intertribal: (meow)
New Year's Resolution #1: Get serious about writing.  It's put up or shut up time.  Those novels are not going to write themselves.

You may have been wondering what the hell I've been doing for the past two years (aside from getting a Master's degree and working almost full-time). Well, I've been mulling.  I've been outlining.  I've been making playlists.  I've been reading (not enough).  And now, I am absolutely ready to make a serious go at a novel.  But I'm at a crossroads: where do I start?

Option #1: Novel 1 out of 3 of my "American fascism" trilogy.  Set in a contemporary city in a slightly-alternative, highly-corrupt and "materialistic" America, it's more in the vein of Lewis's It Can't Happen Here than Roth's The Plot Against America.  One of my main characters, in law enforcement, is a "winner" in the current social landscape; the other one, a journalist, is struggling.  A new religious movement, and a new political party, sweeps the nation with the promise of transformative, transcendental change.  Now I love this story.  I love the messy, desperate, self-deceiving characters.  I kind of live and breathe them, actually - I stay up late tinkering with the outline, writing random scenes.  I've spent so much time planning this story, and am so excited about this story, that I could probably write it fairly quickly.  This is, hands-down, the option with the most momentum and passion behind it.  But: it's pretty political, obviously.  No John Galt speeches, and hopefully it's not a polemic - it's way more focused on characters' inner lives than the grit of political issues - but it's political.  It might piss people off.  And I worry that a potentially "controversial" book isn't the right choice for a debut.

Option #2: A stand-alone story about young Americans studying and working abroad in a fictionalized Indonesia.  The overarching theme is self-discovery: discovering what truly matters to you, what you'd be willing to do to get it, and who you really are.  The other theme is the interaction between the (naturally) self-absorbed post-grads and the politics of the foreign country that's hosting them, which is experiencing Sukarno-style turbulence.  So we've got a few overlapping stories: an ambitious scholar falls in love with the girl of his dreams, but she's heading toward a psychotic break; a rich kid with poor grades finds his calling with the military general who knows his father; one dude turns into a prophet and starts his own (very small) religion.  Now I "know" far less about Option #2 than Option #1.  I know the contours of the plot and the way each character develops, but I haven't spent as much time processing it.  I just came up with the title today.  I don't know the characters as well, and except for the girl on the verge of a psychotic break who becomes convinced she's possessed by the mask she's studying... I'm not as enthusiastic about this story.  On the other hand, I feel like it would make more "sense" to start here - it's a stand-alone, I too just finished grad school, I don't think it would be at all controversial.

Both of these stories are concerned with the way the personal snake wraps around the political axis (or sometimes, vice versa) - it's by far my favorite thing to write about.  Both flirt with horror (psychic powers in Option #1, evil spirits in Option #2), though that's not the main focus of either.  But they otherwise feel very different.

If I had my way, I'd keep going full-speed ahead on Option #1.  But I worry that that's not the strategic choice, right now.

intertribal: (meow)
... this one just came out of the swamp."
- Radiohead, "Optimistic"

Orson Scott Card is no longer contributing to the Superman mythos, and people are very happy about that because of his stance on gay marriage and homosexuality in general (being a Mormon).  This being the first I'd heard about any Card/Superman shenanigans, my reaction was "Well, of course he wants to write about Superman.  Superman is probably perfect for him.  He probably thinks Superman is the perfect Mormon, just like Stephanie Meyer wrote vampires as the perfect Mormons."

This blog, for instance, explains that Card should not write Superman because "I do not think that an admitted bigot, whether bigoted for religious reasons or no, is qualified to write for the comic universe’s greatest symbol of truth, justice, and equality."  I don't read Superman or Card, but I'm sure - sure - that Card thinks he's got at least truth and justice on his side.  Most people with strong beliefs don't think they're fighting for injustice and falsehood.  Here's an example of the defunct British political party, Veritas (note their primary policy, liberals).  Here is the famous USSR paper, Pravda.  Islamist Justice Parties are all over the place, like Indonesia's own Prosperous Justice Party - and most Western liberals don't think of Islamic law as the foundation for justice.  Truth, Justice, it just sounds like a good place to start.  And a character like Superman - who to me is the boyscout superhero with an unshakable dedication to all that is good - is going to be an appealing totem for any movement that thinks it's got righteousness on its side.

I don't begrudge Chris Sprouse, the would-be illustrator, his decision not to work with Card.  I don't begrudge not supporting Card.  I don't begrudge liking Superman.  I'm not even saying there is no absolute Truth or Justice.  But Superman is a symbol anybody can claim.  Card writing Superman is not like a misogynist writing Wonder Woman, because Superman's not gay.  Superman is a boy from a farm in Kansas who just wants to help people with his incredible strength. Sounds like a good place to start.  Boys Wanna Be Him, Girls Wanna Be Him.  DBZ fandom was the same way - jam-packed with conservatives and libertarians who read totally different messages in what I thought was The Great Post-Colonial Disaster.  Stephen Chow explained it very graciously: "the airy and unstrained story leaves much room for creation."  The main reason I'm writing this is because I am familiar with the feeling of frustration you get when something you love is terribly "misread."

