Friday, December 6, 2013

Bodies of Wonder

The kerfluffle currently going on about the casting of Wonder Woman has me thinking a few things, and most of them consist of being really annoyed that people. Don't. Get. It. when it comes to body commentary and women.

So, Wonder Woman has been cast to feature, in some capacity we don't yet know the extent of, in the next Supes/Bats movie. This movie doesn't have a title, so it's possible they'll do the Justice League and make her important. She could also be a totally sidelined character in a story revolving around Supes and Bats. She could be a cameo. We don't know yet. The actress who has been cast in the role is Gal Gadot, who was formerly in the Israeli military. I have zero opinion on her because I haven't seen her in anything, I didn't see the audition that landed her the role, and I tend to refrain from judging actor's abilities who don't have a long track record. Or, conversely, those who do but who can break out and surprise everyone. See Charlize Theron in Monster for a good example, I don't think anyone expected that transformation.

My main concern?: Zack Snyder will be directing this movie and, I'm assuming, have a hand in the scripting like he usually does. This doesn't fill me with confidence. I think he's a visually stylish director who, more often than not, substitutes said style for substance. He does great trailers, but the final product tends to, at best, leave me feeling cold and underwhelmed. Beyond that, I think his views on what "empowering" stories are is questionable and superficial. As a storyteller I just don't have a ton of confidence in him or what he thinks a "strong" female character is.

I saw some concern about this, but what's drowned it out has been a truly stunning degree of body shaming aimed at the actress. Yes, she has a slim, lithe frame. Yes, Wonder Woman is depicted as curvier and more muscular in the comics. Depending on the stats, Wonder Woman is anywhere from 5 foot 10 to 6 feet, possibly even taller in heeled boots. One stat I found put her weight at 130, another 140. At 6 foot that would be a VERY slender frame. When I worked at DC I'm relatively sure I saw her official stats at a more reasonable 150, though that'd still be pretty slim. Given her muscular frame in the more current incarnations, I'd say 175 to 180 is more reasonable. People see that kind of weight on a female character and they'd freak out that she's "fat", which is one reason I'm guessing those numbers aren't used. That and a fundamental misunderstanding of the fact that muscle weighs more than fat.

I also wonder if there isn't something subconscious going on in making a character as physically solid at WW have stats like that, in direct contradiction to her actual frame. If you checked out the stats of female athletes you'd find that weight varies a lot by frame and type of sport, but you can't really tell by looking how much they weigh. Also, WW's powers are suped, so she doesn't get her strength strictly from her physicality. There's god magic involved. Still, artists like Phil Jimenez have developed an incredibly iconic look for her that is, physically, imposing, and that's not a bad thing at all. However, it's a tall order for finding an actress in the real world.

Basically, if you wanted an actress to match these stats to an even somewhat close degree, you'd need someone like Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth on GoT). And, fyi, people FLIPPED out when she was cast, too. A lot of people claimed she was "too pretty" for the role. And if someone like her had been cast as WW, I can pretty much guarantee the conversation we'd be having right now would be along the lines of her being "too" big, "manly", and not attractive enough.

I'm using this example for a reason. Which is namely: women can't win in the body wars. Something is ALWAYS wrong with us, and this goes double for actresses or women in the public eye at all. Too thin, not thin enough, fat, ugly, whatever. And the problem with the conversations around it is that they're rife with entitlement, a culture that is obsessed with policing women's bodies, and all kinds of messed up ideas about what women "should" look like on any given day. I get that this is frustrating for people who want to have a conversation about WW's physicality, but that's just how it is. It's not unreasonable for people to be wary of this topic and skeptical that it's coming from some kind of "helpful" place aimed at having any helpful dialog about the myriad factors involved.

