Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Listen Up: Revision Path

Revision Path is one of the best web and graphic design podcasts out there. It was named the Most Inspiring Design Podcast in the very first Creative Market Awards two years ago. Not content to rest on his laurels, web design superstar Maurice Cherry interviews someone in web design every week and also showcases some of the world's best Black web designers, graphic designers, web developers, and more!

Follow along via the Revision Path website or on iTunes via iOS.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Wrestling's Ultimate (Social Justice) Warriors

Honestly, I think the "not my president" t-shirt would have work-
ed even better as a "#notmypresident" shirt but that's nitpicking.
I've been a fan of pro wrestling ever since I was a little kid. And ever since I was a teen, the smaller and indie-er the pro wrestling, the better. While I've posted about pro-wrestling before, Kentucky-based Appalachian Mountain Wrestling seems to have created one of the best heel (that's a "bad guy" character for you non-wrestling fans) characters in ages: The Progressive Liberal.

Deadspin has a little bit about him, including a recap of some of his pre-match promo speech:
“You know what, I think Bernie Sanders would make a great Secretary of State,” Richards said before being jeered. Later on, he tried to persuade the crowd. “I want to exchange your bullets for bullet points. Bullet points of knowledge.”
In another article that goes deeper into the genesis of the character, Deadspin points out that while it's a gimmick that might have a limited shelf life, it is a perfectly-tailor-made hell gimmick that can work to make you want to boo him no matter what side of the aisle you're on politically:
The details really make the gimmick, and they’re not as obvious as the “Not My President” shirt. It’s the way the Progressive Liberal says “Appalachia,” pronouncing the third syllable with a hard A as in “ate,” instead of the flat A preferred by locals. The audience immediately understands that he’s not from here. Richards was originally billed out of Richmond, Virginia, his actual hometown. But he and James realized that when performing in Kentucky, which has a Richmond of its own, the crowd would become confused. So his origin became Washington, D.C. 
The [pro wrestling] industry has always been replete with guys working effete liberal gimmicks, but this is the perfect place and time, and Dan Richards has built a sustainable meal ticket, at least within the limited scope of the indie circuit. Test your mental constitution and imagine for a minute if Hillary had won; this character would still be popular and paying customers would still project their frustrations onto him, for a different reason. 

Commenter semangeloph1 points out that he hasn't even scratched the surface of what sort of heelish things the character could do:
This schtick could be milked for so much. He could challenge the women’s champion to a match because he doesn’t see gender. He could steal the belt and give it to some other heel loser to “redistribute” the wealth. Every time he loses a match, he could appeal it to some fake wrestling governing body and get the match turned over to him... When he wins, he could give the loser gift-certificates to Whole Foods and yoga sessions. He could refuse to fight championship matches unless assured that the ring is carbon neutral. I think if done right, this character could be one of the all-time great heels.
I haven't enjoyed stuff like this since Daniel Bryan cut a hell of a heel promo about how much he loved being vegan:
Of course, if that's not on-the-nose enough for you, there's also a wrestler literally billing himself as a Social Justice Warrior. Meet Leon Scott, the Social Justice Warrior, who wrestles in leagues in Central Florida. I've never wanted to have so much in common with a wrestler before: patches include Eat the Rich and Black Lives Matter, as well as anti-fascist and pro-trans messages. His Twitter account even re-tweets anti-fascist/anti-racist memes of the current administration. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Listen Up: Open Ended

Opened Ended is a weekly podcast hosted by best friends Cher Vincent and James T. Green. Every week, they take a deep dive into the latest technology and computer news, best practices in programming code. But they don't just focus on gadgets and shiny tech in the tech sector, they discuss everything coding to code-switching to gender.

Even though they're best friends, Cher and James don't always agree, and there can be plenty of spirited but respectful debate, which makes for an interesting listen.