I also know that with that feeling of indignation is a little hint deep inside that maybe you're the the one misreading things all along.  There was once a xenophobic facebook group, for example, that used The Lord of the Rings and Aragorn's "I Bid You Stand, Men of the West" in particular as its mascot.  I love LOTR, and I love Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn, and that is not what they represent to me, but I'm not going to pretend there is no xenophobia in that story, and that the facebook group creators were totally coming out of left (right) field.  l do think there's something about simple hero epics that appeals to a more conservative - and more ideological, on either side - audience overall.  It's the absolutism, I'd guess, and the masculinity.  So I also think Superman is a symbol someone like Orson Scott Card can easily claim.  Hooray.

Also, this is why I study -isms like fascism and nationalism: because there's a reason people sign onto these things.  These are words, ideas, symbols, codes that work.

This song helped me come to terms with this.  Hope it helps:

intertribal: (want me to get you something daddy?)
So, The Dark Knight Rises - the last Nolan Batman movie (God willing).  I really liked Batman Begins, which I think I saw in theaters with Christina when neither of us knew what we were expecting - and we were both like, "I think I really kind of LIKED IT" - and have a special relationship with The Dark Knight, which I saw on my own in a shopping mall/movie theater in Surabaya after I bought a canvas bag that said "Life.  Industry.  Work.  Strength."  I saw The Dark Knight Rises last weekend in another shopping mall/movie theater in Jakarta with mixed company, and I felt frustrated and disappointed with it. 

Many people have talked about the questionable politics of The Dark Knight Rises - I particularly like Abigail Nussbaum's review (but when is that ever not true?).  Others have pointed out that these weird fascistic/Randian trends have been in Nolan's Batman movies the entire time, although I must confess I didn't really see them.  To me Batman Begins wasn't very controversial politically, and The Dark Knight was about the classic dilemmas facing public servants trying to do the right thing (I think the most interesting character in it is Dent's) as well as the personal mental collapse that takes place when you decide you can't take trying anymore (see for instance "that's it, I'm moving to Canada" on a much more mundane level, or "fuck iiiiiit" in meme terms).  In the Order vs. Chaos argument, I think a pretty compelling point was made for Chaos, even if officially Order won out.  The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was really playing up the 1% vs. 99% thing, and the 99% pretty much turn out to be duped by an evil that has no motivation other than to be evil.  It actually kind of reminded me of Michael Crichton's "environmentalists are actually engineering global warming to scare us all into going with the Kyoto Protocol!" as well as of that terrible book by Glenn Beck.  The 1% don't even really commit any sins except their parties are boring.  And then there they are, being thrown out on the streets and executed by exile onto a sea of thin ice!  Even Catwoman, the "Robin Hood" character, is all "Batman, you don't owe these plebes anything, they stole all your money."  So yeah, all that: kind of sucky.

Beyond that, I didn't find the movie as much "fun" as I did its predecessors.  I had heard a lot about the explosion in the football stadium scene beforehand but it did not pack the emotional punch that it truly should have, given me and my inclinations.  I actually felt most emotional in the opening scene, during the nuclear physicist's surprise kidnapping.  I don't really know why - maybe the claustrophobia and imminent death involved for such a small pack of people?  But the police being stuck in the tunnels, then surprise!liberated and being gunned down like Theoden's Riders in The Return of the King - meh.  The random schoolbus of orphaned boys - meh.  The pit?  I did feel a twinge when Bruce Wayne makes it out at last, but it was for the cheering prisoners still in the pit, not Bruce Wayne.  This one just didn't click with me.  It felt cold and distant and unwilling to really give of itself.

On the other hand: Alfred the loyal-unto-death butler and Gordon the beleaguered police commissioner were great.  I think those two and Blake (the scrappy new cop) were really the actual soul of the movie, as far as it had a soul at all - the most human characters, at any rate.  Batman/Bruce Wayne was just kind of annoying/useless (ironically), Catwoman was like What Happens When Men Write Women #5a, or so, and Miranda Tate would have potentially been a competent character if not for the barren face heel turn.  Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow was also fun. 

