The problem with Ilvermorny (as world building)

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You easily find a lot of posts discussing JK Rowling’s latest expansion into the Harry Potter universe – Ilvermorny, the North American Wizarding School. Most centering on the cultural appropriation that the school is built on. (And from better sources than me)

But here’s the cliffnotes version – it’s a British Colonialist’s dream – Young Irish girl leaves England (on the Mayflower!) and eventually founds the first magic school. The ONLY magic school. The houses picked by two children, day dreaming about what a school might be like – each named for a favorite magical creature…. most of which came from different Native American tribe’s lore.

It’s disrespectful to the Native American cultures it mines and treats as homogenous – but I wanted to address another entirely different issue. It’s just bad world building, even without the appropriation.

We already know that Wizards were established in Europe and in Asia going WAAAAY back. We know there are three central wizarding schools in Europe. And if you really wanted to double down on Jo’s idea that Native American lore is partially Magic and not just spiritual, that means it already existed here.

Which means that the first Europeans to come in contact with Native Americans would be from Spain. With the conquistadors. So wouldn’t it be likely that some Spanish wizards would have come over, used magic to help defeat Aztec and Mayan wizards? That their cultures would have blended and become their own magical tradition (the way that Mexican and Caribbean cultures evolved as distinct and unique from Spain)? That small schools would have sprung up across the country as it grew, changed and cultures spread? That instead of being sorted into a house, Brit style, you’d be sorted into the school of your heritage, or the school that your magic best meshed with?

Where’s the magic from Africa, brought into the Americas and the Caribbean with those stolen and sold as slaves? The magic from China that came with those who helped build the Bay Area and the railways?

The Native American wizards, pushed off their land and away from natural elements filled with magic (like the forest outside of Hogwarts) – what if hippies weren’t hippies in communes, but wizards trying to protect magical territory from No-Maj’s?

JK Rowling’s concept of a singular school is not only ridiculous for an area so large as North America (you’ll notice I mostly addressed American issues), but it ignores the history of the United States.

Do you really think that there’d only be one school following the Civil War- could you convince No-Maj parents to send their children to the same school as children from the other side? That Beauxbatons wouldn’t have sister schools in New Orleans or in Quebec? And that they’d both be very different from each other and Beauxbatons. That Texas wouldn’t have their own magic school?

The entire concept of Ilvermorny is insulting. Both to the cultural appropriation and the lack of thought about the country it’s set in.

I admit, I’ve been spoiled. In the time I’ve been on Tumblr, I’ve seen idea after idea about what schools were in America. What schools were like in Latin America. They were thoughtful and reflected the cultures they were meant to represent.

America itself is a country of immigrants. To suggest that all would abandon their own cultures and adopt a purely British POV is an insult.

So I’m sharing my thought process because as a writer, I think it’s important that you consider history and sociology when world building in an existing world.

Consider the Hunger Games and Panem. It’s definitely a future US – and it’s clear when you listen to the Districts, what part of the US they’re dealing with. What makes it a successful change is that a lot of the cultural turmoil is built on the turmoil that we know here in the US.

Ilvermorny fails as world building, because most Americans read the history and wonder how big the school is. Because even if it’s a very small percentage of North Americans who are wizards…. that’s still a really really large school.

So, if you’re writing about a country or culture that is not your own – learn from JK Rowling’s mistakes. Research the history and culture. THEN find someone who lives there to give you feedback. Then and only then, you can write your book.

Every time. Why there’s no need for heterosexual pride or white pride

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On the internet, trending today, I saw something about white history month and “Heterosexual Pride Day”.

Any time there’s a marginalized group celebrating themselves, out come white or straight people to wonder where the day is that they get to celebrate themselves.

I’m going to be blunt. That’s every day. You can turn on a TV or go to a movie and see any type of story being told about you. You can buy books that tell your story or tell the story of people just like you. In fact, in school, history books are biased towards telling your story and minimizing what white people have done to African Americans and Native Americans in this country.

A few times a year, marginalized groups get the opportunity to point out the unsung heroes of American history you haven’t heard of. Minority scientists who made important discoveries. Because they’re left out of your history books and TV shows.

The idea of LGBT pride started with trying to step out from the shadows, to make people realize that there is no shame in being LGBT.

Pride Month is timed with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Which happened because raids went on in gay bars, targeting transgender people especially.

So no, you don’t need a month to celebrate your history. Or celebrate your sexual orientation.

If you can’t handle another group of people getting a tiny bit of a spotlight, the problem isn’t with them – it’s with you.

(I should have made a picture for this post, but to be honest… I didn’t want to lose the momentum I have and have this end up in my drafts folder. Like a lot of posts)

When do we say that enough is enough?

