intertribal: (leather)
Reading this obituary of Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church --

Fred Waldron Phelps was born in Meridian, Miss., on Nov. 13, 1929. After his mother died of cancer, he was mostly raised by an aunt. His father, a detective for the Southern Railway, was often away on business. He was ordained as a Baptist minister at 17 and bounced around as a street-corner preacher while taking classes at various colleges.

-- made me think that maybe this guy is the all-grown-up version of Francis Tarwater, from Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away.

Truly, would explain a lot.  Don't let the door hit you on your way out, mister.
intertribal: (girl you talk too much / shut up)
Here is a thing that needs to stop:
  1. Girl violates some group norm (usually liking/going after/not repudiating a guy who is "off limits," but this varies).
  2. Group organizes revenge/punitive attack on girl that almost always involves rape.
  3. Girl commits suicide for multiple reasons (shame, hurt, desire for revenge).
  4. Girl becomes horrible, terrifying, evil ghost that picks off group members one by one.*
For one, it perpetuates and universalizes a single narrative/understanding of rape and its consequences - namely, that it is the most horrible thing that can ever be done to a woman, so much so that it actually drives her to kill herself and become a vengeful spirit in order to kill everyone involved in wronging her, like a Lifetime movie on paranormal crack basically - and for two, it is really lazy writing.  I immediately lose interest in any new plot that involves this storyline, although I do retain a reluctant soft spot for Shutter, probably just because it was the first I saw of this type. 

I understand that most Asian horror stories make revenge the driving force, and I understand that most Asian horror stories involve female evil spirits, and that this leads, "obviously," to rape-and-revenge.  It's not unlike the recurring theme in American gaming/comics/fantasy/sci-fi where the strong action heroine has only become strong because she was once raped.  But really: if you must have revenge, and you must have a female evil spirit, there are other paths to take.  Look at the entire Whispering Corridors series, which at least has girls committing suicide and becoming wraiths for other reasons, because of different wrongs.  I would say don't look at all the performance-oriented movies where the big wrong is "you scarred my face!" or "you took my spot as the lead in our girl band!" but at this point, I would rather sit through that kind of a movie than another rape-and-revenge.

* Similar, but distinct: the group kills the girl during or in the immediate aftermath of the attack (c.f. The Maid).  Similar because rape-and-revenge is still an overtone, but distinct because she doesn't actually get any chance to respond to the rape particularly, and she doesn't commit suicide.
intertribal: (girl you talk too much / shut up)
Yes, it's two horror movie reviews!  Not very extensive ones, I'm afraid, but still!

Don't you just hate those movies where dumb Americans go off to some far-off foreign locale and end up getting sacrificed by some deceitful Paganistic locals to some dark and primitive nether-god?  So do I!  And so does The Shrine.  I thought The Shrine was going to be one of those movies until about the 2/3 point, and I kept watching anyway because the acting is decent for a shallow little horror movie and I was curious, despite my distaste for the set-up, about the eventual reveal.  But surprise!  Things are not what you would expect them to be. 

Now none of this is going to change your life.  It's not Candyman or Japanese or anything.  It would be a great entry in the After Dark Horror Fest or a great episode of Masters of Horror or Fear Itself, if those shows were still alive.  A neat little short story.  A worthy contribution to horror as fun schlock.

Absentia is a strange beast, completely lacking in horror movie context and almost directionless.  The characters and setting are great, and refreshing for horror - two young adult sisters (one a former drug addict and one pregnant) just muddling through life in working class California.  Nothing glamorous.  The pregnant one has a husband who's been missing for seven years, and is declaring him dead in absentia.  She's also having horrible "lucid dreams" about him.  The former drug addict has now found Jesus.  You think it's setting up to be a demonic possession type thing.  It's not.  Really, really not.

This one feels much less put together than The Shrine.  It is flawed.  And considering what it turns out to be about - the tone is bizarre, subdued and unsettling and sad, something more befitting a ghost story perhaps.  But I feel like Absentia is both going for and accomplishes more, emotionally/intellectually, than The Shrine.  Probably because I am a sucker for horror movies that try to be artsy and sensitive.  But there really is something here, particularly about the rationalizations we tell ourselves about people that go missing. 

Both on Netflix Watch Instantly. 
intertribal: (where would you go if the gun fell in yo)
I'm getting ready to write a story about self-immolation (what a great opening line that is) so I've been doing a lot of research on that, but I hadn't run across this.

At my internship I'm making this enormous insane database of internal conflict/collective violence in Indonesia since the beginning of the year, with columns like "# Houses Burned" and "Types of Arms Used" and "Army Deployed?" (you would be alarmed by how much of it there is), and this requires reading lots and lots of Indonesian newspaper articles that pertain, even vaguely, to the topic.  The latest one, an argument that these small conflicts are beginning to threaten national security, mentions Sondang Hutagalung, a 22-year-old law student (son of a taxi driver) who self-immolated a few months before his planned graduation in front of the Palace of Independence as part of a campaign against government corruption/graft:

From here (note the picture):
“Time for change, remember Tunisia, dissolve the legislature,” Rakrian Yoga said in his Twitter feed, alluding to the death of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi from self-immolation, which sparked the Tunisian revolution that led to the ouster of the country’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Bung Karno University will grant an honorary bachelor’s degree to him. 

