JENNIFER LAWRENCE AND I WERE ALMOST ON TV AT THE SAME TIME.

FRIENDS. FRIENDS. FRIENDS. SORRY FOR SHOUTING, BUT HOLY MOTHER OF SWEET BABY HARRY JAMES POTTER IN A MOTORCYCLE IN THE SKY.

Whew, okay, deep breath. Another. Inhaaaale, exhaaaale.

JGONgfjfbaiugbnW?EJFsd*SUOENQ#$IBAS;IUWVHAbkjdsbfbd!!

I just did my interview with Mark at the Movies about The Hunger Games. And who else was on the show? My new favorite band, fun. And who did they interview after me? JENNIFER FREAKING LAWRENCE. AS IN KATNISS EVERDEEN. AS IN WE WERE ON TV AT ALMOST THE SAME TIME.

And who are they interviewing right now? RALPH FIENNES. This makes the second time i have almost-met Mr. Fiennes (the first was a proper meeting and he signed my playbill and stuff!).

BUT HOLY MOCKINGJAY NERDFIGHTING WIZARD LORD OF CAPRICA, I AM NERDING OUT RIGHT NOW.

This is possibly the most discombobulated, unprofessional, totally-not-savvy-and-posh post i have written. Then again, nothing i write is posh. Chickens. Ohmygaww! Fangirlfreakout. Okay. Wow. Whew. I am together, calm, powerful, and totally sane. This was freaking amazing; thank you, Reelz TV and MarkAtTheMovies for your lovely interview and much thanks to thinking my silly videos are worth you’re time! Thanks friends for enabling me do things like this by your views and reads and time! I’d also like to thank the Academy for their unyielding support, and my two cats for their cuteness, and my parents for my brain, and my school for wifi, and….

Wheeeeeewww, inhaling. Inhaling and exhaling, not at the same time. Okay. Back to writing my paper.

Updates on “Kony 2012″

I promised to keep you updated on “Kony 2012″ developments. In keeping with my word, might i direct you to two conversations i think worth supporting and critically engaging in:

The #Uganda2012 Project:

‘The first part of the project will be a film called #Uganda2012. The film will harness the creative energies of Ugandan filmmakers, photographers, activists, writers, poets and artists to tell the REAL story of  Joseph Kony’s tragic legacy in Northern Uganda and document the the work of many amazing Ugandans who have worked tirelessly to rebuild the region. The film will be released on April 18, two days before the #KONY2012 “Cover the Night” action.’

And this article from Al Jazeera of a screening in Uganda that caused some serious frustration:

   ‘People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

  The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son.

  Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

  One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it.

  The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.’

You are all most welcome.

Rue the Day: Racial Commentary & The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins did not write a book about a dystopian society wherein only white people were foregrounded in a plot to overthrow a totalitarian state. In fact, she pretty explicitly states that the characters of Rue and Thresh, tributes from District 11, have “dark skin.” In this future, there is no buying into the social constructions of race (one thing they did right) but that doesn’t mean she was not making a pointed social comment when she made the little girl, so like the sister for whom Katniss volunteered to potentially die for, black.

When i read The Hunger Games for the first time, i saw Rue as a symbol for interracial empowerment and unity in two key ways: the first were the aforementioned parallels between her and Prim and, consequentially, Katniss’ vision of Rue being one of love unblinded by skin color. The second was her tragic, undue, and horrific death; coming from District 11, which we can guess by the general descriptions of weather and distance is meant to be somewhere in the South (Central Florida? Alabama?) this, to me, read as a pointed comment against segregation and racism across America, but most viscerally apparent in the southern US. Rue was a character who functioned to illustrate the horror of the Games, but also was so beautifully crafted in her intelligence and ability to survive that she still very much existed within the realm of Collins’ fleshed-out, human, believable cast.

Furthermore, i actually always pictured Katniss as being a woman of mixed race/color herself. While i love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (and, let us remember, not all racial backgrounds are immediately apparent because race is socially constructed) i had always inferred by Collins’ description of Katniss being a woman of “olive skin” and dark hair that she was a woman of some American Indian ancestry. When she was initially cast, i was a little bit disappointed. However, her performance, as i mentioned earlier today, was so stellar she was such a natural choice for the role.

In fact, if you look closely at the demographic breakdown of the residents of District 12, you’ll notice all the people of more privilege are described as being “fair.” Peeta, who comes from one of the town dwellers, has blonde hair and a pale complexion, much like Katniss’ mother who was a woman of more status prior to marrying Katniss’ dark-haired father. For these loose (but pointed) allusions to a potentially racially-driven class divide that Collins was using to deepen the commentary. While i was sad to, in some way, lose this with Lawrence’s casting, i recognize that Collins was instrumental in choosing her and that the references to Katniss as at least partially American Indian are, after all, very scant. And, may i reiterate: Lawrence herself could very well have American Indian ancestry, because race inherently by its nature of being socially constructed, confines our perception of what “American Indian” or “white” look like in ways that are often not applicable to the masses labeled with such terms.

But still. The point remains: the people who are tweeting that they were “disappointed” that a black girl was cast as Rue is, frankly, disgusting. To express such bigoted and racist views is so contrary to these subtle, poignant commentaries Collins interlaced with her broader statement against consumerism, capitalism, and the military-industrial complex. And clearly, these people didn’t read the books with much care. These tweets and opinions represent everything the Capitol stands for: a place of discrimination, exploitation, and unmitigated privilege at the expense of mass groups of oppressed people. I normally try to stray away from going preach-y on other fans, but the popularity of these horrible, prejudiced views is hurtful, frustrating, and SO NOT THE POINT OF THE STORY COLLINS CRAFTED.

