Planning for 2020: Writing, Creating and Activism

The pressure to become a better you is ever present. This January, we head into a new decade with terrible prospects environmentally and socially. 

The 100% truth is that “my anxiety, fatigue and unhappiness over the years” is coming with me to 2020. If there is one thing I learned last year in therapy, it is that sitting with discomfort is more helpful than trying to erase or ignore it. So that is what I’m going to do this year. I’m going to turn discomfort and anxiety intos something good. 

This comic by Christine Inzer from The Lily resonated with me. She said:

“This year, there will be no ‘new me.’ 

There will be just me.”

I’m taking this mantra to heart. Instead of becoming a more acceptable version of myself, I want to become a truer version of me. Here are three ways I want to do that this year.

#1 Write & Draw

Last year, I had the opportunity to write for Mochi Mag and the MEI-CHA and HighbrowLab blogs. I also went to the Denver Publishing Institute and learned about the book publishing process. It turns out that I really like writing, planning and drawing. 

This year, I plan to continue doing all of that, and also taking what I learned and applying that to my personal blog. I find that researching and mapping help me make sense of big topics like human rights. I understand a bit more after writing a blog post about it. 

Creating content not only helps me understand, it also helps me be a mindful content consumer. When I research for a blog post, I look for relevant posts and evaluate which publications speak to me and why. It’s been super informative learning from other writers in terms of craft, language and identifying biases in my own writing. This year, I want to grow as a writer and artist through practice.

#2 Advocate in my own way

No matter what my job is, I’m creating something. That’s the nature of capitalism. Everything we create and do has a value attached to it. Who you are at work, and increasingly at home, has to be worthwhile. No one gets to just be. But we are not meant to live compartmentalized lives. I have tried that, and it only lasted so long before I broke down and had to make a change. 

Capitalism teaches us to compartmentalise parts of ourselves – the personal self must be non-existent to avoid being ‘inappropriate’, even if this means straining to withhold our suffering from colleagues.”

We can’t fix capitalism or our workplaces, but we can advocate for ourselves and each other in the smallest ways. I like to think of it as the opposite of microaggressions. Microactions? Microadvocacy? It doesn’t have a name yet, but we can advocate through our creations. 

I was inspired after reading “Strange Birds” by Celia Perez. In it, a self-made girl troop advocated the welfare of birds by writing letters, making stickers, painting murals, and “bombing” their community with facts about birds. I want to do the same for the causes I care most about. For example, I can :

  • Make zines and comics
  • Blog and report info
  • Send postcards & letters
  • Talk to friends about it

I think advocacy looks many different ways. It can be quiet or loud. You can make trouble or do what you can, within the boundaries you live in. I’m really excited about this goal because there is SO much to be done. Let’s shout about the things we care about!  

 #3 Engage in real life 

I think all of us can sense that the way the world is going right now, is not right in any way. How do we heal from our personal trauma as well as protect ourselves from taking in more toxic stuff from the world? It’s no surprise that self care has become so popular — we NEED it. But I think self care tricks us into thinking the problem is our own, when the truth is we need each other to thrive. 

“bell hooks emphasises love and healing as priority before any other aspect of life. If healing were a worker’s right, we could stimulate healthy mental wellbeing for young women of colour who are hiding the same pain.”

This year, I will engage in real life and see and talk to people. The power of listening to and engaging with a human being in real life, is very much going against what capitalism and apps want us to do. So let’s do more of it. 

What are your goals this year? Let’s support each other in uncertain times.

Polymer clay sculpting is for everyone

I’ve been collecting Re-ment, or miniatures since 2006. Miniatures are adorable and they fact that they come as sets  just makes me want to collect ALL of them! I never thought about making my own miniatures until this year when I got into polymer clay. It’s a super popular material among DIY bloggers & here is why!