If anything I sort of wished Batman was erased from this movie, and that it was just the tale of the horribly dysfunctional city that had to fend for itself - that there truly was no ubermensch to save it.  Because I'm fond of Gotham - have been since the beginning - and I was always fiercely of the belief that the League of Shadows was wrong, and Gotham should not be sacrificed as hopelessly corrupt.  Maybe that's because I come from a city that really reminds me of Gotham, sometimes ("criminals in this town used to believe in things - honor, respect!"), and Gotham being assailed by Chaos was like the Jemaah Islamiyah era here, when hotels were being blown up; and the Gotham being assailed by Quasi-Revolution is like what's happening now, with people burning suspected thieves in the street.  And let me tell you: we have no ubermensch.  What we might have, if we're lucky, is a Gordon, a couple Blakes.  We certainly have plenty of Alfreds.

ANYWAY.  Something else I realized while watching The Dark Knight Rises: I think I may be finally shifting my gaze from older men (father substitutes, all) to men my age (the "damaged" ones, but oh well).  I was way, way more attracted to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this movie than Bruce Wayne (that scene where he's running to the hospital with the rifle!  Rarr!), and that is new.  I was talking about this with my mother, and concluded that regardless of who I actually date, my ideal type seems to be this older, married, brooding political scientist type that is clearly a doppelganger for my father.  And it's also!  A completely safe, riskless outlet for whatever feelings I might develop, because I know in my hardest of hearts that nothing real can actually happen there.  There was no possibility of anything developing.  I couldn't really get involved.  I wasn't going to get heartbroken.  Plus it let me deal with my Daddy Issues.  Sort of, anyway.  I mean, the walls I put up -- both because my father died and everything normal and happy was shattered, and probably just because of me, because I was born nuts -- were miles high.

But I think that's starting to change, and that's a good thing.
intertribal: (black wave/bad vibration)
Dog Day Afternoon, another great '70s crime movie that I had never seen before.  And by another, I mean in addition to Taxi Driver - my repertoire is pretty slight in this area, unfortunately.  The IMDb tagline is "A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus," which I guess is accurate, but makes the movie sound more farcical than it is.  It kind of makes me sad, how commonly-referenced and parodied this scene is, because when he starts saying "put 'em down!" I actually got a little weepy.

By the way, this is what "Attica!" is a reference to.  I highly suggest you click the link, if you don't already know.  And I wouldn't say that Dog Day Afternoon is even unfair to cops - Detective Moretti, the first hostage negotiator, is actually a sympathetic character who tries to stop the moronic cops who assume an asthmatic black hostage being released is actually one of the bank robbers and immediately start treating him as such.  And both Sonny and Travis Bickle, the criminal heroes of Dog Day Afternoon and Taxi Driver, are veterans of Vietnam.  

Yeah, I know I still haven't talked about Taxi Driver.  I guess what I can say is that this type of movie - the atmosphere, the narrative style, the "message," etc. - is not at all what I write, and something I can't spend a lot of time with before I become claustrophobic and panicky, but is something I really, genuinely admire.  The Attica scene would never happen today, and we're worse off for it.  We're so inundated with cop-centric crime narratives (even the grittier stuff you see on cable channels, it's pretty much all "woe the fractured lives of cops," so I guess hooray for Sons of Anarchy?  But even that is about alternative methods of "law enforcement," not being anti-establishment, so...), so conditioned to look at crime as a single, selfish act of law-breaking, and very quick to excuse police and military brutality as somehow "deserved," no matter what.  You see this on 24 and Law & Order: SVU.  I suppose we made the bed we'll die in. 

We'd much prefer to read stories about "police vigilantes" acting outside the law in fulfillment with some kind of higher calling of justice, destroying evil-doers - a short story in Alan Heathcock's collection Volt, "Peacekeeper," is exactly this sort of story.  There's Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral and it's this big cosmic struggle played out usually on the dead or missing body of a young woman.  Those are popular stories.  But that isn't really the story of police work in the U.S., just like it isn't the story of the U.S. military abroad.  The real story is a hell of a lot more banal than that. 
intertribal: (baby got heart attacks)
Is Superman A Traitor?  "in the short story “The Incident” in Action Comics #900, Superman is renouncing his American citizenship." 

Result: A Little Bit of Cosmic Rage.  Aside from the "I will never buy DC comics again!" declarations, there's actually a decent amount of soul-searching in those comments.  I have zero investment in Superman, and I'm sure this will be (a) contradicted by some previous incident, and/or (b) retconned, so I'm not sure if it's that big of a deal.  But commenter Daniella thinks it's a very big deal: "The reason he stands for truth justice and the American way is because those are God given morals. He wouldn't be Superman if he hadnt been raised by God fearing farmers from Kansas."

BUT, on a more serious note back at the first link, Bryan Reesman says: "Is Superman only considered so by us if he is an American? Is a hero only someone who allies himself with one side or one country? Isn’t a hero someone who commits selfless acts to save people, prevent catastrophe, stand up for important values or to improve people’s lives? And is a hero allowed to speak their mind and express their beliefs beyond their actions?"