The Hunger Games, at its core, is a book about overcoming adversity in the face of odds that are most certainly not in your favor. A struggle not unlike that faced by all oppressed groups in this country. I think we all do remember this, as fans of the story and as human beings.

current jam: ‘abraham’s daughter’ arcade fire

best thing: the hunger games soundtrack.

*I know this is double-posting in one day, which breaks all conventional blogging rules. But, per request (thanks, Gabs!) and per my own interest in the matter, i wanted to write about this while it was still fresh on my mind. Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

The Games: A (Mostly Spoiler-Free) Review.

Okay, so this is way overdue. I last left you with a simply tantalizing pre-film-seeing blog complete with my actually-nerd-cool Mockingjay shirt and have been nothing but silent since. In my defense: Spring Break ended, i caught a SIX AM flight back to the Northeast (which was even more exciting than it sounds!), and collapsed into a puddle of fright and incapacitation at the sight of the mound of neglected work sitting on my desk upon re-entering my room at school. So i’ve been curled up mulling over the Hunger Games as a coping mechanism for the past three days – thus, no pontifications here. Apologies.

blurry proof i actually was there.

But, oh my Rowling friends, it was perfect. Literally perfect.

I knew the book was going to translate brilliantly to the film if handled right; Suzanne Collins writes, even in the first person, with an incredibly cinematic eye. The very premise of children in an arena entirely filmed for national torture and entertainment loaned itself to an intense film experience, as the story is one meant to be taking place through a camera’s eye. In this, i thought the very idea of the story being made into a film would further the social commentary in a visceral way, showing us that American society is, in many ways, The Capitol itself.

Though i fretted that Katniss’ inner monologue might be lost on-screen, i trusted Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence would carry the feisty-femme-warrior-rebel-kick-ass-lady with charismatic and believable power. Upon seeing the trailer, i knew there was no one better for the part of Peeta than Josh Hutcherson: just though star-crossed-loving looks cast in the Reaping were enough to make my spine shiver. While i often fret over film adaptations of books i love (coughHarryPottercough) i had a gut feeling that this film was going to be exactly what it needed to be.

And friends, Director Gary Ross delivered. It was exactly how i pictured it in my head.

The very filming itself, with its jaunty rough, handy-cam angles in the untamed Arena and District 12 juxtaposed to the smooth, sweeping shots of the Capitol, speaks to the precision with which Ross envisioned the film. The movie manages to capture to essence of the book in a way that honors and represents its beginnings, but simultaneously can stand, quite clearly, as a work of art hewn in its own right. This is such a rare, precarious balance: to keep sight and keep grounded in the book, but to allow creative artistry to speak in visual form. In the striking of this balance, it is clear to me that Suzanne Collins was not only “involved,” but integral to the script adaptation process. I respect that as an audience member, but i adore that as a fan. Ross clearly wanted his own vision to be present, but his vision is just so in line with what Collins presented for the readers of her book it is like they were on a tandem bicycle headed for social-commentary-making, movie-dazzling madness. Thanks, Ross, for taking care of our poor heart-bleeds-for-the-rebellion fan-ish-ness.

Obviously, the sets and on-location filming were exquisite (they were, after all, filmed in North Carolina, only the most beautiful state in the USA!). Even in the costuming and set the disparity between the poverty of District 12 and the Capitol were executed with such decadent, dead-on precision. I LOVED that they spliced scenes in the Arena with the Gamemaker room; it deepened the horror of the Games and developed Seneca Crane and President Snow’s characters in frightening and convincing ways. Effie Trinket was the spitting image of how i had envisioned her, Katniss’ mother’s blue dress worn at the ceremony was all i wanted it to be, and the outfits worn by the Tributes in the parade were the exquisite mockery of the sensationalization forced upon them by their government.

While the vision of the film is what first comes to mind when talking about the movie, it would be a travesty to neglect mentioning the casting. As aforementioned, i trusted Katniss and Peeta would be done with the utmost of attention and believability: they totally fulfilled this expectation. Josh Hutcherson’s humor, ease with people, and devotion to Katniss as Peeta made me love him all the more. But it is clear to me that there was no better choice for my favorite leading lady than Jennifer Lawrence: she was the perfect balance of vulnerable and empowered, strong and resilient, calculating and unpredictable.

And while the rest of the cast were amazing, it was Lenny Kravtiz’ portrayal of Cinna that i think will stay with me the most. As one of my favorite characters in the book, Cinna stands in a unique position: his job is to make Katniss into who the Capitol wants her to be, and yet his mission is to empower her to be herself in the face of such an oppressive, totalitarian regime. Cinna is Katniss’ truest friend. Lenny Kravitz managed to communicate this kindness and consideration with such minimal screen-time it was breathtaking.

I just loved the film. I don’t know if you can tell, despite my gushing, over-the-top rave reviews. I just loved it.

But, should i have not convinced you, there will be another WAY COOLER place for you to hear my thoughts later this week. Since, you know, you sit staring at your computer vacantly until i post another blog (unless, of course, that’s actually me waiting for the Doctor Who Season 7 Trailer, my mistake). On Wednesday i am being interviewed by MarkAtTheMovies for the Reelz Channel to talk about the Hunger Games! Ahhh! The show won’t be aired live but instead will air later this week (i’ll keep you updated).

