A Great Story Gone Bad

WARNING: THE ATTACHED SLIDESHOW CONTAINS VERY GRAPHIC PICTURES THAT MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME VIEWERS. 

In the safety of the United States the mention of Egypt might bring to mind the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, mummies and curses, or rolling waves of dessert sands sprawled for miles in different directions.

But Egypt has changed. And it’s in danger. The tides of violence spurred on by revolutionists, still sprouting from the change that came with the rightful downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak. The times are uncertain for many Egyptians, with change haphazardly thrown from all directions. Today, Egypt’s military backed government resigned. There will be another election soon, but no one knows if that will bring stability.

Protecting the priceless pieces from thousands of years ago is no longer a priority, protecting freedom is. And the revolutionists will strive for it at any cost.

Many revolutionists have paid the ultimate price, hundreds have been killed in the clashes. Mosaab Elshamy, of BBC news, documented the violence in a series of photographs entitled Turmoil In Egypt. Many of the pictures are gruesome, some show the desperation for peace, others show completely raw grief.

The photo that starts of the slideshow, is of a man on his knees, streaked with dust, arms wide open with both hands holding two fingers up, a symbol of peace, is contrasted by a wall of military men in riot gear, some with arms outstretched, throwing unseen objects at the man. This is a powerful image, one that shows what the revolutionists are fighting for and against.

Elshamy’s voice accompanies the pictures, detailing his documentation of the events. His lightly accented voice is at times choked with emotion as photos of slide by. He describes the revolution as “a great story gone bad,” depicting how quickly humanity can descend into chaos.

Pictures of many women covered in colorful hijabs wearing smiles in lines for the voting booth slowly turn into bloody clashes with infernos painting the background as men in obvious grief, tears streaked down their faces, as carry their bloody and injured comrades.

Streets that must have once been pristine are now graffiti covered, blocked by police walls and charred by the fires that burn in the night. A massacre is described when Elshamy speaks of the deaths of over 800 people in the violent dispersal of the camps. A man kneels with his head in his hands, mouth open in silent grief as he is surrounded by bodies. A woman, cloaked in black, lays over a white sheet stained with red.

The photos end with uncertainty, his voice gives no clear indication of a finale, much like the precarious future facing the now divided Egypt. Will the supporters of the military regime revolt against the resignation? Will the new leader be any better than the past three regimes?

The slideshow is powerful and haunting, the music eerie and his voice is commanding. While the photos are, in an aesthetic way, beautiful, one can only hope that with the recent resignation of the government the images will never be repeated.

To A Drag Show We Go

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For my FIRST (1) photo gallery ever, I had the stunning luck to photograph the lovely ladies of the drag show at Stir, a bar in downtown Auburn.

A few quick points if I may. I am only referring to them by their stage names. This is to protect their privacy and also because that is the image they portrayed themselves to me. I am also calling them ladies, because during the show and with some in their everyday lives, that is how they think of themselves. And honestly, look at them. If you had to pick between them or I being the drag queen I’m pretty sure I’d be called the guy 90 percent of the time. 

I spent the first part of the evening with Lotus, Imberli and Sapphire. Sapphire was the special guest for the night and Imberli and Lotus are part of the Royal Crew with Stir.

Let me tell y’all something, kudos to them. All of them. I almost broke an ankle walking up the ladder to their dressing room and they do it all the time, in sky high heels and restricting outfits, at times a bit tipsy. Their makeup skills exceed mine by an embarrassingly exorbitant amount. When I remarked about my poor contouring skills, Lotus was quick to offer me tips about everything from contouring to eyeliner to mascara that I had honestly never thought of to try. Imberli had a bag of jewelry, filled to the brim in an array of colors and sizes, that I was immensely jealous of.

For the show two other ladies showed up, Cotaliya and Tina. The bar was packed, so packed that people crowded forward near the stage, sitting on speakers and standing on bar stools to get a good view. There was a pretty much flawless rendition of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love,” an on-point Miley Cyrus rendition and each of the dancers grinded, booty bumped, twirled and tutted* their way through the vibrant mixture of people while the bass jumped so much my teeth rattled. They have fun as they dance and as they take a break between routines to interact with the crowd. Everybody laughs and isn’t offended when stereotypes of gender, race and orientation are poked fun of, it isn’t mean spirited, it’s just a way to get everyone to laugh at themselves in one way or another.

Overall, the royal crew at Stir and their guest, Sapphire, were overwhelmingly welcoming. I spent about two and a half hours there, so obviously ten photos are not all I have to show for it, more pictures will come later.