That last sentence might actually be the most interesting (the other questions, and their answers, are a little too obvious for me).  That there's the kind of thing that fits mighty fine in my novel, the whole hero/puppet/golem thing.  And I love that it's being posed in the context of one of the most quintessentially heroic heroes instead of the antiheroes, who usually get this kind of introspection.  I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I've always found heroic heroes to be much more interesting than antiheroes, which is actually why I'll probably never get into GrimDark fantasy...

One of Reesman's commenters adds: "I must say that, as an Australian, I haven’t ever thought of Superman as a purely American hero. He has been a role model for people all around the globe. I don’t know if I would feel differently about this if I was American or not, but considering Superman came from ANOTHER PLANET entirely, I don’t see why people would complain."

Can I just say how much this reminds of various arguments in the DBZ fandom (which seems almost without exception to be extremely hawkish, often socially conservative - gee, I can't imagine why - as well as oddly religious)?  Rather delicious, really.
intertribal: (when I am through with you)
Mark Christensen doesn't want me to run for president in Nebraska.  He's sponsoring a "birther" bill in the state legislature that would require presidential candidates to provide long-form birth certificates to accompany the following sworn affidavit: "On the day I was born, both my birth father and my birth mother were citizens of the United States of America."  Oh Mark Christensen!  Isn't my US citizenship good enough for you anymore?

The Journal Star points out: "Six other U.S. presidents besides Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, had foreign-born parents: Thomas Jefferson, whose mother was born in England; Andrew Jackson, whose parents were born in Ireland; James Buchanan, whose father was born in Ireland; Chester Arthur, whose father was born in Ireland; Woodrow Wilson, whose mother was born in England; and Herbert Hoover, whose mother was born in Canada."  Well, we could have lived without Andrew Jackson, I suppose, he seemed like kind of an ass.  Maybe William Jennings Bryan would have won and made us a quasi-socialist country if Woodrow Wilson was ineligible?  Probably not.

Christensen says that it
"is not clear what the nation's founders meant by the phrase 'natural born citizen.'"  Um, except no.  And of course the comments defending the senator are like, "we just want to know if the guy is eligible!"  Birth certificate is all that's needed, people.  Look it up.  Parents' citizenship is irrelevant if you were born in the United States.

But this does provide support (if any was necessary) that nativist hysteria is what's behind the "birther" movement.  It's not about eligibility - it's about keeping the national "gene pool" pure.  I suspect that if that list of ineligible former presidents was given to Christensen, his natural response would be: "Oh well - exceptions made if your parents were citizens of European countries."  I don't think he'd say it out loud, even though this reads like a very clear attempt to keep the children of immigrants (read: DIRTY MEXICANS THAT ARE TAKING OVER OUR COUNTRY) out of the presidency.  The fact is that doing this would make a huge number of people I know - who are currently eligible to run for the presidency, except they're not old enough yet - ineligible for the job.  Many of them are some of the smartest people I've known, but who cares about that?  In bringing up the possibility of foreign allegiance the bill is also, essentially, punishing children for the "sins" of their fathers (the sin: being a foreign national, or even just being born in a foreign country - LB654 isn't exactly clear, but I don't think law is Christensen's strong suit).  Ironically, these are the same people who don't want to feel guilty about being from slave-owning, Jim Crow-enforcing stock, because that's punishing them for the sins of their fathers.  But well, that's ethnic nationalism in action.

When I read this article to my mother this morning she said, "Right, and why stop there?  Why not prove that your grandparents were citizens?  Or, or - how about you have to be Native American?"

Meanwhile a reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy is reaching his full-grown adult form.  I can't wait for internment camps too!
intertribal: (bass down low)
The first commentary on the whole Bankrupt Nihilism brouhaha that I really agree with (and surprisingly, it comes from Black Gate): The Decline and Fall of Bankrupt Nihilism.  One points Matthew Surridge brings up that I consider pretty important concerns the supposedly "heroic and inspiring" morality of old-fashioned fantasy, and particularly, states that there's a big difference between Tolkien's and Howard's morality: "[Howard's heroes] were concerned with doing right, but doing right by a moral code based around virtues like honour and strength. I think that’s a far cry from Tolkien’s Christian sense of morality." 

The "virtues like honor and strength" part really got to me, because it reminds me of the kind of "morality" that infuses militaristic societies (you can see this in U.S. armed forces ads too).  Hilariously, I recently used the exact phrase "honor and strength" in a short-story-in-progress as the straight-faced slogan of a genocidal army (this is a Suharto-inspired story, but it's obviously got wider implications). 