Benefits of polymer clay 

Polymer clay is great because it’s so tactile and versatile. (Have you ever played with slime?) There are not a lot of chances to play with textures, and polymer clay can fix that. When you get it from the package, it is kind of brittle and oily. After kneading it, it becomes malleable and you can make it into anything your heart desires. 

WHY POLYMER CLAY IS SO AWESOME:

  • It helps with drawing. All figurines are made with basic shapes like spheres, cones, cylinders and cubes. Drawing is the same! (You can try sketching your figurines 😄)
  • You can bake it in a toaster or regular oven at home. There’s no need to go to a studio.
  • You can paint and decorate it anyway you want, after baking.
  • It’s dry and mess-free. It may stain a little, but overall it’s easy to clean up. 
  • Like paint, you can mix colors or even create ombre / gradient effects.
  • It takes texture really well – stamp or roll materials onto it for patterns. 

What I’ve Made

Klutz has a great series of Mini Erasers kits, where you make Mini Animals, Fantasy Creatures, Aliens and Sweets! It is how I learned to work with eraser clay and now I am addicted. 

The erasers / miniatures come out adorable and are reminiscent of the Re-Ment. Once you learn the basic shops and composition, you can start getting creative. Create your own animals, donuts, cupcakes, aliens and pizza by following “recipes.” 

When you feel ready to add more details, you can make really adorable swirls, sprinkles and patterns to make your creations more realistic.

Applications 

The possibilities with polymer clay are limitless. Some of the easiest ideas to start with? Some ideas from one of my favorite DIY blogs, Fish and Bull

  • Ornaments: Stamp shapes out of a sheet of clay, then roll textures on to it.
  • Dishes: Cut out a circle, mold it in a bowl, bake, and paint!
  • Planters: You can make pinch pots, geometric, or honestly any form you like.
  • Mobiles: Evil eye, moon phases, rainbows, and animals, to name a few themes!
  • Jewelry: No one is going to be able to tell that it’s NOT polymer clay.

Try polymer clay for sculpting experience you can have at home. All you need is an oven and clay. 

Sex worker rights are human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed on December 10, 1948. We’ve had less than 100 years to make sense of what it looks like if everyone has basic rights, which has never been the norm in any society. How do we begin to communicate what human rights means and what it entails? 

According to Sunee Chaiyarot, a former human rights commissioner in Thailand, “The big picture includes individual rights, community rights or rights in local areas, and it also relates to the justice system.” Sex workers rights intersect with all the dimensions Chaiyarot mentions:

  • individual rights of sex workers
  • how sex workers coexist with the community
  • the role of sex work in local areas
  • how the justice systems protects or denies the rights of sex workers

Let’s begin to understand how sex workers might exist in the community. 

Help from one (former) sex worker to another

There’s a ton of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding sex work, and groups interested in helping workers get out of the sex trade. For help to be truly helpful, however, it needs to involve people who have been in that situation. For example, CityLight Coffee in Bangkok employs former sex workers. It offers them an alternative to sex trade. They work with other former sex workers who shared similar challenges: physical assault, forced into sex trade, and being viewed as immoral. 

The community aspect as powerful. Twice a week, the cafe also turns into a pro bono hair and nail salon for sex workers. “They are not advertised, but known through word of mouth among the sex workers’ circles.” 

The pros and cons of “harm reduction”

How do non–sex workers help sex workers? Harm reduction seems like a great idea, but in practice, there are so many factors that turn good intent into more harm. In Denmark, an NGO called the Red Van provides “street-based sex workers the option to work in an indoor space equipped with healthcare items like condoms and lube.” The idea is that an indoor space and a third location would make it so sex workers don’t need to follow a customer into their car. 

However, stigma wins out. Residents complain that they don’t want sex work on their street. Sex workers keep their distance. People are careful about being associated with sex work activity, or even being accused of pprofitingoff sex workers, even if they are not customers. 

“Stigma greatly exacerbates the risk of harm for sex workers. It can prohibit sex workers from seeking advice or support and push them into riskier situations.”