But, like, yeah. Because i make videos about being a nerd online people on TV want me on their show. I’m as baffled by this as you are, trust me!

Okay, ducklings, back to the Mountain of Misery. I mean Marvel. I mean Make-me-do-my-reading. May the odds be ever in your favor.

current jam: “if we burn, you burn with us” alex carpenter

best thing: hungergameshungergameshungergames.

The Odds Were Not In My Favor: A Hunger Games Crafting Mild-Fiasco.

Well, it is probably best for all that i never ventured out to start a craft blog.

For all my forays into decoupage and childhood adventures with dried macaroni, i am nothing short of decidedly half-way decent when it comes to t-shirt decorating. Still, i had a blast working on both of my new “Mockingjay” tees and, though all the most winning attributes of the final products are undoubtedly due to my Design-School-Bound Brother, i know i will love them all the more come opening night!

My original vision was this: a black v-neck tee with the mockingjay symbol (as copied from the cover of the first book in the series, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) in gold. Underneath, in a circle around it, or on the back, i wanted the following phrase painted in gold lettering as well: FIRE IS CATCHING. Mostly because it is one amazing catchphrase, and partly because it encapsulates both the title of Book #2 annnnd makes me feel a little more like the Mockingjay herself, Katniss Everdeen.

Should you be more dexterous with acrylic paint than i – or just better at crafting in general – i give you the following instructions on how to assemble on bad-ass Tribute Tee worthy of being a person in the crowd during  an interview with Ceaser Flickerman:

Step #1: The “You-Will-Need” Artsy Photogrpah & Accompanying Disclaimer That No One Sponsored Me in the Endeavor:

I procured 4 plain black tee shirts from a local unnamed craft store (only one of which is pictured here); gold t-shirt “Stencil Spray” ink (that is, apparently, the same stuff you use when properly screen-printing, but in miniature form), gold “Folk Art” acrylic paint, and an enhanced image of the mockingjay to be copied onto the garment.

Additionally, i wanted to make this shirt into a V-neck, so that required scissors, thread, and a sewing needle. For making the stencil, as you will come to see, we ended up needing not only an exacto knife, but thicker paper than the stuff i’d printed the picture on. Since we didn’t have any cardstock, we improvised with old file folders.

Step #2: The “This-is-the-first-thing-to-do-excpet-don’t-mess-up-like-us” Step, Wherein Thom the Designer is Really Good at Making Stencils and lizzie Takes Pictures of Toes.

The first thing you really need to do is make the stencil for your shirt; i left this business to my much-more-artsy brother, Thom, who regularly makes really cool works of art primarily in stencil or ceramic format. Leave it to the experts, right?

Tangential thought bubble: Thom has recently been accepted to his dream school for college, which makes for one spilling-over-with-pride big sister and means the wide world acknowledged his incredible talent in designing. While he may be growing older and into the adult world day by day, he still is my little brother to me. Nowhere was this more evident than when he was making this stencil – with studious precision he worked away on the mockingjay, but all the while his toes were curled under his seat like the kid he will always, in some way, be to me. He’s probably totally mortified by my mollifying, behaving like a mother hen-ing (if he’s even reading this), but i’m so stinking proud of him i can’t help it.

After i finished ogling my brother’s feet and getting weepy over aging, i turned to my half of Step #2: preparing the t-shirt itself for paint-age.

I wanted to make the shirt into a v-neck which is, actually, surprisingly simple to do. First, lay the shirt out on a flat surface and make a mark (i used a white pencil) about where the halfway point is on the collar. From there, cut straight down in a line. Don’t bother making the “V” yet, since that will come more naturally after the initial slicing:

Once you’ve cut straight down, take a ruler and mark from the end point of your cut to the collar in a diagonal. This will allow you to make an even cut for the “V.” Then, get hacking! I prefer to cut off the collar all the way around because it (a) looks better and (c) is easier to hem later.

Step #3: PAINT THAT S#!7 GURL.

Lay your shirt outside where the excess fumes and sprinkles of paint can be released to kill baby birds and not you in your sleep. I suggest slipping a piece of cardboard in between the layers of the shirt, so any bleeding through won’t impact the back of the shirt. Place the stencil on the shirt and, with slow criss-crossing motions, begin to spray. It’s best if you start and end the spraying on a piece of paper covering your garment, because the paint tends to splutter and splatter and generally make mischief when beginning and ending.

(it's yellow because thom tested it first with some spray paint. i think it looks boss this way!)

thom doing all the difficult stuff, per usual.

We learned pretty quickly that the thin paper was hardly enough to hold up against the “Stencil Spray” paint – thus, for shirt number two, we re-made the stencil on makeshift cardstock (old filing folders my Dad had cast off). For future t-shirt-painters, know that “Stencil Spray” is a much wetter, heavier paint than most spray paints like Valspar, and thus requires more covering of the shirt that we initially anticipated.

shirt #1

Because shirt #1 was a bit goopy, for the second we used our new & improved stencil coupled with more shirt-coverage:

(i got to paint this one!)

Step #4: Go A Little Beddazled-Crazy and Decorate the Hell Outta That Tee.

Because Shirt #1 was deemed to be a practice shirt, i went a little nuts in painting and decorating it. So much so that the lettering, well, failed (there’s a G about an inch away from the rest of the word “Catching”) and i deemed it a resounding C+ for effort alone.

thom said this looked like a lame rave t-shirt. i told him i would kick his district 12 butt in the hunger games. he looked on incredulously, and i was reminded of how simultaneously awesome and isolating it can be when you're such a nerd and your brother is the height of cool.