Anyway, Surridge's main point is that this old-fashioned fantasy was not, as a rule, any more morally-upright than what's being written today.  He also says that although "a certain stylistic approach has become broadly more common in fantasy, specifically because it’s an approach that’s perceived as more realistic" (this approach being dark-and-gritty), it's not "about the morality of the writers... so much as a greater focus on world-building, plot detail, and the amount of cruelty that one can expect to find in the world."  Which I think is also pretty fair.

This whole ridiculous bankrupt nihilism conversation has made me realize that I think I'm a "moralist" writer, at least if that means my writing is concerned with discussing right behavior.  I never really thought of it that way, but after reading this essay and thinking about the novel... yeah, it's all about right behavior (there are other things, too, but that's the backbone).  I usually think of my writing as being "political," but I think that's just my poli sci background speaking.  I've written things that weren't so driven by morality, and they never feel as whole or sincere or "worth it" after I get a bit of distance from them (in contrast to say, my ChiZine stories).  The best writing compliment I've ever gotten is six years old, and came from one of my high school English teachers - that I "wield the pen like a sword."  And I really need to remember that that sort of writing is my real mission.
intertribal: (audrey)
Connie Chung worked for CNN at the time, hosting Connie Chung Tonight.  Martina Navratilova is a former tennis star, current tennis commentator.  Extra note: Navratilova was born a citizen of Czechoslovakia (then a Communist country).  She defected to the U.S. when she was 18, in 1975, seeking political asylum - she had already been told by Czech authorities that she was "becoming too Americanized" - and became a U.S. citizen in 1981.  This interview took place in 2002.  Bold emphasis is mine.

CHUNG: All right. I'm going to read what was said, a quote from that German newspaper. Quote: "The most absurd part of my escape from the unjust system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses free opinion for another. The Republicans in the U.S. manipulate public opinion and sweep controversial issues under the table. It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of how much money will come out of it and not on the questions of how much health, morals or environment suffer as a result."  So, is that accurate?

NAVRATILOVA: Well, that's pretty accurate. I mean, I was talking about the Bush administration making a lot of environmental decisions, again, based on money pandering to the people that perhaps help put Bush in the office. I was talking about a particular amendment that I know about. There was a vote that was about education. It was a good bill. And then they try to sneak in that Alaska Wildlife Refuge drilling. It's like, by the way, we're going to drill but we don't really need to know that we're going to do it.

CHUNG: But what about that one key sentence, I think, "the most absurd part of my escape from the unjust system is that I've changed one system that suppresses free opinion for another?" You're trading one regime for another. I mean, that's I think one of the main quotes that raised so much ire.

NAVRATILOVA: Well, obviously, I'm not saying this is a communist system, but I think we're having -- after 9/11, there's a big centralization of power. President Bush is having more and more power. John Ashcroft is having more and more power. Americans are losing their personal rights left and right. I mean, the ACLU is up in arms about all of the stuff that's going on right now.

CHUNG: So you were or weren't misquoted in that particular -- you know, regarding that particular sentence of trading one regime for another?

NAVRATILOVA: I don't think I said it exactly in that context. I certainly didn't mean that I'm here in a communist country and that I can't be what I want to be. However, when it comes to personal freedom as a lesbian, I am getting more squished here than I would be in Europe or in...

CHUNG: In Czechoslovakia.

NAVRATILOVA: Well, Czechoslovakia, in a communist country, they sent you into the asylum. This is a whole different story.

CHUNG: Can I be honest with you? I can tell you that when I read this, I have to tell you that I thought it was un-American, unpatriotic. I wanted to say, go back to Czechoslovakia. You know, if you don't like it here, this a country that gave you so much, gave you the freedom to do what you want.

NAVRATILOVA: And I'm giving it back. This is why I speak out. When I see something that I don't like, I'm going to speak out because you can do that here. And again, I feel there are too many things happening that are taking our rights away.

CHUNG: But you know what? I think it is, OK, if you believe that, you know, then go ahead and think that at home. But why do you have to spill it out? You know, why do you have to talk about it as a celebrity so that people will write it down and talk about what you said?

NAVRATILOVA: I think athletes have a duty to speak out when there is something that's not right, when they feel that perhaps social issues are not being paid attention to. As a woman, as a lesbian, as a woman athlete, there is a whole bunch of barriers that I've had to jump over, and we shouldn't have to be jumping over them any more.

CHUNG: Got you. But sometimes, when you hear celebrities saying something, do you ever say to yourself, I don't care what so and so thinks, you know. Yes, go ahead and say whatever you want to say. But you're not a politician. You're not in a position of government power or whatever.

NAVRATILOVA: No. And I just might do that. I may run for office one of these days and really do make a difference. But...

CHUNG: Are you kidding me?