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My heart hurts. I don’t say this because it’s what is being said… I say this because those people who died in that club in Orlando? Those are my people. (I didn’t know them, but those were still my people – both LGBT and Latinx)

There were nearly two more attacks on Pride events this weekend – stopped, and not nearly talked about because both the attackers are white. It’s so easy to focus the attention on what may have been an extremist Muslim (though his own family were quick to say he wasn’t religious, he was just homophobic), when this was an act of terror because it was designed to make the LGBT community afraid.

I’ve been afraid. Afraid for the transgender community, who are misunderstood and have been targeted for decades – but the refusal by some parties to understand them in the last year or so has been aggravating. Afraid for the asexual/aromantic/agender community, who are continually told that they are wrong or broken (you aren’t, I promise). Afraid for queer youth who were told it gets better, and see everywhere that it isn’t better… the hate is just different. The hate comes in different ways. There are fewer people being beaten for being gay, but it’s still obvious that if you’re LGBTQA – people think you’re less. You are an other.

Sure you can have your same sex marriage now, but states will tell you that employers can decide whether or not you get health care. Or if you can adopt. Or whether or not, you retain parental rights if you divorce your same-sex spouse.

It used to be that Westboro was the extent of obvious hate. We could laugh at the God Hates Fags signs because the hate was so extreme. But it’s everywhere. I can’t drive through town without seeing at least one asshole with a Leviticus bumper sticker. Someone who hates gays so much they’ll casually put it on their car.

And allies sit by. Some question why we’re upset when people try to make the A in LGBTQA stand for allies instead of asexual/aromantic/agender (heck some people in the LGBTQA community would rather protect allies than others in the community), rather than focus on more important things – like keeping safe spaces safe. Like fighting for legal rights and basic human rights. I’m not saying that ALL allies aren’t helping – but I see a lot of people who say they’re allies that let comments slide. Who don’t understand what things are slurs and aren’t. Who don’t understand microaggressions based on sexuality or gender identity. Or support celebrities and charities that aren’t trans-friendly, who are biphobic.

Hate doesn’t spring from nowhere. It’s cultivated from a small seed of hate. Some small, seemingly benign thing – like a word. A stereotype. And accepting it normalizes the small behavior so that something bigger doesn’t seem so offensive. Then that becomes acceptable, until the extreme makes sense.

If we say or do nothing, that’s when things like this happen.

I could write about guns. I hate them. It makes no sense to me why we can’t at the very least make it harder for people to own them without proving that they’re responsible humans. Why we can’t admit that there’s no reason for someone to own an assault rifle. Those aren’t extreme suggestions. They’re reasonable. 100% reasonable.

We make people take driver’s tests – to test both mental competency and physical competency. We require people to re-test to maintain their license. Why don’t we do the same with guns?

I’m just tired. I’m tired and angry. I’m angry that we’ve reached this point, and there is no reasonable discussion in the media. That it’s all so focused on hyping up the tenuous threads of ISIS involvement (same as what happened with the San Bernardino shooting). I’m tired of having to reassure my children that there are good people who are full of love.

Do your part. Teach your children to be empathetic. Teach them to love. Educate people. Denounce hatred. Be better. As a community, we’re doing all we can – but we can’t get there if the rest of the population doesn’t step up to help.

And for fuck’s sake, vote out people who aren’t motivated to make your town, state or country better.

The Ancient One is… Celtic?

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Marvel, seemingly responding to critics about casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, released the background for the character. Saying that this embodiment is Celtic. Well here’s the statement:

Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.

Which I suppose they’re saying she was Celtic and chosen as the Ancient One. (It’s an odd statement, since I don’t really know of anyone talking about people as Celtic since, say, the dark ages) Because if they weren’t saying that she’s just Celtic, where are the reflections of her Celtic culture? Why are all these non-Asian people appropriating a culture by running around in Asian inspired clothing and makeup? And why are we saying she’s Celtic when people stopped referring to them as Celts something like 1000 years ago? (Though I suppose, that would indeed, make her ancient)

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE L to R: The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) Photo Credit: Film Frame  ©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


All this does is raise more questions. One of the criticisms about Doctor Strange (the character) and Danny Rand/Iron Fist is that their stories make white people exceptional using Asian traditions. That somehow these men (and women) are somehow more worthy of picking up these mantels of exceptional strength than Asian people. And when people asked for those to be cast with an Asian person, fans said… “but, they were always white.” But if you take a role originally written as an Asian man and cast it with a white woman, Marvel says… DIVERSITY!

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Prince and Me.