Still, i had a blast making it and shirt #2 is well on its way to being at least marginally more attractive. I won’t be seeing the film until tomorrow – i know, tears shed for missing the midnight premiere – but when i do, it will be in District 12 style.

Step #5: Take Overly-Flattering Photos of Yourself With Your Craft and Humble-Brag About How Freaking NerdCool You Are.

see the G? DO YOU SEE THAT MISPLACED G? a travesty, i tell you.

obligatory craft-blog, awkward-smile-at-the-camera pose.

Happy Hunger Games! Also, thanks Mom for taking the pictures. ‘Twas a family endeavor to make this shirt, i tell ya!

current jam: “arena” by the tributes. WATCH THIS VIDEO. REALLY. YOU WON’T REGRET IT. 

best thing in my life right now: lunch with mary!

The 74th Annual Hunger Games Have Begun!

Coming as a surprise to no one (except for, perhaps, new friend who found this blog by googling “tatoo pic for sane untamed spirit“) i am freaking beside myself right now. My nails are nibbled down with nervous anticipation, there are dark circles permanently under my eyes from lack of sleep, and i find myself twitching at even the slightest sounds – most especially, phrases containing “snow” or “roses” in them.

These are all totally natural, 100% sane side effects of re-reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Right? Perfectly normal.

For those friends who have, with considerable befuddlement, found their way here via intergalactic wifi: The Hunger Games are firstly torture devices in bound-page form used simultaneously to keep unapologetic nerds like myself up into the wee hours of the morning reading, and as a tool by which totalitarian states can manipulate large populations to bend to their will. Secondarily, the Games serve as the driving force in the plot behind the upcoming film of the same name, released this Friday.

I first fell under Collins’ literary spell in January of 2011, wherein similar side effects took over and i turned into nothing less than a catatonic word-eating shell for a period of four days. The books are brilliant; while the writing is merely prosaic, the plot propels the reader into forward-thrust the whole way through with unrelenting twists and carefully constructed character developments. Crafted with careful consideration of the devastation and havoc war wrecks upon all people, Collins has rendered a masterpiece trilogy for the Young Adult (and not-so-young-adult) reader.

If it is not yet glaringly obvious, i freaking love these books. They manage to execute what every SciFi* writer and reader dreams of: a thought experiment that possesses enough grounding in reality to potentially come true (logos), characters who are so riveting and realistic and feel pain and joy with excruciating attention to details (pathos), and they paint a world where ethical dilemmas are visceral and applicable to our own present-day situation (ethos). The social commentary made present with keen subtlety in the reality-TV-show aspect to the brutality that are the Games themselves (twenty-four children fighting to the death on live television for national entertainment) forces the reader to take a hard look at what we perceive to be entertainment and how desensitized the Global North has become to violence.

Katniss Everdeen, the narrator and protagonist of the series, is one of my all-time favorite literary characters. She’s fierce, determined, clever, and unapologetic for her strength – and yet so utterly human it is painful. When compared with the ever-present and ever-puke-inducing Bella Swan (who is also strung up in an otherworldly love triangle similar only in name to Katniss) she is a total master of her own agency, humanity, and willpower. She freely acknowledges that there are forces beyond her control that seek to manipulate her, and yet she fights back in unconventional ways to undermine and subvert the power of the unjust world she has inherited. Put simply, the woman kicks ass.

For all the above reasons, i am stoked for the film. Collins writes like she is filming; the cinematic view Katniss has on her reality, the ever-present “insects” and cameras that track Panem’s citizens every move, and the action-packed pages will translate to a movie quite naturally (in my humble opinion). And unlike Potter, where there were more subplots that hours in a day, The Hunger Games in its narration and style has a real one-track focus in terms of plot and character development. Katniss is the sole narrator, and so if the film does it right they’ll follow her story to a T and everything will fall into place. Having seen the trailer and the cast list, i feel like the director and crew (who have had a ton of input from Collins, which gladdens me) have made some wise and trustworthy decisions to make a film worthy of the books.

And because i’m so excited for this film to FINALLY come out (and, let’s be real, because i’ve finished re-reading the series in less than 48 hours and can’t stand not hyping up when the release is so tantalizingly close) this is only the first in a Hunger Games blog series this week. Tomorrow, pending my afternoon-o-crafting goes according to plan, there should be Wandering Writes’ first ever how-to post. And it involves spray paint.

But for now, i’ll leave you with my official District 12 Identification (you can make your own here!):

So that’s all for now, ducklings. Warm wishes your way.

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

current jam: “silver parachute” alex carpenter.

best thing in my life right now: crafting. and mockingjays.

*And while i know there is some dispute as to the genre classification of The Hunger Games, the working definition i function under is a thought experiment that employs technology in a way that harkens to an age different than our own. Really, this is “dystopian fiction” rather than science-y SciFi (like Contact or even Doctor Who) which happens to be my personal favorite genre, but whatever. H8rZ gUnNaa h88888.

Rachel Corrie: A Day of Remembrance.

Today, March 16th, marks the ninth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie.

Though perhaps one of the most controversial activists, martyrs, and political figures of the 21st Century so far, I have nurtured a complex admiration and understanding of Rachel Corrie. It’s no secret that her cause – the Palestinian/Israeli conflict – is drenched in complicated and politically charged melodrama (to put it, well, extremely mildly). As i have said before, this is not an issue i feel informed enough to make a public stance on; and it is for this very reason i choose to remember Rachel Corrie on this day rather, than to make a public claim for either side of the issue. The truth resists simplicity, and though Rachel Corrie herself was a woman representing one very prominent and subjective side to the Arab/Israeli conflict, she herself embodied this idea with remarkable intricacy.