“A number of public figures and organizations suggested granting the honorary bachelor’s degree,” university deputy rector Daniel Panda said on Sunday in Jakarta as quoted by tempo.co.  He added that the granting of the degree should not been taken as encouragement for other students to do the same thing. 

“As an academic, I hope there will be no repeat of such a measure. There are other options. This is a too high a sacrifice.”
I had no idea that such things were happening in Indonesia - it is not a "tradition" here (see here).  We burn buildings and get shot by the military, but political suicide is not a thing.  I suspect the "remember Tunisia" line is key.  You always wonder about precedent though (in May - in an apparently completely unrelated, random incident - a 69-year-old Dutch citizen self-immolated in front of the Dutch embassy in Jakarta, but he apparently thought that the police were in collusion with the Balinese mafia and trying to chase him).  It is interesting also that Sondang was a devout Christian who always accompanied his mother to church.  A couple months later his girlfriend tried to kill herself out of personal grief, by overdosing on anti-malaria pills in front of his grave. 

This song was playing on my iTunes while I was reading about this:

intertribal: (i could never speak anyway)
Years ago, while interning in Surabaya, I read an op-ed titled "Tremble, Burn, Die."  It was about terrorism - Indonesian newspapers like to take dramatic license with their titles - but the title stuck with me, and I planned to use it as the title of a hypothetical final book in a hypothetical "Nusantara" series about Americans in Indonesia that I would hypothetically someday write.  It was going to be the big, crashing finale to what would have been a slow burn in the previous two books - when the forces of democratization, terrorism, and natural disasters are finally unleashed (and a former human-rights-violating-general sings a love song at an independence day party -> based on something I witnessed, btw).  Not that I've written any of this, of course.  It lives on the back burner.

I'm in Indonesia again, Jakarta this time, and last night talking to my uncle I was struck by how many times he mentioned people burning things down.  "People are out of control," he said, "and they just want to burn everything.  Even the governor's house, in Papua."  The Lady Gaga concert that got cancelled?  An Islamic fundamentalist group threatened to gather dozens of people from around the region and burn down the stadium if it went on - and the cops backed down.  Companies leaving Indonesia?  "When the workers want to raise the minimum wage, they just get people together to burn down the factory." 

It's creepy.  Everyone here has decided that Indonesia lacks strong leadership, all but wishing for the days of Suharto - my other uncle (who I hadn't seen since literally the mid-90s, and it turns out he's awesome, so that's cool) - was like, "Yeah, that is the sadness of Indonesia, that the people need a leader that is pretty much a dictator."  It's what made my dad so depressed about the country.  Speaking of my dad, apparently someone at the Jakarta Post knows who he is and thinks it's sad that he died and his ideas were ahead of his time.  His thesis posited that Indonesia needed to build a middle class to challenge authoritarian rule.  I wonder now if he lost faith in that solution.

Looking at the article again, this is where the title comes from, by the way: an Afghan poet named Khalilullah Khalili: "Out of pain and sorrow destiny has molded me. What, alas, has been my joy from the cup of life? Like a candle burning in the blowing wind, I tremble, I burn, I die."
intertribal: (i want love)
Fata Morganas (responsible for "The Flying Dutchman," UFOs, etc., named for Morgan Le Fay): "Fata Morgana mirages tremendously distort the object or objects which they are based on, such that the object often appears to be very unusual, and may even be transformed in such a way that it is completely unrecognizable."

For example:
In 1818, Sir John Ross was on a voyage which was an attempt to discover the long-sought-after Northwest Passage. Ross's ship reached Lancaster Sound in Canada. The Northwest Passage was straight ahead, but John Ross did not go in that direction because he saw, or thought he saw, in the distance, a land mass with mountains, which he believed made going any further simply impossible. He named the mountain range of this supposed land mass "Crocker Mountains". He gave up and returned to England, despite the protests of several of his officers, including First Mate William Edward Parry and Edward Sabine.  The account of his voyage, published a year later, brought to light their disagreement, and the ensuing controversy over the existence of Crocker Mountains ruined his reputation. Just a year later William Edward Parry was able to sail further west, through those non-existent mountains.

Ross's second mistake was to name the apparent mountain range after the First Secretary of the Admiralty. Naming what was in fact a mirage after such a high official cost Sir John Ross dearly: he was refused ship and money for his subsequent expeditions, and was forced to use private funding instead.

By an odd coincidence, during a 1906 expedition 88 years after Ross's expedition, Robert Peary gave the name Crocker Land to a land mass which he believed he saw in the distance, northwest from the highest point of Cape Thomas Hubbard, which is situated in what is now the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. Peary named the apparent land mass after the late George Crocker of the Peary Arctic Club. Peary estimated the landmass to be 130 miles away, at about 83 degrees N, longitude 100 degrees W.

In 1913, Donald Baxter MacMillan organised the Crocker Land Expedition which set out to reach and explore Crocker Land. On 21 April the members of the expedition saw what appeared to be a huge island on the north-western horizon. As MacMillan later said, "Hills, valleys, snow-capped peaks extending through at least one hundred and twenty degrees of the horizon.”