NAVRATILOVA: No, I'm not. One of these days, hopefully. But when you say go back to Czech Republic, why are you sending me back there? I live here. I love this country. I've lived here 27 years. I've paid taxes here for 27 years. Do I not have a right to speak out? Why is that unpatriotic?

CHUNG: Well, you know the old line, love it or leave it.

NAVRATILOVA: I love it and I'm here and I'm trying to do my best to make it a better place to live in, not just this country, but the whole world. And, you know, I'm doing my little part. And I'm just a tennis player.
intertribal: (smoking room)
1.  Marc Thiessen on Jon Stewart - extended, unedited interview, in three parts.  One of those cases where Jon Stewart looks genuinely disturbed.  Part 3 is like arrgh.  This is Marc Thiessen - he has an endorsement from Dick Cheney: "Marc Thiessen knows, in ways that few others do, just how effective, heroic, and morally justified were the interrogators who kept this nation safe after 9/11. If you want to know what really happened behind the scenes at the CIA interrogation sites or at Guantanamo Bay, you simply must read this book." 

2.  Christopher Hitchens on waterboarding: Believe Me, It's Torture - "I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

3.  Whatever It Takes: The influence of 24 on the US military and US torture culture in general - "The third expert at the meeting was Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.”  He recalled that some men he had worked with in Iraq watched a television program in which a suspect was forced to hear tortured screams from a neighboring cell; the men later tried to persuade their Iraqi translator to act the part of a torture “victim,” in a similar intimidation ploy."

4.  A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, by Amitava Kuvar.  "He quotes the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who asked us to understand “why millions of people in poor countries that have been pushed to one side, and deprived of the right to decide their own histories, feel such anger at America.”"
intertribal: (but the levy was dry)
At io9 there's a fun little what-it-says-on-the-can article, "Good Character Development Includes The All-Important "F*@% Yeah" Moment."  I enjoyed reading this - I think everyone knows exactly what is meant by a "fuck yeah" moment, even if (like me) you don't know most of the examples cited.  The article says, "It's harder to root for characters who don't have [fuck yeah moments]. In fact, I'd say it's hard even to identify with characters who don't ever make you go "fuck yeah.""  But y'know, the more I thought about it, the more I came up with exceptions to the religion of Fuck Yeah. 

(I'm going to just go ahead and talk about things where I know what I'm talking about, and stay away from say, American comics, which dominate the io9 article)

1.  DBZ is like 70% Fuck Yeah moments, yes?  And when I was in middle school this was obviously A for Awesome, but when I re-read in late high school I started noticing how sad a lot of these moments are.  In particular, there's the moment the article calls "Outnumbered or totally pwned, but the hero still won't give up" - these moments ceased to be awesome for me.  You start getting into the territory of Martyrdom Culture (warning: tvtropes) and then it becomes straight-up depressing: intense, yes, obviously, but harrowing.  Kind of sick.  I had discovered Radiohead by then and I remember acutely just how much "I Will" shifted my paradigms, so to speak.  And now what I notice is all the stuff in between Fuck Yeah moments, and it's like, wow, I am actually reading social horror! 

2.  The best Fuck Yeah moment in the X-Files, for my money, does not belong to Mulder or Scully.  It belongs to Skinner.  After spending the entire series up to this point kowtowing to the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Skinner reveals in "Paper Clip" that he's not just a middle-manager drone, and he actually has the drop on CSM.  Though the smoking gun cassette has been stolen from him in a mugging, he reveals that he's had codetalker Albert Hosteen and his buddies memorize its contents.  CSM says, indignant, "What the hell is this?" and Skinner replies, "This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass."  Oh, fuck yeah!  This moment made Skinner one of my favorite characters right down to the end.  But this is a moment that only Skinner the Bureaucrat could have had, especially because it shows he cares for and believes in Mulder and Scully after all.  Mulder, by contrast, does the Middle Finger to the Lord pose all the time, but he became a character I rooted for in "One Breath."  Scully is comatose in the hospital after being abducted "by aliens," and Mulder is waiting for bad guys to show up at his apartment so he can kill them in revenge.  Her sister shows up and convinces him to go see Scully - when he returns, he finds his apartment trashed.  He sits down and cries, for many reasons.  Hardly Fuck Yeah.  Better than Fuck Yeah.  In other words, Fuck Yeah =/= Rooting for a Character.  And Fuck Yeah only works when it's characteristically appropriate.  Oh and, Fuck Yeah =/= Violence, in case that needed to be said.  Skinner's moment would have been a joke if his "big surprise" was punching CSM instead.