I first came into knowing about Rachel Corrie in the fall after my first trip to Uganda. Whilst browsing the Dramatist website for new plays, i stumbled across this work for a one-woman show, entitled: My Name is Rachel Corrie. It intrigued me, and, more to the point at the time, the original production had been directed by Alan Rickman. Naturally, within a month it was in my possession.

Within the hour it took me to read it i was moved to my core. The play, which is based on her writings mostly as a young woman in her late teens and early twenties, is a masterpiece. More than its literary value, however, were the words of Rachel as parallel to emotions i was unpacking around activism and nonviolence at the time myself. There were the obvious, growing-out-of-the-guarded-castle similarities in her global-citizen awakening – but, more unnervingly, there were the frank parallels in our mutual taste for certain brands of pens or intricately papering our bedroom walls with feminist art. Here was a woman painted in word who was, to paraphrase Pablo Picasso, a lie by which i was seeing truth. A young woman who had died protesting a bulldozer’s track – protesting an action she saw rife with injustice.

It terrified me. And it was an immense relief.

In an email she wrote to her mother, she expressed something i had wanted to articulate for months, but had not possessed the words;

“I know I scare you, but I want to write and I want to see. and what would I write about if I stayed within the doll’s house, the flower-world I grew up in? I love you, but I’m growing out of what you gave me … let me fight my monsters. I love you. You made me. You made me.” 

For reasons i am still unable to articulate today, this sits with me. Still. I cannot read her emails or the play without feeling so despairingly sad for a woman with so much life ahead of her and so terrified for the machine of injustice that consumes such lights in the world.

I don’t mean to be a mega-downer on this Friday, a day meant for jubilation for an approaching weekend (even if Cousin Violet doesn’t know what a ‘week-end’ is) and spring breaks, but i think the fact that a day of memoriam exists for her for a reason. And in my own corner of the universe, i wanted to honor those reasons. She was resilient, funny, brilliant, and committed. She gave her life in the name of justice, and she never set out to be any kind of hero. She sought freedom, and while this is a day that honors one American, she is a symbol to honor the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who have died at the expense of violence. A reminder to us all.

(read more of Rachel’s emails here)

current jam: still ‘vienna’ by billy joel.

Even the Darkest Night Will End and the Sun Will Rise: Les Misérables.

Okay, friends. The Kony 2012 conversation is, by no stretch of the sub-cranium, ceasing.* While the internet-fad-ness of it may dissipate, i am making this public pledge to you here and now to do my best to keep you informed of updates i think pertinent. I love Uganda with all of my being, and i sincerely hope our discourse is not an end.

But, in lieu of the enormous amounts of literature i’ve been consuming and small amounts of it i’ve been outputting, i did not post something that i intended to last Thursday afternoon. For it was last Wednesday night that i treated myself to a night at the theatre; as mentioned last week, a touring Broadway company production of my absolute-until-death-do-we-part-favorite musical of all-time-until-oblivion, Les Misérables, was in town. And while initially i was invited to go with some friends, work schedules got all mixed-up and no one was able to go with me. Undeterred and unwilling to miss a chance to see a show i hadn’t experience live since i was nine years old, i booked a ticket. By myself. In Connecticut.

Understandably, last week i didn’t want to interrupt the flow of our conversation on Kony with chatter about musicals and mastra-dates,** but … it’s midterms. I’m exhausted and i just want to talk about escapism and theatre and frivolity right now.

Going to the theatre alone was certainly full of firsts but, thankfully, one without hiccups. Parking free and well-lit, they hadn’t misplaced my tickets, and there were no extraordinarily tall folk occupying the seat directly in front of me. I arrived almost an hour before the show started, being somewhat of a compulsive on-time-type-a-lady, so i spent the better part of it wandering around the Bushnell Theatre in downtown Hartford.

Outside the Bushnell Theatre!

And lemme tell ya, the place is swank. I’ve seen some lovely theatres in my day, but this one was a diva among the stars in your multitude. When i took my seat, found in the second-to-last-row of the balcony, i found myself in awe of the building itself. I always love it when theatres have character; the homes i made in the blackbox and stadium-seating style performance areas in high school epitomized “character.” They were endearing and quirky and drenched in histories of dark one-acts so obscure Edward Albee himself would be impressed – or aligned with the memories of so many to-be-giants having sung their hearts out on that very stage long before.

This theatre, though, was a character of her own. The elaborate décor along the walls and ceiling made my neck hurt from gazing. It was like sitting inside an enormous, intricately painted jewelry box. I felt small and insignificant – that is, until the curtain rose and i was one with the gods (and heaven is near (am i pushing this references too far? (impossible!))).

as close-up as i could get from the edge of the balcony!

after the show.

 Les Misérables is, at its core, a show about resilient faith in the face of a bleak and unforgiving world – and while the stories of such unyielding belief in goodness and the light move me to unladylike levels of sobbing-my-eyeballs-out-dom, that bleak and unforgiving world paints the story in such artistically realistic hues. And the re-staging of the performance is pure theatrical brilliance, conveying with the dressings of the show such contrast. The vivacity of the score by Boubil and Schoenberg have never ever been so beautifully matched by the set, costumes, and aesthetic of the piece. Through incorporating elements of Victor Hugo’s original paintings into projection-driven set backgrounds and blocking, the story takes on a new dimension in its visual impact. The profundity of Gavroche’s bravery – and tragedy – are deepened in the newly-conceptualized barricades scene.

