Snap Judgment

Michael Brown never had a chance to receive a trial, but in many ways the Ferguson case turned him into a defendant, post-mortem. Here are two competing images of the victim:

michael brown
One image of Michael Brown, according to those who knew him: a sweet, angel-faced big boy, who occasionally smoked weed and always played video games, like most teenage boys growing up in America. He got along with everybody. He was visiting his grandmother the day he was shot six times. He wrote fairly amateurish rap songs instead of doing his homework on time. Sometimes he did dumb things, as again, most teenage boys hopped up on testosterone and peer pressure are wont to do. But he was never known to be a fighter, despite – or maybe because of – his size: he typically “tended to use his size to scare away potential trouble.”

Unfortunately, this tendency may have contributed to Michael’s death. Here’s the image of him from Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony:

…Brown looked up at him “and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.”

via NPR

Officer Wilson knew none of the context of Michael Brown’s abbreviated life. All he came armed with was a lifetime of images of angry black men, negative reinforcement from interactions with previous suspects, high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Oh, and a loaded gun.

It is during rapid-fire moments like these, when prejudice becomes fatal.

I don’t know what to do about institutional racism. It’s a problem far beyond me, or the scope of my generation, a problem that has been brewing ever since the first slave ships arrived on the shores of this fledging country. Time heals most wounds, but not these – a dark and shameful past reechoes itself in modern-day iterations of Jim Crow.

What time can do is potentially save lives. In their official statement to the press after the verdict, the family of Michael Brown called for a “campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.” One of the many reasons for this being that police, feeling the extra layer of supervision and accountability from being filmed, will think twice before deploying what might constitute excessive force. Cameras alone cannot solve the problem of black men being disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. But they have been shown to deescalate situations on both sides of a law enforcement interaction (reality TV notwithstanding, people tend to be on their best behavior when cameras are rolling).

On that hot, fateful August day, the presence of a camera might have slowed things down enough to spare Michael Brown his life. It looks as though prevailing sentiment is on board with body cameras, with police departments around the country in process of adopting them into their routines. More studies should be done to definitively assess their effects. And no camera, no matter how Google-advanced, could capture all subtleties and nuances brought to the table in a hostile police encounter.

But if the widespread adoption of these cameras can avert needless deaths, simply by virtue of psychological effect, then perhaps the death of this young man will not have been totally in vain. There is currently a police body camera bill set to become law in Baltimore City — unless Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issues a veto, which she is likely to do. Time to hit the streets?

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Cobwebs

Who is this mopey Debbie Downer who has taken over my blog and rendered it into a platter of whine and cheese? How dreadful. I apologize for anyone who looked at their feedreader notifications, came back and saw this.

Here are my not-quite-next year resolutions:
1. Post when good things have happened, because LOTS has happened that is bright and shiny and wonderful in my life, I just get too lazy to document as such.
2. Let myself feel feelings instead of quashing them down, only to explode at moments of utmost inconvenience.
3. Not to let those feelings consume me – feel them, burn them out, dust myself off and go back to business as usual.

Here are improv-related resolutions:
1. Listen, listen, listen. (And I will concentrate on actually listening, vs just mentally screaming at myself to listen so loud I can’t hear what the other person is saying)
2. Break myself of this idea that I have to force some kind of weird character; try playing myself.

piglet-keeping-cool
Above this post you’ll see nothing but kittens, sunshine and dancing pigs. A lot of pig-related posts, actually.

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Rejection Rodeo

Let me dust off the pages of this blog to update you on the latest micro-tragedy of my life. Ahem.

So for the last year and some change, I have been taking improv classes and workshops, and basically plunging myself into this hobby as a way of getting over a devastating breakup. Improv was therapeutic for awhile, and then as it became the focus of my social group and most of my free time, I began to develop anxieties about it. Nothing too out of the ordinary, just the usual sophomore slump.

Last month, all of a sudden, everything started clicking for me and falling into place rapidly. I was invited to an upper level performance class that involved five shows (a lot for a month!); as soon as class wrapped, we formed an independent troupe and were able to get a practice space, two shows booked, and a coach within the matter of days. I was also invited to play with another indie troupe in the area, this one quite established and with a good reputation. I started to feel like, hey, maybe I am good at this.

And then yesterday, I auditioned for the major improv company in town.

I did this last year as well. I (obviously) failed to get in, but strangely felt good about myself afterwards. At least I got out there! I tried! I wasn’t called back then, but afterwards one of my instructors told me that there had been “positive chatter” about my performance. I walked in this year thinking that if I didn’t get in, I would be just fine – I’m in two indie troupes that I would hate to leave anyways, so why worry?