Follow them via the Open ended web archive or via iOS on iTunes.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Knowledge Check: D&D Unsung Heroes Were These Women

Writing for Kotaku, Cecillia D'Anastasio has a great longform article on how the early history of Dungeons & Dragons and some of the setting's most iconic features were all thanks to the major contributions from many women, and most of the time the women contributed despite the atmosphere surrounding them:
The countless histories documenting Dungeons & Dragons’ 40-year ascent to the cultural mainstream tend to gloss over the women who made the fantasy role-playing game what it is today. The early D&D heroes we hear about are always big-gutted men with gray beards, who in their basements and at conventions in their name, cultivated the younger men who would carve the game’s legacy in their image. But that’s the lore of D&D, not its story. From the earliest days of D&D, women were shaping its look, its narrative, its affect and its fandom.
This may come as a surprise since, in those nascent years, most women around D&D were tolerant wives and mothers. That’s not because D&D didn’t appeal to women; it had simply inherited the deeply masculine culture of its predecessor—wargaming.
It is a great read and talks with many key TSR employees from Dungeons and Dragons' past. Check it out!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Listen Up: Talk @ Me

Talk @ Me is a weekly podcast hosted by two friends, James & Sydnie. They're both lifelong blerds from Dallas, TX. The podcast covers the week in pop culture and in their lives. Tune in to a podcast any you'll hear them talk about everything from music they've been bumping, TV they've been watching, thoughts on current events, and the quest to find the perfect parking spot.

Some pop culture 'cast swill suggest an album or track of the week, and while Talk @ Me occasionally does that, they also recommend a new cocktail to enjoy every week.

You call listen to Talk @ Me via the Talk At Me Podcast on Stitcher or subscribe on iTunes via iOS .

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Marvel vs. Limits of Diverse Representation

I've written before on the numerous times Marvel comics has tried and failed to grasp just how diversity works. Seriously, just search the marvel tag. However,  the example that sticks out for writer Paige Allen isn't Marvel's continuing mishandling of Captain America. Nor is it Marvel's VP of Sales blaming attempts at diverse casts of superheroes for hurting sales. According to Allen, the most egregious example is the writing of Marvel's Invincible Iron Man. Penned by Brian Michael Bendis, Invincible  that introduced the world to a new Iron Man – a young black teen by the name of Riri Williams. Writing for Geeks of Color, Allen points out that "...some fans were skeptical of Bendis writing the experiences of a young black girl, especially since Marvel had no black women writers on its staff when the series was first announced."

Bendis has also written also wrote about another black teen assuming the mantle of of Marvel franchise powerhouse-- Miles Morales as Spider-Man. Bendis has also talked about the research he's done as an author and the perspective that raising two of his adopted African-American children have given him. Allen points that while Bendis is able to write about the challenges and loss Riri Williams faces as a black girl, his knowledge is reflected in a very narrow focus of the Black experience:
Unfortunately, this knowledge is the overall problem Bendis has in his depiction of Riri Williams. He knows about black pain and the various micro- and macro- aggressions that black people face every day, especially during these particularly fraught times of racial hostility... Basically, Bendis is like your white classmate that took one Africana class and now believes himself to be the purveyor of all knowledge on black life. However, because he acquired his knowledge as an outsider to the culture, the only way he really knows how to depict blackness is through identifiable aspects of The Struggle – all the negative social realities of being black that you see reported on TV, lambasted on Twitter, and through quickly cruising through activist circles in search of easily transferable knowledge about racism without any nuanced understanding of how black people deal with it.

This came to a head when scans from a page of Invincible Iron Man #8 appeared online recently, where it shows Williams in class trying to actively seek out marginalization as a motivator.

Allen reflected:
Never in my wildest nightmares would I imagine a black child seeking out racism to fight against in the pursuit of their dreams. Racism isn’t a Sailor Moon villain that waits for us to level up before trying to kick our ass; we are always aware of it and are always affected by it, but one of the best traits that black people have is our ability to bypass that negativity and live our lives despite it, not to specifically spite it.
This isn't the first time Bendis' writing for a black character has been criticized. The Nerdist pointed out that Bendis and other white writers writing characters of color often come off as tone-deaf and run the risk of alienating the very fans they want to recruit.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the real key is to actually hire diverse creators to write diverse casts. Otherwise we're just slapping a Band-Aid on the issue:
Looking at a diversity initiative as the beginning and end of what's needed to help improve the state of comics is short-sighted and wrong-headed. Instead of just having the same white men tell stories with some characters of color here and there, there should be structure in place for minority writers and artists and creators to tell the stories they want to a mainstream audience. Diversity as the final and only goal is a hollow act that does nothing but reinforce whiteness and the status quo as the default. That's not the world we live in, so why should worlds we get to make up have to be that way? Free your mind, and the audience will follow.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Listen Up: Black Nerd Power