And this hardly even touches on the extraordinary talents of the cast; Enjorlas’ voice was so divine i scarcely believed him to be human (though his curly blonde locks’ real-ness convinced me well enough to not suspect alien vocal invasion). Eponine and Fantine were pitch-perfect in their character choices, singing abilities, and gut-wrenching acting. Grantaire made me hate the students’ folly – and Marius made me understand why Enjorlas was a man worth dying beside.

But most of all, there was Jean Valjean.

Throughout the whole of my life – even longer than Harry Potter – this musical has been with me. And in my life there are so many questions that somehow seem wrong  i have empathized with different characters most deeply in different time. In some ways, it has always been Javert; the tragic, misguided and broken villains always woo me in ways that make me question my neurotic tendencies when cast in alternate lights. When i first flattered myself to think i was in love, it was Éponine; when i was seven and didn’t quite grasp the concept of the show, i loved the Thénadiers more than anything. And as i grow and change and come to know each character differently, i don’t relinquish any love i had for the others – but it does change.

And this show, there was not one, but two people with whom i felt like the earth moved in a way that made our consciousnesses parallel; Jean Valjean, portrayed perfectly by J. Mark McVey, and Enjorlas, played by Jeremy Hays. With Enjorlas, it makes perfect chronological sense: he is a passionate, somewhat zealous, convinced student who sees only the quest. I won’t be so bold and self-congratualting to say we have much in common, but the student-martyr complex is certainly something I empathize with (on a perhaps more muted level). This Friday, as it so happens, is Rachel Corrie day, and if you’ve been with me since the start of my blogging endeavors, you might recall that she is one of my beloved – if not more complicated – heroes.

But Valjean. Valjean was just love.

Which, at the end of the day you’re another day older, is what the show is all about. Love, transcending all adversity, all misery, all pain.

So as for the mastra-date? Yeah, totally worth it. While i may have unnerved my theatre-attending neighbors with my blubbering and program-clutching, it was a surprisingly transcendent and beautiful experience to go.

And i would not have missed this show for anything in the world, weird looks for solitude included.

current jam: thisthisthisthis.

best thing in my life right now: spring break is so freaking close it is tantalizing.

*In fact, i just made a video blog furthering the conversation if you care to have a look.

**mastra-datenoun; to take oneself out on activities usually appropriated for couples to engage in, such as going to the movies, eating  fancy dinner, or sitting alone in the tippy-top of the balcony bewailing Gavroche and clutching onto a bag of tissues like your life depends on it. Austinian root, of the roommate genus.

The Children are Not Invisible: PART II.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has commented or emailed or otherwise communicated with me on my blog yesterday. Your insights, critiques, and kind words are treasured in helping me grow and reaffirming of the very ideas behind this movement: that we, as a global community, can begin to engage in a discourse over human rights violations across the world. In lieu of such comments, i want to address a few things that have been said from a variety of people as something of an addendum to yesterday’s blog.

First: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. If that is how i came off, i apologize, for i in no way think of myself as someone whose opinion is any better than anyone else’s. Yes, i have lived very briefly (10 weeks this past summer, for new friends) in Uganda, and yes, nonviolent conflict resolution is a path i treasure and value above all others, but this only gives credence to me standing on a soapbox so long as we all know i’m just spouting my opinion, not universal truth or the ultimate end of the conversation.

And while i like to think i’m informed and passionate, i will never ever claim to be able to “speak for Uganda.” That, in and of itself, is too broad to even turn to a Ugandan person to answer (it’s like asking me “What is like being female in North America?” I can only answer to my personal experience, not the transcendent unique feeling every single woman has on the continent). Instead, might i direct you to some other incredible Ugandan leaders and capacity-building heroes that are good places to begin deepening our understanding of the complexity of the ramifications of this conflict together.

So, thank you for your questions – i will do my best, but often will try to direct you to other sources that i feel might better answer the dilemma.

This brings me to my second contention: in standing against Kony 2012, i am not standing against the conversation that has started. In fact, i am in full support of such a conversation. I appreciate that the Kony 2012 video has gone viral – because it also means critique of it has too, and this tells me that people are not content with just watching a 27 minute video to consider themselves educated on a global issue. We’re talking, you and i, right now, using one of the most frightening and awesome weapons the world has today: the internet. Invisible Children’s model of utilizing social media to instigate these conversations is brilliant, and i am so glad to see that this tool is being used to tell multiple sides of the story.

And, ultimately, this is what i care about. Yeah, i have some qualms with IC. But i have tried to engage myself critically and with an open mind in the discourse of the Northern Uganda conflict since i was fourteen. At risk of sounding self-congratulatory (which, again, is not my intent): i was often disillusioned by how little my peers knew then about a war where people our age were the primary victims. My sophomore year in high school, i was the Vice Principal of nothing less than the Invisible Children chapter at my school, because they cared. They understood why i, as just a teenager, wanted to be involved in a movement and conversation that concerned something far greater than myself and, on the surface, foreign to the world i knew. They got this, because they wanted people my age to care – and i would say, here and now, they’ve done a pretty good job in starting this conversation among many of my peers. I will never forget this, nor will i discredit or debase an entire organization based on some disagreements over their presentation or policy. There is no such thing as a perfect NGO. This doesn’t mean i don’t stand by my criticisms; my opinion is no different today than yesterday, but in much the same way i am asking all of us (myself included) to imagine complexly, i have a complex opinion on a large, multi-faceted body of people and ideas.