I mean, honestly, how does "she's a stick!' and "eat a sandwich!", both of which I've seen a LOT, and from people I thought better of, constitute a useful discussion? In what way does that do anything other than body shame and attempt to elevate one idealized body type for another? I've seen a lot of "well, she should be curvier!" Okay, but, why? Like, is that because the character must be curvy or she's not Wonder Woman on some essential level...or is it because you find curvier women more attractive personally? That's not about her looking stronger, that's about her looking more sexually appealing to you. That doesn't look like concern for the character performance or we'd be talking about that. Instead it looks like a lot of people are having a mini tantrum that their head version of WW wasn't cast so they could see their personal fantasy version on the screen. It looks like Wonder Woman exists to be appealing to people physically, not who she is.

When you reduce Wonder Woman to her body like that, you're reducing -her-. I'm pretty sure she has a whole bunch of character traits you could rattle off before you got to looks. And yet that appears to be the main focus of the "concern trolling" I'm seeing about the actresses build. That people are worried about her health (doubtful) or that the Hollywood ideal is damaging and problematic (more believable, except that it seems to be serving as more of an excuse to then say crappy things about a slim woman than any useful discussion). It's nice some folks suddenly seem to care about women in Hollywood/media and our cultures worship of specific body types, but I remain skeptical it goes that deep. Especially if you're not willing to discuss how complicated this conversation is because of the culture we live in, which colors everything. The fact is, women's bodies are clearly considered public property. Whether we're talking tabloid "Whose Body Is or Is Not Acceptable This Week" features, the way we gleefully wonder who has an eating disorder to who looks "too fat" to wear a bikini, to the way reproductive rights are being undermined, how we discuss women and their bodies has wider ramifications than the casting of a superhero movie. And no, you can't just brush that aside and pretend it doesn't exist in a larger context. Maybe -especially- because we're talking about a character like Wonder Woman, who represents a lot of amazing ideals, like strength through compassion, justice, and fighting for those who can't.

Granted, I am not arguing that Wonder Woman's physicality doesn't matter. But actors often make major transformations for roles, we have absolutely no idea if that's planned here or not. I'm also not arguing that we don't have an issue with a very restricted, narrow definition of beauty that is still defined by thinness. However, saying things like "she's a stick!" in no way improves that or does anything to diversify our idea of beauty. I think sometimes people (usually men) think they're being helpful when they say they like curvier women, or whatever. The problem with that? It still frames the discussion as being about what men prefer about women's bodies. And it assumes that putting down one body type will somehow make another one more acceptable. It won't. We should be working towards the idea that beauty is not a woman's most defining or important feature. Which this current conversation is not doing in spades.

Given all that, it seems like comments like "eat a sandwich!" should maybe not be happening. Because that's about as far away from what Wonder Woman represents as you can get.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thought Bubble! And Stuff!

Everything you've heard about Thought Bubble is true: it's a wonderful show run by wonderful people (Lisa Wood drew my latest comics work for Vertigo. She's an amazing artist, sweetheart of a person, who runs TB and has the most fabulous outfits). It's like a little big show that's both intimate and well known. I had a really lovely time.

There's not much more for me to say, I had my little table and I got to meet lots of people (omg KATE BEATON! I talked to her! I told her how splendid her work is! She was super sweet! She also has very shiny hair and I think might be made of magic!), chat with fellow creators, and just overall had a laid back, good con experience. It was a nice way to follow up NYCC, which also went well, but was definitely more overwhelming and I didn't really get to chat with too many people or catch up with anyone. Or have fish n' chips and all the Earl Grey I could drink. Or crumpets.

One of the highlights of the show for me was the Diversity in Comics panel I was on, on the Sunday. My fellow panelists were all smart, articulate, funny, engaged creators with a real passion for creating work for a variety of audiences. And by that I mean they're committed to doing comics that showcase the world in all its variety, with differing character pov's, interesting and sometimes difficult subject matter, and a real love of storytelling. So, yay! I love panels like that, that though they acknowledge the problems and struggles our industry has with diversity, the purpose is really to encourage people to make their own books and tell stories from different perspectives. I had a lot of people come up to me after and tell me they were really inspired to get started on projects they'd been putting off, and that's really the highest compliment anyone can get.

You can see a fully transcribed version of the panel here:

And you should definitely check out the works of Gary Erskine, Howard Hardiman, Barry Nugent, Gillian Hatcher, and Fiona Stephenson.