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1035x1021-prince_purplerain-gal-coverMuch like David Bowie’s death, Prince’s sudden death threw me for a loop. He meant so much to me. While I don’t have a first hand story about Prince, I do have second hand stories about him (which I can’t really share). The one common thread in those stories is that despite his eccentricities, he was someone who really cared about other people. He was so beautifully contrary – the man who wrote beautifully filthy lyrics, yet apparently informed a DJ he didn’t get dressed up to hear swearing.

I first became acquainted with Prince as a little kid. My parents owned the Purple Rain soundtrack (who didn’t), and naturally, he popped up on the radio. Much like David Bowie, he was a major part of the soundtrack of my life. He was larger than life to me. (Especially once I realized he wasn’t actually all that tall)

Let’s Go Crazy has always been on my computer – same with Kiss and Raspberry Beret. 1999 was a constant, even after Y2K came and went with that song playing nearly non-stop. (I wondered how many people with their bunkers played it, rocking out in what they thought were the end times)

I sometimes forgot what an amazing guitarist he was, so caught up in his showmanship – the jumps, the clothes, the impeccable eye-makeup. The video below is proof of his skills. There’s an alleged quote from Eric Clapton (I couldn’t find a source) that when asked what it was like to be the greatest guitarist, Clapton said. “I don’t know. Ask Prince.” While it might not be an actual quote – he certainly was one of the greats.

I was awed by him changing his name to a symbol in order to get one over on his old record label. It was odd, but subversive, and powerful. Then again, that’s a pretty good summary for his entire career.

His ability to reinvent himself and unabashedly be himself gave me the courage to do the same.

But mostly, he taught me that when things were dark and dire – the one thing that you could always do was dance it out to Let’s Go Crazy. And that somehow, after throwing your all into rocking out… you’d feel better.

Here’s the Hamilton Cast honoring Prince by doing just that. (Also, this is the only way to dance to this song. Just going all out and feeling that joy)

My favorite thing tonight that I saw was the hashtag #bemorepurple from this post:

Love you all. Let’s all be more purple. (The link explains what I mean by that) Don’t worry so much about what men and women are supposed to do. Preen a little. Sing a little. Let it all out – good, bad.

I think he’d like that.

Marvel’s Doctor Strange Teaser Trailer – My Thoughts!

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The Teaser Trailer for Doctor Strange was released today, and I tweeted a bit about this, but I felt like I needed to discuss it some more. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it below and then we’ll move on.

Of all the Marvel properties, Doctor Strange is one of the characters I know the least about. I actually know more about Namor than I do Strange. So if you’re looking for an outsider perspective, I’m about as close as you’re going to get.

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Life with Crohns: Small setbacks.

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Last week I went to meet with my gastroenterologist, who suggested I spend more of my time blogging and vlogging about my life with Crohns.

Though it’s really more like MY LIFE f. Crohns.

Because as I told a friend of mine, I’m not defined by my defective small intestine. It’s part of my life, but not just who I am.

So here’s the recap: A few years ago I ended up in the hospital with ridiculously low iron readings, in need of a transfusion. While there, I finally got some health care professionals that listened to my symptoms and met my GI. (I’d been arguing on and off for an entire year between two doctors who thought that I needed to eat more, and refused to run any tests beyond taking blood to check for anemia. One of my doctors was convinced I had an eating disorder)

I was put on budesonide (that’s the generic name for Entocort), a delayed release steroid. And it worked pretty well. I had to go on a course of liquid iron to help stem the anemia (turns out when your small intestine gets inflamed, you don’t absorb a lot of nutrients – but especially not iron).

But the last few months have been a little rough. I’d been having small flare-ups here and there. Mostly cramps, very low level fevers. Nothing like the flare-ups that sent me to the hospital. But it’s been dragging me down, when every third week I’m curled up in bed with cramps.

So at this last GI appointment, my doctor informed me that the budesonide clearly stopped working. So we’re trying out a new medicine. This one is an NSAID, but it’s made for ulcerative colitis, but has been proven to work for Crohns, too.

So I’m in the two weeks between appointments, waiting for it to really kick in.

If you wondered what life in the earlyish stages of a disease like mine, that’s what it is. A lot of doctor’s trips, trying out new medicines, waiting for the new medicines to work, and then more doctors trips.

Oh, and a lot of labs.

I’m trying to be positive about all of this. But I broke down in his office, crying. He assured me I didn’t need to be worried. But I told him about my belief I might have depression. I’m not sure if it’s on its own, if it’s linked to this. My health is a tangled knot of yarn, and I have no idea how many pieces are actually in that tangle.

It’s just a lot. I know I’m nowhere near needing surgeries or anything like that. But still, I’ve been tired and achey for the last couple of months. And that wears down your spirit.