Progressive laws that are meant to protect sex workers often have negative effects. The procurement law  passed by the Danish Parliament ended up making it hard for sex workers to rent appartments or get legal and financial help. Sex workers still need landlords and accountants, but the law that is meant to help them makes it so people them down. 

Evaluating solutions

To evaluate solutions or ways to help, let’s go back to the Declaration of Human Rights. 

According to Article 23, “(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” and Article 29 “(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

Given that, we have a few questions to ask:

Does the action empower sex workers?

Does it take away or build on their rights?

Does it make it sustainable for them to exist in the community?

Lastly, the only way that solutions will even be helpful to sex workers is if it takes into account their needs. 

Flawed kid protagonists tell their stories

There are many protagonists in kidlit that are very mature and evolved, and when you read a lot of fiction, this starts to feel normal. However, children in real life are flawed and not nearly as together as most kidlit protagonists are. Kidlit characters can be so developed that when you come across a flawed protagonist, they feel unlikable.

I thought these books did a good job of depicting true and flawed kids. Kids are not always likable and motivated, and it is really great to see protagonist who have attitude and make mistakes. Continue reading

Tweens need books written just for them, too

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Still, a precocious 12-year-old is not the same reader as a 15-year-old, and certainly different from a 17-year-old, though they all may read YA books. Meanwhile, middle school students go through enormous changes in a few short years. – Katy Hershberger for SLJ

There is a gap in books for tween readers. The MG and YA markets are thriving and great titles come out every year, but there are fewer books written just for ages 11 to 14. Writing for this age group is hard to pull off. There’s such a big range in maturity and reading levels. However, I think these authors did a great job! Continue reading

Dipangkorn, I Am Your Father

There are so many rumors surrounding Prince Dipangkorn, the only son of Vajiralongkorn and Srirasmi. His father is the king and his mother is under house arrest. He is going to school in Germany. There are rumors that he has autism. No one really knows the facts and it can’t be known.

I am concerned that Dipangkorn, 14,  is being raised by a monster. If your only caretaker is using you, you have no one in your corner. Despite being an heir presumptive, Dipangkorn has no advocate.

Some questions I have:

  • Why is he keeping Dipangkorn, unlike the sons from his previous divorce?
  • Why did he separate Dipangkorn from his mother?
  • Is it true that Vajiralongkorn is using his son for HIV treatments?
  • Will Dipangkorn succeed his father?
  • Will he ever realize what his father did to his mother and grandparents?

Continue reading

The House of Mahidol is the richest royal family on Earth

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You might know about the Thai monarchy from “The King and I” or “Anna and the King,” starring Jodie Foster & Chow Yun Fat (1999). The only things I knew about the kingdom of Siam prior to this month came from those movies & to be honest, I never thought about who ruled Thailand beyond that. The only things I knew about the country were:

  • People travel to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Ko Samui
  • People travel there for beautiful beaches , elephants, and ancient golden temples
  • It’s known as a sex tourism destination
  • Thai food is delicious! and has Chinese, Indian and Malay influences
  • It’s in Southeast Asia but also different from the countries around it
  • It’s never been colonized by the French or British

The thing that piqued my interest in Thailand was the scandal of Vajiralongkorn, the current king, demoting his consort. Full disclosure: It was his scandal that made me interested, and once I found out about his personal history, I wanted to know about his parents and exactly where the royal family stands in Thailand.

But it gets tricky because the lese majeste law is very strict and demands that Thais don’t insult the monarchy. That, combined with limited English reporting on Thailand, makes it hard to know the facts. I found my information from sources such as banned journalists, social media, and publications that focus on SE Asia.

This is what I’ve found out so far about the current monarchy:

We are currently in the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty. The famous King Mongkut from The King and I was the 5th king. It’s been 237 years!