Black Nerd Power is a weekly podcast hosted by Markus Seaberry, Malaika Salaam and Richard Douglas Jones. They discuss the worlds of comics, pop culture, current events, sci fi & fantasy from a black nerd point of view. They are all incisive, witty and laugh out loud hilarious. They were voted Memphis' best podcast last year. Just give an episode a listen and you'll hear why-- the rapport is breezy and chill while also being friendly even when there's some verbal sparring going on. Nerds have never sounded this cool, but Black Nerd Power makes it effortless.

You can listen along via the OAM Network's Black Nerd Power page, or via iOS on iTunes.

Harry Potter and the Tax On The Blind

Image description: tweet by Titanium Cranium (@FelicityTC)
including three screenshots of a Harry potter book in three different formats
on Amazon. Text: “Harry Potter on Amazon - Print: $6.39 Audio: $44.99
Braille: $100.00 #CripTax”
Tumblr user actuallyblind debunks the idea that charging 8 to 10 times more for audio and Braille version of books is just covering the cost of production:
But those defenders of higher prices are reversing the argument to justify fleecing disabled readers.
What do I mean by that? 
Braille is not magic. It is done by taking plain text and feeding it through fairly affordable translation software, creating a document that can easily be printed in braille. All that time and effort and special software? IS NOT FOR THE BRAILLE... 
Printing in braille is cheap; reverse engineering a finished text to print it in braille IS NOT. Same with those audio books. After a book is completed and, often, after it has already been published, the publisher arranges to have the book recorded by a professional voice actor/reader, which usually also involves a recording producer... However: that cost? IS RARELY FACTORED INTO THE BUDGET OF PRINTING A BOOK. 
[The claim that Braille and audio] formats are more expensive to produce so they have to be priced higher is only true if you completely throw out the premise that publishers have an obligation to account for disabled readers when they are actually budgeting for and publishing the book."
In my experience as a designer, I've noticed that the high cost of creating accessible features-- whether it's on a website or a building-- is not due to the features costing anything exorbitant. The actual high cost comes in when there is a lack of considering accessibility issues from the very start and you have to retro-fit those features in. Whenever this approach is a project's primary approach to accessibility, then accessibility seems expensive. The true is expense is a failure to plan.

Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to blame disabled people for wanting accessibility to the same resources as everyone else instead of blaming the designers or publishers or the people responsible for hiring and directing them.

If you're about to say something like "Oh, no one has to read entertainment books, I'm sure it's taken care of in schools, tumblr user inlustris weighs in:
My mom is a textbook braillest. She has the software, fixes the formatting, takes the textbook and makes it translatable into braille. Most of her work ends up becoming rush jobs, because schools always forget about their blind students and the materials that they need. They start semesters without the right textbooks, are provided the materials late, can’t take the tests at the same times, because schools and teachers usually lack the foresight to provide the materials in advance. 
What we need is for more designers, publishers and project design leads to learn about the principles of universal design.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Listen Up: Headshots

Hosted by JosuĂ© Cardona and Kelli Dunlap, Headshots is one of the most fascinating video game podcasts I've listened to in a while. Dunlap & Cardona are both mental health professionals and avid, passionate gamers. It's from that perspective that they approach their podcast on the psychology of video games, technology, geeky stuff and pop culture.

You can listen to the podcast at the Headshots website, via iOS on iTunes or via Google Play.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Listen Up: Not Your Mama's Gamer

Not Your Mama's Gamer has always been a bold, insightful and fun take on video gaming from a diverse, inclusive and feminist perspective. The companion podcast is no exception. Samantha Blackmon and the rest of the NYMG staff hold court each week on the latest industry news, perspectives on favorite games, what they're playing or reading... and drinking.

You can listen along via the Not Your Mamas Gamer website, via  iOS on iTunes, or via stitcher .

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

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