I am now back to writing secret script-y things and adding things to my etsy ( and will be open for commissions again shortly. It's also getting quite cold in Germany but so far, no snow. We've been here exactly a year now and when we arrived there was already a few inches on the ground. Now that we live in the city center there are a ton of Christmas Markets around and it gets dark pretty early. Looking forward to 2014 and seeing what the new year holds.

I'll leave you with my Empress of the Jellies piece, which I've made some LE prints of. People seem to like her. I think it's the hat.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Silent All These Years

Comics, like the world in general, has a problem with sexual harassment. This isn’t new, it isn’t going away, and the only way to do anything to change it is to speak up about it often. This is going to be a rather long post because I don’t know any other way to discuss this topic other than thoughtfully and, for me, that usually means at some length.

I’m also going to get this out of the way now and it will not come up in the post again: not all men do this. But I am very tired of having to add that caveat every. Single. Time. this topic is discussed. We shouldn’t have to soothe anyone’s ego before being able to tell our stories. I’m telling you what I’ve experienced at, sometimes, the actual hands of men. I don’t need a reminder that not every man does this. I know that. All this really does is serve to distract/distance/derail the conversation away from the topic at hand. I’m sorry it makes you uncomfortable but it’s really not my job to make you feel better about all this. You need to work that out on your own.

Also: I am not now nor will I ever claim to be speaking for or about all women’s experiences in this sphere or with sexualized harassment. These are my experiences, I am not the representative for All Women Ever.

Moving on.

I’ve been working in comics for well over a decade and, unfortunately, I’m one of those women with more than one example of sexualized unpleasantness I can discuss whenever this topic comes up. I have rarely, if ever, talked about them all. Some of them happened at conventions. Some of them happened in offices I have worked in. Some of these examples were perpetuated by “known” creators and some were from fellow editors/professionals.  I truly wish I didn’t have such a broad group to choose from. I’d rather not have any.

Just about all of the more “severe” examples happened before I turned 27, so many of them are nearing a decade old. A lot of people seem to think there’s a time limit on how long events in your life will bother/influence you. There isn’t. I can no more control when one of these experiences will blossom up like a poisonous flower to make me feel sick and embarrassed than I can help when a memory from childhood will get triggered by a familiar smell. While time often helps these things feel less immediately painful, that’s not the same as them having no continued impact on your life. And, for women, since we are reminded pretty much every day that we are at risk, I’d hazard to say that it’s particularly unlikely that, just became something happened a decade, two, three, etc. ago, it will somehow evaporate and no longer have any importance in how we view the world and ourselves within it.

That doesn’t mean these experiences define us, but our lives are a mixed bag of memories, experiences, feelings. It would be pretty weird if they had no impact on us just because time had passed.

I’ve talked about what happened to be me at my first SDCC here. The TLDR version: I was groped by a “name” creator I had worked with for years at the Hyatt my first night. At first I thought I must be mistaken, but when I mentioned it to another creator he said, nope, he definitely did. He’s “known” for that. I want you to take that in. This fellow comics professional (who was also male) was not A. not surprised this other comics professional had groped me B. it was a "known" thing. And yet no one said anything about it.

I have not gone anywhere at SDCC or any other con by myself since, which was in 2006 or so. I don’t drink at conventions unless I am with VERY trusted friends and we are somewhere like a dinner. Never at a party of any kind. I will occasionally buy a drink that I don’t like so it looks like I’m drinking, but I don’t. I never let it out of my sight. If I do have to go someplace alone at a con, which sometimes can’t be avoided, I spend the entire time feeling anxiously keyed up, hyper aware of everything going on around me, and I tend to have a miserable time unless I can find someone I know.

So, that’s conventions. Aside from all the professional anxiety I have this added layer of stress that never let’s up. It leaks into my day to day life, too, whenever I go out. I think this is a familiar reality for a lot of women.

I wish these kinds of things were isolated to the madhouses that are conventions, because they might be easier to address if they were. They’d still be unacceptable, but it might make addressing the underlying problems somehow more manageable. More concrete. More about a specific environment than something wider, more ingrained and insidious like culture.