3.  I can think of no Fuck Yeah moments in my favorite books.  There may be some late in Catch-22, but they made no impression on me.  What cut to the quick in that book was: Snowden dying in the plane, saying, "I'm cold"; Yossarian realizing that the world is just mobs with sticks; the preceding conversation with Aarfy where Yossarian can neither get Aarfy to understand that raping and killing a hotel maid is wrong, nor get the army to arrest Aarfy.  Sad, enraging moments - the last one made me so angry I had to put the book down.  The Sound and the Fury enters the sublime during Jason Compton's chapter, because Jason is such a total piece of utter fucking shit.  Just thinking about it makes my blood run - with rage.  My mother and I call this reaction "puke sneeze," because my mother used to get this really hilarious nasal tone in her voice when she was talking about things she read in the paper that pissed her off.  In terms of adrenaline and passion, let's not forget the power of the Fuck You! moment.

All that said: as an adrenaline junkie raised on kung fu movies, I of course appreciate a good Fuck Yeah moment, sometimes in spite of myself.  I loved the second half of Hot Fuzz (though mostly because of the Midsomer Murders in Hell angle).  And one of my top-played songs on iTunes is "Iche Will" (which does not mean "I Will"!), which gives an adrenaline boost while still noting: what the fuck is really going on here?  Good old Rammstein.

p.s.  My icon was made for this post.
intertribal: (medusa)
Everybody knows Westboro Baptist Church, right?  They're in Kansas.  They're famous for "picketing" soldiers' funerals (some family is now suing them for emotional damage or something) as well as the funerals of people who died of AIDS (and Matthew Shepard) because they think 9/11 and American deaths in Iraq are retribution for homosexuality, and apparently drug use (?) (Miss Megan Phelps thinks Heath Ledger was struck down by God, so...).  One family is basically in charge of the whole thing, the Phelpses.  Granddaddy founded the church, Mommy the Minister (one of thirteen children) got arrested in Nebraska* for letting her 8-year-old stomp on the American flag (see?  those flag desecration rules are enforced!!), and Megan Phelps is one of her eleven children.** 

So anyway little Megan made a "parody" of Lady Gaga's Poker Face.  It's called, uh, No Poker Face (surprising it's not Poke Her Face).  I could not stop laughing while watching this thing.

* I have to say, I held it against SVU that their version of the Westboro Church was Nebraskan.  We wouldn't have a church like that.  Neo-Nazis, yes.  Westboro Church, no.

** Look, my grandfather was one of thirteen too.  In the 1900s.
intertribal: (Default)
Long ass story about how I got to this site (and it does not involve my own feelings toward America), but I thought the different laws states have for flag abuse were kind of neat-o.  I can only conclude there are no Bloods in Oklahoma or South Dakota.

The State of Colorado makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor for anyone to burn, cut or tear any U.S. flag in public with the intent to cast contempt or ridicule upon the flag, to outrage the sensibilities of a person likely to observe the incident or to cause a breach of the peace. [Colo. Rev. Stat. Sec. 18-11-204]

The State of Georgia prohibits anyone from mutilating, defacing, defiling, or abusing contemptuously the U.S. flag, the Georgia state flag or the flag of the Confederate States of America. The law also forbids the use of such flags for advertising or publicity purposes. [Ga. Code Ann. Sec. 50-3-8 and 50-3-9]

The State of Kentucky makes it a Class A misdemeanor for anyone to desecrate the U.S. flag, the Kentucky state flag or any other patriotic or religious symbol. [Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. Sec. 525.110]

The State of Montana imposes a fine of up to $50,000 and a jail term up to 10 years on anyone convicted of mutilating, defiling or showing contempt for the U.S. flag or the Montana state flag. The law also forbids the use of such flags for advertising or publicity purposes. [Mont. Code Ann. Sec. 45-8-215]

New Jersey
The State of New Jersey prohibits anyone from desecrating any public monument or symbol, including the U.S. or any state flag. [ N.J. Stat. Ann. Sec. 2C:33-9]

New York
The State of New York makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to use the U.S. flag for advertising or publicity purposes. [N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law Sec. 136]

The State of Oklahoma imposes a fine up to $3,000 and a jail term up to three years for anyone who contemptuously or maliciously burns, mutilates, defaces or tramples upon the U.S. flag. The law forbids the public display of any red flag or other banner indicating disloyalty to the U.S. Government or promoting a belief in anarchy or the destruction of organized government. The law also forbids the use of the U.S. flag for advertising or publicity purposes. [Okla. Stat. tit. 9, Sec. 21-371 through 21-375]

South Dakota
The State of South Dakota makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly mutilate, deface, burn or trample upon the U.S. flag or the South Dakota state flag. The law also forbids the use of such flags for advertising or publicity purposes. The law also bans the display of red, black or any other flags antagonistic to existing government. [S.D. Codified Laws Sec. 22-9-1 through 22-9-13]

West Virginia
The State of West Virginia imposes a fine of between $5 and $100 and a jail term up to 30 days on anyone convicted of publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling or trampling upon the U.S. flag or the West Virginia state flag. The law also forbids the use of such flags for advertising or publicity purposes. [W. Va. Code Sec. 61-1-8]

The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state’s flag-desecration law in 1998 as unconstitutionally overbroad. The case was Wisconsin v. Jansen, 580 N.W.2d 260, 219 Wis.2d 362 (Wis. 1998). Subsequent attempts by the state Legislature to redraft the statute have not succeeded.