“When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.” -RuPaul

*tutting is a style of dance, creating geometric shapes with something as small as the fingers to the integration of the whole body.

Why My Tattoos Are Not Anyone’s Business

I’ll admit, I’m a little biased on this one. I have tattoos and half of my family does too. (The other half don’t think tattoos are a good idea, or they are absolutely terrified of every and any kind of needle.)

But, I’ve never understood why there is a stigma against people with tattoos. I’ve heard things like “Oh, you know what a tramp stamp means.” or “Why put a bumper sticker on a ferrari?” or “I’ve never seen a woman with a tattoo that made her look better” or “The body is a temple, don’t desecrate it.”

First of all, a “tramp stamp” simply means someone decided to get a tattoo on their lower back, where the skin doesn’t change through the years as much as other areas of the body, where it can be covered, and where it (in some shops) costs less. It isn’t fair or accurate to label a woman as a tramp because she has a lower back tattoo. 

Secondly, why not put a bumper sticker on a ferrari? It’s your car, you paid for it (a lot in the case of a ferrari), it’s your life and it’s your message. All of my tattoos have personal meaning. I don’t have to explain it to anyone else, that’s not my problem, it’s theirs. If you don’t like bumper stickers on cars then don’t read them when you see them and don’t put one on your own. 

Now, if you don’t find women with tattoos attractive, great for you. Personal preference (again.) Not everyone finds the same thing attractive, just like not everyone finds the same things ugly. I personally don’t care much for steak, but I’m not going to shout at everyone who does like steak about how much I don’t like it and why I think no one else should either. It’s not my business, and my opinions most likely wouldn’t change the mindset of people who already like steak. 

Lastly, the body is a temple and you should treat it as such and be grateful for it. But putting a tattoo on my skin is not harming me. I take care of them, so I don’t get infections and I go to reputable shops where they unwrap and sterilize the equipment in front of you. (If you’re considering a tattoo, pay the extra money, an infection is NOT worth the medical bill and pain.) Similarly, if you’re not convinced that tattoos don’t harm the body-eating junk food everyday, lack of exercise, drinking excessively and smoking cigarettes also harm your very own personal temple, and just because you can’t see the effects doesn’t make it any better.

If you don’t like tattoos, I respect your opinion. But it’s not my opinion and your arguments are not going to change my mind. If you want to be covered to your eyelids in rainbow ink and hot dog tattoos I might have to blink a few times when meeting you, but it’s none of my business what you do with your money and your skin. Likewise if you want to be squeaky clean without piercings or tattoos, I respect that. Still not my business. 

“When the designs are chosen with care, tattoos have a power and magic all their own.  They decorate the body but they also enhance the soul.”-Michelle Delio

Around the World in 21 Years

I’ve been gifted and cursed with many and frequent travels. As a military brat I’ve been boomeranged through southern United States and I’ve spent hours (days in the time processing skills of a 7-year-old) on planes flying to and from Europe.

Through the military (and times before then) I have spent time in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Idaho, Alabama, Georgia, Germany and most recently England.

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A beach in the Bahamas

On top of being told by the big bosses where to move, I’ve traveled to wherever we could reach, which while I was younger was something that I absolutely hated and had no appreciation for. On the top of my head, I can think of remembering visits to Italy, France, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, California, Virginia, Montana, Washington D.C. (I’m sure I’ll be reminded of a few I’ve forgotten.)

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Big Ben

When I was younger, traveling was boring. Hiking through the Black Forest to find a “waterfall” that was 3 feet high was excruciating, driving through Poland to find cheap pottery was dreadful, and spending hours being shoved this way and that during Mardi Gras in Italy was terrifying.

Moving was even worse. Each time I packed up, I left friends and the familiar behind. Each move I was sure I would be completely miserable and terribly lonely. For the move to Germany, I was totally afraid of being shoved into a place I knew nothing about. Not the language, not the culture, not the road signs, without the safety of being surrounded by family, something I had grown accustomed to.

Looking back though, I am incredibly grateful. I’ve been to parts of the world most people can only dream of visiting. I’ve visited museum after museum and learned history first hand, not through a dusty book. I’ve seen the Mona Lisa, tramped through a rainforest, climbed the Eiffel tower, gone skiing on the Alps, and swam in the clear Caribbean waters.

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The Eiffel Tower

Each place I met someone new. I learned about a culture vastly different from my own, picked up bits and pieces of different languages, and learned to get to know people before I decided against them.