Unfortunately, I also experienced sexualized harassment in the supposedly “safe” environment of an office. None of these are things I really want to relate to anyone because they’re embarrassing, humiliating, gross. They make me feel wrong. But I think maybe they need to be said.

The one I remember most vividly was a series of emails from a creator that got increasingly more suggestive. I tried to derail the direction they were going in assuming, naively, that they were “jokes”. Or I just wanted to believe that. I’ve worked very hard at being professional but personable in my career and it actually takes quite a lot to offend me. I’ve also worked on a lot of mature content so discussing things like sex has been a legitimate aspect of my job. I just don’t discuss it in personal terms because that is the line that I draw professionally.

However. There is nothing ambiguous about a creator sending, in response to an email asking about what other comics they’d like to have sent to them in an upcoming package:

“oh, x books, your used panties, and a recording of your laugh when you cum too soon”

Yes, I committed that to memory. Even now, typing that makes me really uncomfortable. When I got it, all those years ago, I immediately wondered what I’d done wrong. I didn’t respond to it, I didn’t know what to say. The creator in question apologized a few hours later, citing drunkenness. I honestly don’t find that to be a compelling excuse and I asked not to have to deal with that particular person again. I did not, however, specify why. It was simply too awful and I didn’t want everyone I worked with to find out.

Another time a co-worker, apropos of nothing, mentioned that his current girlfriend thought he was so great in bed that she couldn’t believe that I had “never blown him in the office” while working together. This was relayed to me as a very strange “joke” that it was perfectly fine to bring up because it was the girlfriend asking, somehow. I remember saying that it was a good thing I had a sense of humor and knew that wasn’t serious because other people, not me mind you, but other people, might think that was a highly inappropriate thing to say to someone you shared an office with and could lead to problems. It was never brought up again. This was previously someone I had had no issues with and didn’t want to get in trouble for what I hoped was a momentary lapse in judgment. I still don’t know if I did the right thing.

There are the little things that add up, what are now called “micro-aggressions”. The male co-workers who, when finding out I’d been with my boyfriend (now husband) since I was 15 started mentioning how their female friends who had been together that long always freaked out before marriage and started sleeping around. One of them felt compelled to specifically tell me that he was the one a lot of his female “friends” went to have sex with before settling down. He felt it was very important that I know, even though I had not in any way solicited his advice, that having sex with only one person meant an eventual sexual meltdown. This was all based on assumptions, I never discussed my sexual history with anyone I worked with.

Sometimes people would comment on my clothes which always made me self-conscious, as though by wearing black I had invited this attention on myself, when in reality there is nothing to compel you to comment on another’s person’s appropriate work attire. Sometimes they ‘d comment about other female co-workers looks, which always made me wonder: if you say that about these women in front of me, what do you say about me when I’m not around?

I look at the discussions about this in comics and I don’t really know how I feel, other than angry. I think about cos-players having to contend with creeper shots and groping and people posting pictures of them online to say shitty things. I think about the professional men who go to great lengths to tell everyone who is and is not a “real” geek girl, who are obsessed with ferreting out some sort of evil female interlopers who are wandering around, ruining their conventions and fandom with their cooties and their disinterest in sleeping with these men or conforming to their expectations of how women should interact with their geeky interests. I look at the endless online conversations that call any woman who talks about this topic “crazy”, who hypocritically demand names and then chide those who do name as “life ruiners”. I look at young women being told, in every possible way, that they are not welcome or safe in these spaces because they are women.  I see them being told that speaking up will get them rape and/or death threats, that their careers can be ruined. That they only reason they’d talk about this kind of thing is to somehow get attention, to further their careers, because naming well known creators has such a long history of making people instantly successful rockstars in their fields.

I see the gaslighting, I see the status quo perpetuating itself, I see people endlessly justifying this behavior, excusing it, and telling women that how they experience their own lives in wrong. That no matter what, we don’t get to define what happens to us. Because if we do, then we are “crazy” or wrong or “too sensitive”. We should just shut up and let other people tell us how things “really” are. Because we can’t be trusted to know how our own realities have shaped us.