Wyoming and Alaska are the only remaining states without a law against desecrating the American flag. Wyoming does have a clause in its state flag code that declares “all penalties provided by the laws of this state for the misuse of the national flag are applicable to the state flag,” but no such penalties seem to exist.
intertribal: (strum strum)
April Gaede, mother of little Aryan pop duo Lynx and Lamb of Prussian Blue, is taking up matchmaking for white nationalists:
Eager to see white folks reproduce, Gaede is touting her services on, the leading white supremacist Web forum. “I am willing to act as a go between, researcher, matchmaker, older sister and guide for any WNs [white nationalists] who are looking for a WN spouse,” she wrote earlier this month. “Only email me if you are serious about finding a spouse or long term partner.”

At 20, Gaede married Kris Lingelser, whom she described as a pot-smoking Icelandic pole vaulter. Although he made for good “Aryan” breeding stock, she claims that their relationship turned violent; they were divorced in the mid-‘90s. Gaede has said her one regret is “the many years that I lost in which I could have produced four to six more children with that ideal eugenic quality that [Lynx and Lamb] possess.”

By 2005, the then-12-year-old twins were wowing white supremacist audience with their sieg heiling and shrill odes to white survival.
Oh, Prussian Blue.  They sure "realize that their main duty is to raise lots of White children."  I saw a guy wearing a Stormfront shirt once in the Black Hills, SD, in the Cosmos Mystery Area.  I'll never know whether that was the Stormfront or not.  I'm guessing probably yes.
intertribal: (so fuck this shit)
- Man, there were a lot of monsters in 480 B.C. Like, serious, Rawhead Rex stuff.* Fangs and goat heads and all that. Look cool though. I'd probably be creeped out in a theater.
- The Persians are definitely way more interesting in design than the Spartans. They've got all the monsters and exotica. Nice fancy bull-head thrones. The Spartans are, well, spartan.
- Yeah, this is pretty racist. Especially considering Frank Miller's comments, yowza. Frank Miller, a black mark on your name. Now I feel bad for liking Sin City.
- Leonidas is definitely a basket-case. Somebody's got a little General Ripper in 'im.
- Was I supposed to find the whole Gorgo stabbing Rapist Guy empowering? I must have missed it.
- The political ideology presented in this movie kind of defies reason. I'm with Roger Moore. This is pretty much the definition of fascist art.
- Cool fight scenes? Sort of.
- Oh fantastic. Now I get to watch Mission Fucking Impossible III.

*: Of all the Clive Barker stories I've read, how is RAWHEAD REX the one I can't get out of my head?
intertribal: (marked)
via [info]nebris at [info]vintagephoto - from Auschwitz through the lens of the SS by the U.S. Holocaust Museum

Nazi officers and female auxiliaries (Helferinnen) run down a wooden bridge in Solahutte. Karl Hoecker is pictured in the center. The original caption reads: "Rain coming from a bright sky." Figuratively "something unexpected".

I find some of the discussion there (at vintagephoto) kind of interesting too.  I'm starting to think I should have a "Nazi" tag.  Ok, done.

two more )
intertribal: (you are the blood)
From the NYTimes "Idea of the Day" blog:

“Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men,” Stephen Marche writes in Esquire. “Not all young straight women, of course, but many, if not most, of them.”

Marche thinks today’s vampire stories — whether their gay themes are implied as in the “Twilight” series or explicit as in HBO’s “True Blood” — are “symptomatic of something much larger: a quiet but profound sexual revolution and a new acceptance of freakiness in mainstream American life.”

So that's why I don't like vampires!  Gee, Esquire, thanks!  I think Joseph Hale has the best comment:

I think it signals a widespread acceptance that people want to have sex with the dead.

I end this post with something completely unrelated - a German artist, Ottmar Hoerl, "is posing 1,250 garden gnomes with their arms outstretched in the stiff-armed Hitler salute in an installation that he calls a protest of lingering fascist tendencies in German society," even though Germany bans the display of Nazi symbols.  A court decided they were "clearly satire."  Hoerl says "the fascist idea, the striving to manipulate people or dictate to people ... is latently dangerous and remains present in our society."  To Hoerl:  you're absolutely right!  And it's not just Germany!

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