From my time in Germany. To a little kid, the German language is gruff. The people are blunt.They stand closer to you than Americans would. But get to know them and you’ll find a surprisingly healthy population, with little old ladies riding their bikes through town. The guttural languages hides kind and charming personalities. And they are much more open to newcomers, with the people in Germany being more welcome even through a language barrier than some of our neighbors in the United States.

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An old church in Germany

So, if you can, I beg you to travel. Throw yourself into something unfamiliar. Going to an all inclusive resort is nice, but you won’t truly experience any culture but the inside of a 5-star bedroom and heated pool. Visit the monuments, walk in the downtown areas and explore hole-in-the-wall restaurants that turn out to have the best Gelato, ever, in the history of the world. (That might be an exaggeration, but only slightly.)

“Andere Länder, andere Sitten.” -German proverb. Translation: “Other counties, other customs.” (It really means, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.)

Slideshows With Meaning

“Face to Face” portraits by Alison Wright, who works for the for the National Geographic, shows people from around their world in their traditional clothing, usually with solemn faces and eyes that look through the screen directly to you.

These photos document the beauty in the different cultures around the world, showing you through dress or caption a small piece of the world outside of the United States. The pictures are simple, but gorgeous with sharp focus and bright eye catching colors.

I find it inspiring that she was able to truthfully document different individuals in such a distinct pattern that it makes them look similar. The traditional clothes are beautiful and in some of those captured they seem proud to be photographed in such a way.

So, do you think these photos show the beauty of being different? Or do these photos show that through our differences we are similar?

“Greatest Photos from the American West” groups photos by a variety of photographers for the National Geographic and other news sources to combine notable images from the American West in order to show a glimpse into the varying lives of America’s homeland.

These photos document everything from the rolling prairie grasses sprawling across open fields, to good ole cowboys lounging in a lonesome dim-lit bar, to Native Americans perched on top of horses surrounded by teepees and buckskin dresses. They show the diversity in just a single region of the United States. Each of these photos have an earthy feel to them, with nature being either lurking in the background or being the prominent feature, which is what many Americans (myself included) think of when they think of the West.

I think these photos are inspiring because they show that you don’t have to look for diversity in small dark corners of the world, it’s everywhere.

Also, (since I am the daughter of an environmental scientist) I have a small fascination with the simplistic beauty of nature. These photos are shot without the effects of exposure lighting, mostly outdoors, with colors given to us by the Earth.

“Windows of the Soul” pictures by Alexandra Avakian depicts Muslims in various shoots that she took over a period of twenty years. The photos show Muslims, throughout different parts of the world (including the United States) in an array of situations.

One shows women in strict Hijab with facial masks taking a break from shopping. The photo is so striking to see women so concealed, but the situation is common, many women go shopping everyday. Another shows a group of children playing and laughing, faces stretched in full giggles, with nothing out of the ordinary but simple head coverings. Others, depict fearful situations, a protestor jumping to escape high rising flames, snipers who had been attacking the photographers hotel for several days surrendering to military police.

These photos show that despite the unfortunately common terrorist portrayal of Muslims, they’re just like the rest of us. I think the most striking photo to me was the image of a woman covered from head to toe pushing a lawnmower in front of her home. It’s so ordinary and basic that it’s pretty.

I also think the photos could inspire some of those with prejudice to briefly put aside their ideals to see that they aren’t the bad guys, it’s just unfortunate that every religion has a few violent nut jobs who claim their criminal intentions have God at its base. 

A Not So Epic Clash of Cultures

My parents divorced when I was young, so young that I barely remember anything about them being married. When I was 5, my mother remarried to my wonderful dad, Alex, and my father began dating my wonderful mom, Michelle.

I lived with my mom during the school year, wherever in the world that turned out to be. My dad is in the military and we move pretty frequently, so my living locations would change often. Two years after they remarried I got a little brother, Matthew, seven years my junior, and later Allison, nine years my junior.

My mom, dad, and family

My mom, dad, and family

During the summer I stayed with my dad in Idaho. The first time I spent the summer with Michelle was a bit overwhelming.  Michelle had been married before and had four kids of her own, Joe, two years younger than I, Tyler, my age, Lynne, four years older than I, and Josh, seven years older than I. I hadn’t really ever been around that many kids my own age before outside of school, so I didn’t know how to react other than whine and sit in the corner and read. Gradually though, I became more outgoing and consider each of them my brothers-and-sister-from-anotha-motha. (bringing my sibling count to a wonderful I-will-never-be-out-of-family-reach six).