We’re told not to “make” men feel bad about what other men do. That relaying our stories is generalizing and condemning and unfair. We’re told it’s our responsibility to “get over it”. To internalize every single thing we are subjected to as “just the way it is” and, ultimately, our fault for existing as women in spaces. For existing in the world. For trying to make our way in that world and be treated as human beings.

We are told: don’t feel this way. Don’t think these things. Don’t express normal human emotions, like anger and resentment, about upsetting experiences. Stop talking about things we don’t want to hear about. Stop telling us we are complicit through our inaction. Stop expressing yourself in ways we don’t like. Stop making us uncomfortable about the things that go on around us that we don’t see/ignore. Don’t trust yourself. Don’t exist in ways we don’t like. Don’t exist in “our” spaces. Don’t try to live your life like it matters. Like it’s important. Like you have the right to be here.

Women don’t exist for you to approve of or to make you feel better about the shitty way the world works. We don’t exist for you at all. We exist for ourselves. And we’re going to keep demanding for our rightful place in the world whether you like it or not.

You can get on that bandwagon or you can fuck, permanently, off.

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Expat Diaries: The Stare

Germans stare. A lot. Almost none of them will admit that they do this, but they do. Sometimes it's disapproving stares, sometimes it's just bald curiosity, but there is some kind of cultural eyeball fixation issue going on here and it's disconcerting.

I've spent the last year trying to figure out if it's some kind of innate Americanness that is immediately apparent to Germans on sight. Like a beacon or a forehead tattoo that declares "I am not like you, please look at me thoroughly to discern in what way you can make me feel the most uncomfortable with your ocular orbs".

Now, in all fairness, I do have unusual hair. It is white and orange and pink. However, neither it nor I are the most unusual hair thing you're going to see here in Hamburg. I see at least 4-5 other people with blatantly fake hair colors most days and the current hair fashions include a lot of inexplicable shaving of seemingly random strips, sections, and usually sides of heads. That's on everyone, from desultory euro teens to peppy grandma's. By that measure my hair is the least interesting thing you're going to see all day. Especially given how bright neon pants colors are here.

Maybe my idea of what is "unusual" is somewhat off. I've lived in New York, San Diego, and San Francisco, and I have seen all of the following, including but not limited to:

1. A guy who shouted, every 10 steps or so in the tunnel between the Shuttle train and the E, "Everyone in New York has AIDS! You have it! And so does he!"

2. Real live pimps in all 3 cities, one of which had an actual pimp suit on complete with purple velvet hat with a crumpled plume at 6am.

3. A woman who used to sing at various plants along the Aqueduct walking path behind our apartment. She just sang random notes at them. This usually occurred about once a week.

4. Comicon.

5. The Village.

6. Two young men in The Castro district, at about 4pm by a cafe on a Saturday, in splendidly old fashioned pilot hats...and not a stitch more.

This is why it takes a fair bit for me to even note something like hair color or a face piercing, beyond a "Oh, that person has hair and a face, so do I, yay hair and faces!" It's not that I don't look at people or am oblivious to how they look, it's just that staring is not a thing that I do unless it's a parade or the night sky or something. It feels rude.

Take this evening. I picked up a shipment of cat food and litter from my husband's office because getting things shipped to us personally seems not to work out well. Our last flat was is in a totally standard, normal, residential neighborhood, but a good 50% of the time Fed Ex or whoever wouldn't be able to find us. At our new flat it's been even worse so we just don't bother. I took a hand cart because we get the litter and food in bulk and they are heavy.

For reference, we live pretty much the dead center of the city where people are shopping and carrying things all day. There's also a lot of construction currently where I swear they aren't really building anything, they're just digging to some unspeakable netherworld and eventually Cthulu is going to come screaming out. Or maybe an Oliphaunt. I don't know, all I know is that they keep drilling and it keeps sounding worse and deeper and more unearthly with every passing day. Anyway, the point is, stuff goes on in this city of many varied natures. It's not some kind of sleepy burb.

