buck the trends of their particular states and vote for the candidate who won the popular vote. A lovely idea, but it is one that will never come to fruition because rich white men would never place the health of the country over the continued strength of white supremacy and racism.

And the truth is that America overall is in danger. For Trump is considering a collection of the most corrupt and incompetent people to ever venture into politics to serve in his cabinet. A man who cared about America would assemble a team of capable conservatives with a host of successes found within their resumes. Christie, Jindal, Carson, Palin and others are colossal political failures held in disdain. They are unfit to serve and would cause untold damage.

Unless Donald Trump does not become president. And should he have the presidency stolen from him by rogue Electors, his life would improve considerably–all while maintaining his status as a “winner.” The focused disgust that over half of the country has expressed towards him would vanish in relief the moment Clinton became president. Clinton would likely be so grateful that Trump would be able to operate for the next four to eight years with a blanket pardon in his back pocket. He would attend any Clinton event he wished as an honored guest. Some would be held at his hotels. Not only would he be amongst respected celebrities and the political élite, but for once they would legitimately be delighted to see him. Because he was willing to play nice when it counted the most. I’d rather be seen as an incorrigible but talented entrepreneur seated next to Beyoncé than be a harried and despised president of a faltering country who could only get Scott Baio and Rudy Giuliani to come to my events. I suspect Trump would rather have fame and mainstream adoration instead of the hate and fear of a majority of the populace too. His entire career has been the selling of his name. His presidency would ensure a four-year boycott of Trump products by more than half of the populace—more importantly, by the élite.

A Clinton presidency would be the magic wand that erased Trump’s misdeeds, but what of the overwhelming number of racists—some of them violent—who voted for him? Well, they would be an absolute treasure trove for Trump and others to exploit. Trump TV would decimate FOX News. Clinton would grimace as Trump used his preferential treatment to savage her in the press, but she’d bear it. For she knows how to play the game too. Trump would make untold sums from his media investments. Cable news is far more lucrative when conservatives are the underdog. And he would barely have to lift a finger. Money without having to work for it? That’s of more interest to Trump than slogging through a president’s daily itinerary.

Clinton winning by an Electoral College upset would benefit Trump and Clinton (and benefit America overall), but it would be a bittersweet victory even though I want desperately for it to happen. For I know that as a black woman my safety would be in danger. Gun sales would skyrocket. And though there are a plethora of assaults occurring now, I am certain that Trump’s white supremacist supporters would resort to murder during a Clinton presidency. I could be murdered.

I could be murdered, but I would take that risk to salvage our educational system. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk to keep Muslims and Latinos from being deported. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk were Native sovereignty validated and the health of our environment preserved. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk to keep LGBT marriages and adoptions intact. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk so that young women could maintain reproductive freedom. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk so the lower and middle classes had safe working conditions and health insurance. I could be murdered, but I would risk it all again and again and again, first and foremost, to stop black disenfranchisement and death.

Yet we will have a Trump presidency on December 18, and the demise of American excellence soon after, because white Americans want to once again feel as though they are inherently better than people of color and be able to point to a racist white president to validate it. They have proven it with their votes and the Electors will prove it with theirs. For through all of the country’s economic ups and downs that is what made America great to them. They will give up their money. They will give up their health. They will give up their safety. They will give up their privacy. They will give up the lives of the marginalized. All so that they can sit smugly no matter their poverty, addictions, battered and broken bodies, stunted children, scarred uteri, ghost towns, poisoned water or crumbling roads, and delight in the fact that they are not a nigger.

Tips for Donald Trump’s new America.

You should probably learn the following during Donald Trump’s stint as president: a second language, home repair, car repair, and how to grow food. Things are going to get very expensive and the more you can do it yourself and barter the better. I’m expecting things to get 1970s New York City bad. And that was pretty damn bad. But our families survived it, so prepare. And if you’re thinking 1970s New York City doesn’t sound that bad—congratulations on being white and straight, I guess. Also, a friggin’ lot of us are going to have zero health insurance soon. Do maintenance care—zero slacking on that. Whatever procedure you’ve been putting off? Book it. Minor surgery? Get it done while you can afford it.

Now would be a good time to get adoption papers in order. Every T crossed and I dotted. Double check it. And get a passport.

Swing by to see your union representative if your job has a union. See what you can and can’t be fired for and what protections you have from harassment.

And it is perfectly okay to quietly jettison any bigots or their enablers out of your social circle for your own safety.

Bully for you.

A screenshot from ManhuntI’ve never been a fan of Westerns, but the many Americans who are will soon be able to enjoy the return of Red Dead Redemption to their consoles and computers. Rockstar Games sits upon a deep bench of intellectual property, and while I adore the Grand Theft Auto series, I believe two additional cult favorites should return—Bully and Manhunt.

Manhunt should be revived because America is in desperate need of a cathartic release. Much in the same way that the 1970s vigilante and Blaxploitation hero have made a resurgence, the time is right for a character that gives voice to those who believe they are voiceless. It is the perfect point in time to provide a powerful avatar to the disenfranchised (or merely disgruntled)—one that they may live vicariously through. Were I at the helm of such an undertaking, I would make certain that the lead character be mute and fully customizable. And as much as I clamor for female leads (especially for the Grand Theft Auto series), I would make the character male to best fit the initial setting of a privatized prison for men. The villains of note? Avaricious elite who use the marginalized for profit and corrupt officers who abuse them for sport.

While I would stress full customization, I would in no way ignore the impact that race, nationality, religion, and sexuality have on one’s life—especially in prison. These elements would affect gameplay, altering alliances, opportunities, and privileges. I would lean heavily on real-life data in design, and would hope that players would discuss said data as they shared tips and commented on unique walkthroughs. The goal would be to create a work that allows individuals to see themselves and have their grievances validated, but also see “the other” as human. In fact, reaching out to the other—by either playing as a different type of character or having a conversation with one who did—would allow one to enjoy different cut scenes and exclusive side stories. In real life we don’t have much of an incentive to step into the shoes of another. Our games—our stories—can provide that incentive.

A screenshot from BullyWhere Manhunt would pinpoint where we are devoid of power and provide an emotional salve for said lack, Bully would highlight the areas of our lives where our actions leave an impression. It would show how much speaking out and speaking up can change things for the better—both personally and for the community at large. Harassment is a topical issue. And I think the more we only encounter people who are different as static images and words on a screen, the easier it is to abuse them. It is ironic that a connection to virtual characters might allow children to be more empathic to peers in real life, but if our technology allows for that, should the option not be explored?

I wouldn’t back away from sensitive issues. If today’s teens are experiencing it, creative adults should be brave enough to confront it—and be able to do so with humor, honesty, and grace. To provide not only an amazing and entertaining game, but also a “life simulator” for the more socially disconnected to explore potential consequences would be highly beneficial—and lucrative.

It would also be controversial, but Rockstar Games has never been one to back down from controversy.