And that isn’t even tackling the very real fact that there is no cure from Crohns. I have a lifetime of this ahead of me- and what I’m going through now is the tame end of it.

What a Difference a Week Makes

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whitney - le sigh

This was from a few weeks ago. Outtake from a vlog. I paused, made this face, smiled sadly and moved on. Hindsight.  Amazing the things you realize.

My mom could always read me like a book. She can still do it with my voice – but I admit, when I call her, I’m not putting on a mask to hide how I feel. I’m usually stripping it off.

TheBoy was away on a business trip, and it was been a rough week. I knew I struggled with anxiety (the last year has not been kind to me, anxiety wise) And I knew that having him around helped.

Because he can read me like a book. If it’s a bad day, he knows just what to say to remind me that most of what I’m afraid of is my brain trying to sabotage me. For what it’s worth, I do the same for him. But with this trip, we were separated by three hours. Which meant that by the time I’d put the kids in bed, he was ready to sleep.

Without that stabilizer, I found myself spinning. I felt alone, even in a full house. And that right there was a big red flag for me. (The fact that I had to push myself to put on makeup was another one. I love makeup.) And friends who used to help, even if they said the right things… it just wasn’t enough to quiet my head.

When TheBoy popped up on a video call, I had the biggest wakeup call of all. The first words out of his mouth were, “Are you okay?” (I’m paraphrasing, but nobody needs to know pet names) Because he knew, the second he saw me.

That trip of his was an eye opener. It’s time for me to go back to my amazing therapist and see if I need to start seeing the psychologist in his practice, too. Because this isn’t sounding just like anxiety anymore. Because while I’ve been doing really well – things shouldn’t fall apart if my husband takes a trip away for a week.

Kids were taken care of, things were done. But if it hadn’t been for the things I needed to accomplish – I would have fallen apart.

And I’m sure someone reading this is rolling their eyes – but I’m being honest because people don’t talk about anxiety or depression. Or the moments that they realize they’re struggling.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends who suffer from both anxiety and depression. Enough to recognize it in myself early on. To have supportive friends and family, who take the time to fact-check my brain.

But it’s not enough. Time to talk to someone about it, before it is one more thing about my life determined to stop me from doing anything.

Society is Broken as Long as It Protects Rape Culture.

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broken glass(TW: for mentions of abuse, stalking and harassment. No details, but I know that it can bring up a lot of emotions.)

In the last week or so, Zoe Quinn announced that she wouldn’t be pursuing legal action against her ex boyfriend. Because she realized that it wouldn’t help. In Zian Ghomeshi’s trial, the victims were scrutinized for their behavior- asked how their hair was styled when he pulled on their hair, if they could remember what kind of car he drove, why they kept contact with him after the alleged abuse. On Friday, Kesha lost her legal battle against Sony and producer Dr. Luke. The singer was trying to be released from her contract, saying that after she had admitted that he abused her, he had intentionally been holding her career hostage.

There’s something very wrong here.

I learned not to trust authorities in high school, when I was stalked. The student didn’t show up at my house, though there were a lot of hang up calls. He did follow me around campus and find me in moments where I was isolated. I felt unsafe. When I went to the administration, I was told that I shouldn’t feel frightened of his affection. That instead I should be flattered by his attention.

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The Ultimate (White) Privilege? Being Meryl Streep

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Somewhere deep in the drafts folder for this site is a post called “The Privilege of Being Meryl Streep.” I started it when Meryl and the very white cast of Suffragette donned “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” shirts and didn’t see the very obvious issue with using this actual quote in our modern era. And then Streep doubled down by saying she wasn’t a feminist, but a humanist.

I just couldn’t quite find the hook for it. It was a rant, plain and simple. But I felt like I’d gotten the words out of my system, and moved on with the news cycle. I owe the title of this post to a discussion I had with my mom when working on that draft. She’s awesome, and a lot of my best blog posts come from bouncing a conversation around with her.

I’m bringing this up because Meryl has done it again. She’s presiding over the jury for the Berlin International Film Festival, one that she said is diverse… but is made up entirely of white people, though it does have white women. At the press conference, she was asked by an Egyptian reporter if she felt she could judge a movie from the Arab World or North Africa. It’s a fair question, given the ongoing discussion about diversity and representation in the media.

Her answer? She said ‘while she didn’t know much about the region, “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”‘ Then went on to talk about “the core of humanity that travels right through every culture” and ended with the gem that “we’re all from Africa originally.”

I would imagine that most people who live outside the Bubble of A++++ list Hollywood would realize that while there is a grain of scientific truth to it (humanity does stem from Africa), that the millions of years since then have brought about a lot of cultural and historical shifts that make that statement ignorant and downright offensive.

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