And yet, walking back with an umbrella because it was raining and hauling this box, which helpfully says "Fressnapf" on it so it's obvious what is inside, I started getting really cranky with the staring. Especially because, instead of even attempting to walk around you or out of your way, Germans will stare and then DRIFT CLOSER TO YOU. Even when it is obvious you are pulling something heavy and a bit unwieldy and you can't move as quickly or deftly as they can.

At a certain point I got fed up and started gesturing wildly at people to get out of my way with the umbrella and muttering in English about how rude it is to stare and how their bureaucracy isn't nearly as "efficient" as they like to think it is, and why isn't there any decent tofu or Thai food here anyway?

In short, I had a mini meltdown on the street and basically guaranteed I would get stared at ever harder and confirm all their suspicions about crazy Americans.

But at least the cats won't shit on the floor anymore.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NYCC, Commissions, Etsy, and Thought Bubble!

NYCC went exceptionally well and I'll write up a full post about my thoughts/feelings about it soonish. But! Thought Bubble, a wonderful show in Leeds, UK is happening in a little over a month and I am taking commissions to help mitigate the cost. I am also opening my Etsy shop with very limited edition original art, print, and jewelry.

My Etsy shop is and will be opening on Monday, October 21st. I will have handpainted, LE watercolor "prints" like these, which will not be painted the same way twice.

Commissions will be taken at:

Price List:

B/W inked 1 character size 3 x5  $30

B/W inked 1 character 8 x 10 $60

I prefer female characters and I'll ask for ref if I'm not familiar with them.

Color 1 character 3x5 $60

Color 1 character 8 x 11 $120

Shipping will need to be calculated based on where you are. I'm in the EU so we'll work it out. Some commission (from NYCC) examples for size reference:

This last one was a literary character where the ref I had was the client in cosplay. It was a larger, 6 x 8 painting.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

NYCC! Artist Alley N-14! Oct 10-13th!

 Heading to NYC for family and New York City Comicon! Come by my Artist Alley table (which I am sharing with my dear friend Ahren) at N-14. There will be LE prints, original art, tentacles, Monster Girls, and lots of awesome.

Limited commissions will also be taken each day. See the table for price list! I promise it's reasonable. :}

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


As an expat living in Germany where everyone has healthcare, I feel like I'm in a somewhat unique position to comment on what's going on in the states right now over the Affordable Care Act and give my fellow Americans some perspective on the differences between the two systems. Chris and I had a "rough" healthcare year the year before we moved overseas, and we were lucky even then, so we have at least some inkling of what the differences are and how much these costs can impact your average citizen. There are some stark differences people should be aware of.

Please note: I’m not, nor am I claiming to be, an expert on healthcare systems of any kind. I’m just relaying my personal experiences with both the US and German systems as an average person. A typical healthcare year for us is a checkup and maybe one other visit if there’s a serious illness like the flu or something.

1.     1. On the tax thing: yeah, we pay slightly higher taxes. Sort of. When you look at the cost of healthcare in the states + taxes and the fact that our taxes DON'T offer us anything in regards to healthcare, we actually pay more and get nothing for it. If you get health insurance through your employer you’re STILL paying for your healthcare in that system, plus usually getting limited coverage, or dealing with deductibles and all kinds of other stuff.  Plus lots of insurance companies will up and decide not to pay for things whenever they feel like it.

So really we're paying less here in Germany and getting a lot more. As in full coverage for healthcare. Check out John Green’s breakdown vid for a look at what I’m talking about. This isn’t up for debate, this is reality. We pay more in the states and get nothing for it. It’s broken and messed up and needs to be fixed.

2.     2. What we got in the US with (good) insurance: in network doctors for a co-pay fee that could range from $10-$20, likewise any specialists which often cost much more, co-pays on prescriptions anywhere from $10-lots depending on the prescription and it’s generic status, and some kind of deductible. Out of network doctors cost much more out of pocket. You could also have to travel fairly long distances to get a doctor in network. We also had dental, but the coverage was much lower on everything but checkups. Took us a year to pay off a tooth cap out of pocket. No eye care. We were generally paying about $200+ a month for insurance, at least, for the base HMO (read: cheapest) option. And that’s if we even had an option.