Ultimately, what i wanted to express yesterday and intend to here today is this: don’t stop at the IC videos; they have done a superb job at getting the conversation started among their target group which is, in their own words “Western youth.” I know, from your comments and queries, that many of you were really first exposed to these tensions and the crimes of Kony (etc) in the last week from this video. Thank you for caring enough to watch it – and thank you for also wanting to dig deeper and learn more. Apathy will be the destruction of the human race, but this kind of dialogue makes me hopeful this end isn’t as fast-approaching as i once thought.

However.

This is not an issue that solely concerns Western youth. Nor is Kony a threat who sprung up yesterday in terms of international action or conversation. My concern with ALL of the hype around this on the internet at present – criticism included – is that this is turning into an internet fad. That, this time in two weeks, when the facebook statuses and tweets are lying in the archives of our social media-driven output, the conversation will fizzle out. In the same way, it worries me that there is a mentality that once Kony is captured, the war’s ramifications will largely come to an end.

We cannot let this craze be the end of the conversation, in the same way that we cannot think capturing Kony will end a system of inequality, poverty, and injustice. As John Green says, “the truth resists simplicity.” For some of us, as an internet-driven collective, this is a beginning in engaging in real-life conversations about American privilege, distributions of wealth, war, reactions to conflict, and governmental roles in peace efforts. For some of us still this can be a frustrating, hands-thrown-in-the-air “of COURSE!” moment wherein we express that this conflict is much bigger and much deeper than one man. All sides are needed in this conversation as we embark together, moving forward to build tomorrow.

And, while i think it goes without saying, i want to add that no conversation when grappling with trauma and hope of this magnitude and complexity is easy. But we should all do well to remember that the people talking are people and therefore we should remain respectful of opinions contrary to our own.

And one final note: nonviolence is not merely a strategy. It is a way of life – though it can be employed as a strategy. The best metaphor i can think of is this (wherein it becomes excruciatingly obvious i am, in fact, a religion major): you can read the Bible as a scholar to examine its historical value and to inform your opinions on literature, society, or its misconstrued use in American politics. In this context, your reading may not be faith-based, but is a tool to reach a greater end. Conversely, if you read the Bible as a sacred text (which doesn’t necessitate you remove a critical eye) and see its rich complexity and contradictions and laws for life as something by which you intend to pour every facet of your being into, you are reading the text as a way to live your life. The same could be said for reading the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur’an. On one hand, it is a tool to understand something; delving deeper, it is a road map of beliefs. I believe in nonviolence, and i ask you in your responses to not write this off as a “foolish strategy.” This is my life, and i am (perhaps foolishly, i admit) being vulnerable here and stating that.

I respect those of you who think a military intervention is needed, but i disagree. While this side to the conversation is complicated, i will save longer thoughts for another time – in part, because i’m not sure if it’s really my right to have any say in how Kony is brought to face justice. Instead, i shall employ the words of two men whom i admire greatly, as cliché and over-used such phrases might be: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Shalom to you all.

some helpful links:

interview with arhcbishop odama (a man whom i have met twice and am in remaining awe of – a nonviolent activist and leader in uganda). thanks to thera for this link!

the acholi religious leaders peace initiative (really, read this!)

an incredible vlog and african response to this hype. please, if you read or watch nothing else, read/watch this. 

“The Children” are NOT Invisible: Why I Don’t Support the KONY 2012 Campaign.

I was first exposed to the conflict in Northern Uganda at the age of fourteen. My exposure was, as i have articulated many times, a radical uprooting of the doll’s house i had grown up in; my white privilege, American privilege, gender identity, and perception of self not only became salient to me, but i thrust such perceptions all under robust and ruthless scrutiny. Through interactions with women and men my age and older in Uganda returning from tragedy beyond articulation, i uncovered a passion for fighting for human rights for all peoples. But more importantly, this realization did not merely stem from shared or witnessed woe – it came from a shared human experience. My friends who live in Uganda are human beings, as flawed and beautiful and resilient and hopeful as you or i. I awoke then to a global community committed to human rights because we are all human, not out of pity.

However.

My exposure to the Ugandan conflict is a rare anomaly in the scope of international awareness. I was educated because i went to Uganda. In all honesty: i knew nothing about Uganda before i left; our trip was spent half in Uganda and half in Rwanda, and i was focusing all of my pre-departure energies on the latter. Thus, my education was first-hand and on-the-ground.

Not everyone has this blessing or opportunity. It is for this reason that i think much of what the organization Invisible Children does is fantastic. They are supremely good storytellers; as flawed as their methodology and approach may be, the team behind the documentaries and information dissemination do a brilliant job at communicating the importance of caring for people whom most of their donors and participants will never meet. They instill a dedicated passion for a cause that, in and of itself, does not threaten American security or comfort on an individual level really at all. In terms of introducing the Ugandan conflict to broader discourse especially among my peers across the country, Invisible Children is great.

Most importantly, i have no doubt that the people who are at present posting “KONY 2012″ as their facebook statuses and writing checks to this NGO have the very best of intentions. In no way do i want to ever discredit the commitment one human being has made to another to see their full identity and fight for their basic, inalienable rights. This is a beautiful act.