King Bhumibol

Beloved King Bhumibol (pu-mee-pon) passed away in 2016. He had ruled Thailand for 70 years prior to that. Fun fact: He was actually born in the U.S. because his dad was studying public health at Harvard.

He wasn’t expected to become king. His dad wasn’t king, and he spent most of his childhood abroad in Europe. We’re not really sure how his brother, Ananda aka Rama VIII died. Rumors say that Bhumibol accidentally shot his brother, but no one knows for sure. What we do know is that Bhumibol became king and people really loved him.

He was the king most Thais knew in this lifetime and he was an icon:

  • He’s a musician. He played clarinet and saxophone and composed jazz.
  • He had ONE eye! He lost his right eye in a car accident when he was 20.
  • He visited rural areas and taught farmers how to grow crops instead of opium.
  • He loved photography and was often seen with a camera.
  • People really believed that he was a good king and wanted to do good for Thailand.

Queen Sirikit

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#ฉลองพระองค์ ฉลองพระองค์องค์นี้เป็นไอคอนิกของยุค ๑๙๘๐ ห้องเสื้อบัลแมงตัดเย็บจากผ้าไหมมัดหมี่สีนํ้าเงิน ปักประดับคริสตัลทั้งองค์ มีผ้าคลุมไหล่และฉลองพระบาทเข้าชุด ใช้ผ้าไหมมัดหมี่ในทางเฉลียง ทรงเมื่อคราวเสด็จพระราชดําเนินเยือนสหรัฐอเมริกาในปีพุทธศักราช ๒๕๒๘ _ _ _ ขอพระองค์ทรงพระเจริญ #สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์พระบรมราชินีนาถ #WeLoveQueenSirikit  #QueenSirikit  #พระราชินี #สมเด็จแม่ #แม่ของแผ่นดิน #คิดถึงสมเด็จฯ #ทรงพระเจริญ Credit 📷 และข้อมูล : www.vogue.co.th/fashion/article/queensirikitsiconicdresses

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Queen Sirikit is Bhumibol’s wife. She is fashionable and charming, but she’s also made questionable decisions. For example, she wanted her son to marry her niece so that her side of the family would become the future of the Chakri dynasty. That was a terrible idea because:

  1. even when he was a prince, people didn’t want Vajiralongkorn to become king
  2. Vajiralongkorn didn’t want to marry his cousin
  3. the marriage completely failed & Vajiralongkorn had 5 kids with his mistress

Sirikit’s own marriage: She met Bhumibol in Europe. You could say the 50s and 60s were their glory days — they were seen visiting countries together and the future of Thailand seemed bright & modern. In the 80s, a rift started forming. Sirikit was infatuated with her bodyguard, Colonel Narongdej. After he mysteriously died, she was heartbroken and disappeared from the public for 6 months. This was of course embarassing for Bhumibol and they were estranged after that, even though they still appeared in public together.

Sirikit survives her husband but is rarely seen in public now.

Vajiralongkorn

I’m not saying Vajiralongkorn is the villain in this story, but I’m not not saying that he is the most destructive part of the monarchy today. Vajiralongkorn is the only son of Sirikit and Bhumbibol, and he has an older sister and two younger sisters. His older sister Ubolratana married an American, so forfeited her succession status. His younger sister Sirindhorn (in picture above) is actually very popular and people wanted her to succeed. His youngest sister is Princess Chulabhorn, who has two grown daughters.

What to say about Vajiralongkorn himself? Well, all his actions so far, in 67 years, have indicated that he is a terrible person. A quick google search brings up: crop tops & fake tattoos at airports, shopping in German malls with his mistress, and divorcing his wives.

Despite being the king of Thailand, he spends most of his time in Europe and uses taxpayer dollars to fund his lifestyle of living in villas and flying between European cities to see his mistresses.

You might think those are just his preferences, therefore harmless. But it’s not — he has a history of putting people in prison, tearing down their houses, and abusing his power. He is regressing Thailand to absolute monarchy and no one can check him.