Oh, but this year it felt SO much more personal. After waiting outside in the cold for what seemed an eternity, we were let inside and the director called out the list of names for the call-back. I listened and clapped loudly as each and every person present, with whom I’d been in troupes or classes or workshops, was announced. And then…”that’s all, folks.”

I bailed very quickly, not before enduring a few pitied glances cast my way, and ran over to the nearby diner with the one friend I knew who also hadn’t been called back. Had it not been for her, I probably would have walked off a bridge.

It’s the morning after, and I am trying as hard as I can to rally. After some supportive phone calls and messages from friends and troupe-mates, I am resolved to continue improv, even though at this point I feel like the universe has finally exposed me for fraud. I am James Frey-ing it, at this point. A lot of my friends ended up making the final cut, and I am very happy for them – or will be, once I get my head out of my own ass and stop feeling so sad for myself.

I don’t know what to do. Universe says, maybe I should stop this hobby, and maybe take up another one that doesn’t cause me so much emotional angst? This feeling echoes very much the breakup that caused me to delve into improv in the first place. But then — a lot of my social life revolves around improv. And I am unlikely to get any better if I just take my (red) ball and go home.

2014 in general has been a year of rough turbulence for me. I guess this makes up for a long stretch of years in which I was too happy and carefree to feel or express any real grownup feelings.

Vicki, the girl robot from "Small Wonder." (Also, incidentally, the inspiration for one of the best scenes I have ever played).

Vicki, the girl robot from “Small Wonder.” (Also, incidentally, the inspiration for one of the best scenes I have ever played).

Now, thanks to improv, I feel all of the feelings – glad and sad. (Mad? Afrad?)

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Mind over vermin

Christine McConnell / Instagram

“I am no longer ert, for I have lost my ertia.”

I lay awake at 4:30 a.m., reflecting on all the bridges I’ve burned. No, nothing so spectacular or drama-worthy; it’s more like I’ve let those bridges decay and collapse out of neglect. I never intended to do such, just like the designers of the Tacoma Bridge never imagined it might disintegrate with the whistling of the wind. I just…I don’t know. I turned around to do something, looked up and saw that it was fifteen years later.

I have an unsent birthday letter to Eli burning a hole in my purse, incriminating me every time I brush past it to get out my wallet or keys or whatever. It is so late being sent that the address on the outside is no longer valid, because my ex-boyfriend is a globe-trotting hobo and I don’t even know what country he will be in a month from now.

I fear all my old friends are angry with me because I don’t keep up with them enough. I had an idea to reconnect with people by doing a repeat of a birthday event I had years ago: ask people for stories, in lieu of presents or booze. So I have created a Facebook event demanding that my friends use their precious free time to entertain me, and really only just a few have accepted. In the dim light of the early insomniac hour, I see how obnoxious this stunt must seem, to someone who hasn’t heard from me in months.

I’ve spent months (nearly a year) throwing dollars and time I don’t really have at a hobby which will never translate into anything more than that. I want to be happy for my new friends (?), but the petty part of me is demoralized to see people who started in the scene at the same time, or even more recently than me, be awesome and funny and have shows and fans and respect. Whereas with me, it’s a constant struggle not to bum the fuck out of everyone in the room with the darkness clouding my brain. I was actually invited to be in an independent troupe, but quit yesterday; I’d started dreading going to practice and often left feeling miserably unfunny. (A friend of mine suggested that I try doing scenes while bawling my eyes out as an anti-comedy schtick – however, I am not sure this troupe I just quit, mostly comprised of “shock jock DJ in the morning dudes,” would be down with art-shit).

Every boy I have met post-Russian has either been interested and then quickly un-interested in me, or never really interested in me except theoretically, since I guess I serve as a fairly convenient pseudo-girlfriend. I am actually okay with this for now, since I don’t think I have my head quite clear enough to level up to actual-girlfriend quite just yet. But I feel immature and guilty for being okay with this. Oh, and also the not having a 401k thing, or even enough money to buy a proper sofa. I’ll be thirty-one next week. I have perhaps aged out of the decade in which I should reasonably be tolerating half-assed boys and temporary furnishings.

I obsess over the mice in my kitchen cupboards, scattering droppings and urine over triple-bagged quinoa and wild rice, sidestepping the humane trap my roommate and I have peanut-buttered for them, while my cat snores in the other room. The mice know what they want from life, and are constrained to an elegant set of actions. No complications, no distractions. Just go with the grain.

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