Average wait time for an appointment was at least 3 weeks, usually more. When Chris had an allergic reaction to something and his fingers swelled up (but no breathing problem) we were told we had to go to Urgent Care and it took several hours to find one that was in our area and we had to go out of network. He was given a shot for it and told to go to a dermatologist, which we had to wait so long for we had to take pictures of the initial reaction so they could see what the problem was. Chris also lost quite a bit of work time over it since he couldn’t use his hands. That Urgent Care visit cost several hundred dollars out of pocket.

3.     3. What we get here with just coverage, nothing special (and everyone in Germany is required to have insurance that your taxes pay for): no co-pays for doctors visits. Period. We’ve both had checkups with full blood work, I’ve had a gynecologist visit WITH the use of an ultrasound, and no cost to us at all. I have a few prescriptions that cost me about $10 euros, total, every 3 or 4 months. You don’t have to show your insurance card, that’s jut the flat cost of the prescriptions. You can go to any Apotheke and get them filled and it will be the same at each one.  They have no idea what you mean by “generic” vs not, so far as I can tell. Also: the taxes thing is the ONLY thing you pay into. There's no additional insurance costs from your paycheck on top of it, no deductible nonsense, no stress over pre-existing conditions etc.

Some people like to say that one of the big “problems” with universal healthcare is long wait periods. I have no idea how it works elsewhere, but every time we’ve needed any doctor’s appointment we’ve scheduled it within days, or the same day if we needed to. That’s normal here, and 3-4 is the longest wait we’ve had so far. I’ve called a doc on a Monday and had an appointment by Wed, without having to come in at ass-early o’clock or be squeezed in at some weird, inconvenient hour, and even then in the states it was usually at least a week’s delay. In terms of actually in the office wait times in the US it was, on average, at least an hour no matter when I showed up. Longest wait I’ve had in an office waiting room here is maybe 10min.

So, that’s the care we’ve had so far here. Very qualified doctors, good treatment, no muss no fuss. The cultural attitudes about healthcare are also dramatically different. Here, if you feel even mildly unwell, people are like “Go to the doctor, right now!”. That’s normal here.  Even those who are politically/socially conservative are like, yeah, everyone should have healthcare. It’s not even a discussion. So the states current uproar about it makes absolutely no sense to Germans at all. They think it’s barbaric and, you know, they’re pretty much right.

Now, for more “emergency” care. I can only compare my personal experience in the states with one of our friends here, to contrast what it’s like. Neither Chris nor I have needed emergency/serious care in the year we’ve lived here.

About six months before we moved overseas, while still living in the US and having “good” coverage, I woke up one Saturday at like 3am in a lot of pain. I had no idea what was going on but it was bad. I waited at least an hour before waking Chris up and telling him I thought I needed to go to the hospital because it was getting worse. We drove over at about 6am and they admitted me to the ER. I was diagnosed with a kidney stone. I waited about 2 hours before getting painkillers, morphine, and then anti-nausea meds because I started throwing up not long after the morphine kicked in. It was another few hours until I had a scan to see what size the kidney stone was, if there was more than one, and whether it would pass on its own or need help. Turned out to be passable on its own, and only one, but I was admitted to the hospital for monitoring and pain management overnight. They were concerned I might get an infection and I was still throwing up constantly. They also gradually moved me off morphine and onto vicodin. I took it because it was the only way to go home, but I hated it. They wanted me to stay another night for pain management but I was worried about the cost and went home, where I proceeded to vomit every hour, violently, for the next 5 days before the stone passed. Even with the meds I was unable to do much besides sleep and throw up. And strain my pee in what looked like a coffee filter.

When we got the hospital bill, it was for over 25k. For one night in the hospital. The biggest costs were the tests and pain meds, without which I would not have been able to function/stay sane. We were lucky and “only” ended up having to pay 3k. Which is still a lot of money, in case you were wondering. I can’t even imagine what we would have done without insurance.