But the “KONY 2012″ campaign is not, in my opinion, the way to empower and actualize the full identity of an entire nation of peoples and victims of war.

The KONY 2012 campaign, for those who do not know, is the latest brainchild of Invisible Children, an organization based in the United States with a mission to end the conflict in Uganda and its repercussions across Central and East Africa. Spawned by a 27 minute video, this campaign seeks to promote awareness about the war crimes of Jospeh Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA (the insurgency that initiated the civil unrest in Uganda and army that is responsible for abducting over 30,000 children and forcing them to be child soldiers and sex slaves) through a social media grounded guerilla art movement. This is to be manifested in the form of sharing, reblogging, tweeting, and posting “KONY 2012″ on all forms of internet discourse with links to the Invisible Children website. Furthermore, the campaign is to come to a head in April when mobilizers are to “cover the night” by putting posters, pictures, and stickers of “KONY 2012″ on every visible surface they can find.

At first glance, this intention is excellent. Of course i want people to be educated and aware about the gross injustices Kony has performed. Guerilla art? Count me in. Social media? I live in my computer – golden.

But promoting such awareness by glorifying a criminal, portraying this intervention as an American/white man’s burden to “help” Africa, and encouraging a militaristic intervention?

Absolutely not.

This conflict is far more complex than a mere facebook status can convey; frankly, it is more complicated than a thirty-minute video can explain either, particularly when 50% of said video is dedicated to why “YOU” must end the war, not what Ugandan leaders of independent grassroots movements, churches, mosques, and other bodies of change decree what needs doing. To end a war, we must confront injustice by empowering the people involved.

This means that the voices of “the children” must be heard far more than our own. I do not see this in the KONY 2012 video. In fact, the whole narrative begins with Jason Russell, one of the founders of Invisible Children, saying “my life was changed.”

Yes, it’s your narrative, Jason. Yes, please speak to what you know. But let’s all remember this is more than just one story – one story is an excellent place to start, but the truth resists simplicity.

The impact of the scene in both the original documentary and this video of Jacob mourning the loss of his brother is so. so powerful.  In many ways, i think everyone in the world should see this scene to understand the visceral sorrow that was – and remains to be – the war in Uganda. Woe is universally transcendent of language and border. But do not let this woe be all of Uganda that you see. All of the empowerment, of the celebration of human resilience in the face of adversity, were scenes filmed in America. In part i am sure this is because of resources, and yes, some of the people in America were Ugandans – but what of the people who live in Gulu town? What of their relief? Their self-actualization?

This depiction of Uganda – as children suffering from the horrific impacts of war – is an incomplete picture that is otherizing and portreying the conflict as something that “we,” in our American privilege, must swoop in and “fix.” In this reductive perspective, there is no space to love and seek to understand people complexly, because the war is all that we see.  And to paint this conflict in the eyes of the American public by creating a campaign of hatred towards Joseph Kony is not, as the film claims, subverting or changing the way the media portrays global challenges. It is totally buying into this idea that “the bad guys” are the face of war – and it furthers this concept of Uganda as a nation broken and in need of “the good guys” (meaning Americans) to save “them” from Kony.

Furthermore, by putting Kony’s face as the face of the conflict, we are glorifying violence and his crimes against humanity. But more importantly – and i will fully disclose this to be a reflection of my own belief in nonviolence as a way of life – there leaves no room for forgiveness. I am not alone in thinking that Kony should not be put to death, and that this action would not heal the wounds this war has scarred us all with. Calling for the ICC to step in is fine, but integral to rebuilding a country torn apart by war is an element of forgiveness (which is different from forgetting – and doesn’t mean there is not an element of accountability for crimes committed). And this act is not for those who did not live through the war to decide the fate of – not me, not Invisible Children. Forgiveness must come from those who need it, and those who need to give it.

And this doesn’t even begin to cover the disparities within the Ugandan military in terms of accountability and real peacemaking. Grant Oyston, a sociologist and proprietor of the Visible Children Tumblr, does a superb job in this article of describing why a military-driven intervention in Uganda is not the best solution. He describes the problems with a military-driven mindset, for all past military interventions have failed and caused violent retaliation by the LRA. I highly encourage you to read the entire piece – but if you take only one thing away from it, please take this:

“Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.”

Good intentions are good. But they are not enough.

I want to reiterate once more i don’t think ill of anyone who has reblogged or posted or stamped KONY 2012 to their foreheads – your compassion is never to be understated. Thank you for caring. Selfishly, Uganda is a very special place to me and seeing so many people taking public stances for human rights in a country i love so much is moving, moving in ways i cannot describe. I am not telling or asking you to stop caring or to stop being involved with social change. I am asking you do so in an informed way that imagines and seeks to understand this conflict complexly, and in a manner that acknowledges our stance as allies in a global community of agents of change. Empower yourselves!

And, should you want a documentary to dive deeper into the complexity, might i direct you to the brilliant, Oscar-nominated masterpiece that is WAR/DANCE. You will not regret it; there is no narration on the part of the documentarian, and juxtaposed to unbridled woe that is war is uncontainable hope and resilience and pure human-ness.

Let us all work to imagine peace in its complexity.

**EDIT: Invisible Children has since put out a counter-blog to some of these criticisms and many others. I encourage you to read their side as well! Thank you for your thoughts!

**ALSO AN EDIT: There is now a PART II to this post, viewable by clicking here! Thanks! 

*** I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU WATCH THIS. This is the best response i’ve yet come across.

current jam: “vienna” billy joel.

best thing in my life right now: going to les mis tonight!