My father, Michelle, brother-in-law, niece, and siblings

My father, Michelle, brother-in-law, niece, and siblings

Now here’s how it relates to this blog- my stepfamily is a mixture of culture all their own. Mexican, Yugoslavian, Native American, and other things I’m sure I’ll learn eventually. Most impacting on their identity is Native American. Specifically, their Lakota heritage (though I believe they have a history of other tribes in their ancestry). The first time I stepped into my step-grandparents house I was fascinated with the finely feathered dream catchers, hand woven quilts, and beautifully painted horse statues. The first time I went to a pow-wow I was enchanted with the beat of the drums and the colorful twirling and shining of the handmade dresses. The beadwork coin pouch I got from one of the stalls there is so worn from my 7-year-old fingers rubbing over the leather that the woven image of a girl droops in the middle.

Before I met them, my only introduction into Native Americans had been Disney’s Pocahontas singing “Colors of the Wind” as her luxuriously long black hair swirled and her cute not-rabid-at-all raccoon stuffed crackers into its mouth. My stepfamily showed me (at a very early age) that while your cultural identity was a part of your background, more than just a little checkbox on a survey, and something to be proud of, it did not dictate how you must act or who you have to associate with. My siblings are just like me, except my older sister and I can’t share base makeup and my brothers don’t have to slather on sunscreen when we go fishing.

My niece in a pow-wow outfit

My niece in Lakota dress

On the same note, your ancestry can be fascinating and learning about others ancestry is equally as enthralling. I was blessed in a Mormon church after I was born (I’m not Mormon, but my ancestors are) and I was given an exceptionally pretty Lakota blanket to celebrate my accomplishments when I graduated high school. My family in Texas prides itself on BBQ and pecan pie and my sister mixed her modern day wedding with her grandfathers Lakota prayers and blessings.

My step-grandpa in a Lakota ceremony

My step-grandpa during the ceremony

Ignorance is one way stereotypes are created. Just because my siblings are Native American doesn’t mean they wear moccasins and weave feathers in their hair. Similarly, just because I’ve got some Irish roots doesn’t mean I look for leprechauns and get hogwash drunk at the local pub.

So, keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to ask someone about their cultural heritage. Some of the stories might be fascinating and each one will open your eyes to cultures outside of your own. Never be afraid of a little learning.

My nieces and I

My nieces and I

“Give me knowledge so I that may have kindness for all.”- unknown Plains Indian

What I Want to Convey and Why it Matters to Me

With over seven billion people in the world today, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling alone or out of place. With so many people and just as many unique personalities, it’s hard to imagine being able to get by without ever meeting someone who doesn’t share the same viewpoints, skin color, or abilities as your own.

Yet for some reason, some try to seclude themselves to people just like them. Some people go their entire lives without seeing and understanding cultures different from their own. Without stopping to get to know the guy who lives right down the street who walks a little different and talks kind of funny, who’s just odd enough that not many approach him. Some people never get the nerve to strike up a friendly conversation with the old lady who rides the bus with them everyday who seems nice enough, but she doesn’t say the same prayers they do.

As easy as it is to forget sometimes, diversity is everywhere if you know where to look. Diversity isn’t just black and white. It has variety and depth, ranging from skin color, to body modifications, to religion, to handicaps, to nationality.

And diversity is a good thing.

How boring would it be to have a conversation with someone who looked just like you? Who thought just like you, who watched the same television shows you do, ate the same food, shopped at the same stores, had the same beliefs, the same sports interests? Would you ever have a reason for passion of any kind if you never met anyone different from you?

I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many diverse people. My military upbringing forced me into new situations almost everyday, where I had to meet new people, move to new places, try new foods and learn new concepts. It was scary, definitely. But it started a passion to know more. I wanted to understand and learn about all the things and people that were different from me and what I had been taught growing up. Some things and traditions have been easier to understand than others, but they’ve all been worth knowing.

That’s why I’ve created this blog. (Not just because I have to have a blog for my class, haha) I choose this theme because I want to know more about the diversity around me. When you look around Auburn, Alabama, it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over and start believing everyone is just the same in this town.

But I know there are thousands of unique perceptions waiting to be seen here and I know there are people like me who want to learn more about things they don’t quite yet understand.

So here’s to first blog posts, may this be a set up for good quotations, the continuation of (hopefully) acceptable grammar and the start of a new look into diversity.