I would like to point out that prior to the kidney stone episode, I had never had to be in a hospital other than visiting people in my life. I was and am in extremely good health. Low blood pressure and cholesterol, apparently fantastic blood work on things like all the essential nutrients and vitamins for  living, etc. I currently have great kidney, liver, and thyroid function. Other than regular checkups I had never had to use the healthcare system in any major way. Hopefully the kidney stone was an anomaly that NEVER occurs again, but that’s the thing: no matter how healthy you are, you WILL need healthcare in a meaningful way at some point in your life. Whether it’s now or later, it’ll happen. I did not “deserve” better care just because I was lucky enough not to need it until then.

Now, compare that to a friend of ours here who had to have major spinal surgery a few years back after an injury. She was in the hospital for two weeks and then had physical therapy for at least 6 months after. Grand total cost for her? Nothing. I want you to think about that. I had a bill for 25k for which I paid 3k for ONE NIGHT in a hospital. She was in for 2 weeks WITH surgery and then physical therapy for months and did. Not. Pay. Anything. In the states that bill would likely be well over 100K and she’d be paying at least half. That’s the kind of debt some people can never dig out of.

I could tell you about other people I know having similar experiences. I could tell you about aging parents and the utter insanity of how Medicare and Anthem “work” in increasingly complicated and confusing ways that still doesn’t require insurance to pay for anything before high deductibles. I could tell you about the friend who had cancer 2 years back and whose treatment costs made them consider not bothering because of the debt it would incur. That’s not unusual for people in the states, to wonder if their LIVES are worth the debt and even bankruptcy their care will cost to themselves or loved ones. It’s also not unusual for people to avoid going to doctors sooner and potentially catching problems earlier because of that same fear. Which results in conditions being worse and more costly in the long run.

The US has a healthcare system that essentially punishes people for being alive and needing health related care. Which literally every single person will need at some point because our bodies are not designed to never break down. We have, in a lot of ways, delicate systems. One little thing goes off, like random deposits in a kidney, and you’re in the hospital. And that’s not even up there with the more serious things that can go wrong.

And yet we’re debating whether people “should” have care when they need it because…why? We think some people deserve care and others don’t? Because of how much money they make, or how lucky they are in circumstances, genetics, or whatever? To be honest, I don’t care how or why  a person is sick, I just care that they get treated if they are. And not have to worry about being in lifelong debt over it. This seems like something everyone should agree on…and yet we don’t. And from over here and it looks increasingly more inhumane and grotesque.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Podcast the 2nd: Adapting Arwen

Here it is, podcast the 2nd! This time I talk about adaptation and Arwen. And I use the word "awesome" a lot. Yay!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Podcast the first!

Okay, folks! Here is a link to my first ever podcast. Definitely let me know if there are sound or other issues. This first one is an intro to me, storytelling, and mostly general topic stuff. I'll get more specific from here on out. Hope you like and feel free to share!

Monster Tea Time Podcast 1

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Reason

Been too tired for a proper blog post and writing my fingers off, so instead I wrote a response to the writing prompt from the new Geek and Sundry Vlog channel "Wordplay":

I love poetry in general and tend to be a kind of free-verse,  E. E. Cummings sort of poet. It's not the 50 lines called for in the vid 'cos it worked better at this length. The prompts were "memory" and "the reason it is not there". And this is what I came up with because...I did. 

The Reason

Space floats
And we fall down
Always down
Without clear lines we
Fade and
Dust towards empty

Looking out
At a dusk gray ocean
Waves breaking and
Eyes blooming
That field of endless
Stuns and sinks me

The surface holds, barely
A breath, a whisper
A reason
Almost solid
Almost there

The reason it is not
The reason
Not the reason and
It is not
And never will be

If memory serves then
Remember to split it
Wide, wide, open
Let the world drift in and
Fill you up so

When it ends
With soft nothings held
In palms of blue
Whispered sweet and
Full of light
You will feel it
Ending  always ending and
That’s the reason 
but not THE reason

so the reason 

Is not there