Piugaattoq, a member of the expedition and a Inuit hunter with 20 years of experience of the area, explained that this was just an illusion. He called it "poo-jok", which means mist. However MacMillan insisted that they press on, despite the fact that it was late in the season and the sea-ice was breaking up. For five days they went on, following the mirage, until on 27 April, having covered some 125 miles (201 km) of dangerous sea-ice, MacMillan was forced to admit that Piugaattoq was right. Crocker Land was in fact a mirage, probably a Fata Morgana.

Song for tonight (for the line "I still dream of Dad.  Though he died."  Although today I was dreaming mostly about Silent Hill and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, of all fucked up combinations):

intertribal: (this land)
He was one of the very few "YA" authors whose books I liked as a middle-schooler.  Also some of the first sci-fi and fantasy I read.  Interstellar Pig was assigned by an English teacher in 7th grade.  I read several others (Blackbriar, I sort of remember).  The one that made the most impact on me, though, was The Beasties, because of the whole pro-"monsters" angle.  I should re-read it, in fact.

Apparently he died in Thailand
intertribal: (black tambourine)
Sometimes I think my definition of "dark" isn't in line with other people's.

I recently finished Alan Heathcock's short story collection, Volt.  I bought it on the basis of the first story.  "The Staying Freight" is fantastic, by the way.  It's definitely on my very short list of favorite short stories, and is more pathos-ridden than the others on the list.  It's about a farmer named Winslow who accidentally runs over his only child with farm equipment, and then after the funeral decides that he must take a walk.  Though he keeps thinking that it's time to turn around and go home to his wife Sadie, he can't quite bring himself to do it, and soon he ends up on the wrong side of a mountain range.  He goes feral for a while, and when he tries to re-enter civilization by working on a stranger's farm he ends up becoming a sideshow freak, the man who can take a punch to the gut and not go down.  And it's really quite awful, especially because you can see inside Winslow and you can see that this is all he thinks he deserves, even though what he wants, by then, is to go back to Sadie.  It hit all the right notes for me, plucked all the right heart strings.  I thought it was wrenching.

With later stories, though, my emotional engagement went down.  I didn't connect to any other characters as much as I did to Winslow and Sadie, and their stories and philosophies and visions of the world started to sound the same.  I got a little bored.  A lot of reviewers seem to like Helen Farraley, the grocer-cum-sheriff, but I disliked her; she read to me as a remorseless vigilante cloaked in self-righteousness and astonishing amounts of self-pity.  She's unambiguously cast as a hero, though, toiling against a chaotic world, and although that world is full of murder and vandalism and animal-killings and vestiges of war, I never bought that this was a world any darker than the average Law & Order: SVU.  Heathcock gives his favorite characters a lot of dignity and "basic decency" (not a bad thing).  Bad people are few and far between.  Everyone gets redeemed (though their descents are not very deep).  The only story that I felt really got as strange as "The Staying Freight" was the Grey Gardens-esque "The Daughter," my second-favorite.  In the others you basically have decent folks having to deal with criminals and death and life's normal disappointments with a "traditional Midwestern" stoicism, and it all just got kind of hum-drum.  

So it's weird to see so many people comment on the grimness and darkness of Volt.  I was expecting another Blood Meridian based on the reviews.  "Abysmal world"?  The "grim, rural town of Krafton"?  "Macabre ill-luck"?  Macabre?  Really?  It baffles me because Volt is not gothic in any way.  The universe in Volt is a basically good one.  Save for the ones in "The Daughter," no character even feels anything so ugly as hate!  Here's the only negative review of Volt on Amazon: "revolting, reviling, unutterably bleak, and pointless.  I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy and some of his novels, and Flannery O'Connor came to mind, her "grotesque" characters. There's no question that this author has talent, however not as much as either of the above, I just wish he'd find something more palatable to write about."  I almost can't believe this reviewer has read McCarthy or O'Connor if they think there's any comparison here.  Roald Dahl is darker than Volt.

I thought of this again when reading about the Wall Street journal article lamenting that YA fiction is too dark.  YA authors and editors immediately leapt to the defense of the YA books that they perceived to be under attack.  I have never understood the appeal of YA or even the definition of YA since its most vigorous proponents seem to be adults, but anyway.  My general reaction to this article and all the commentary that followed was "content does not make for darkness."  The presence of profanity doesn't make a book "dark" to me (just a book with characters who use profanity).  Neither does having a character get beaten or raped or killed.  If it's an "issue book" then that applies doubly so, because then the whole point is to be an after-school special (maybe rated R; adults have their own after-school specials). 

So I've been trying to figure out what makes a book "dark" for me, and I think it's world view.  That may not be the right word, but it's the best I can do right now.  My usual example is McCarthy's The Road vs. Anything Else He's WrittenThe Road horrified a ton of people, some of them Oprah's book club readers, some not, because it depicts the end of the world, cannibal tribes, people roasting babies, basically everyone being dead, the sea being black, etc.  But the whole point of The Road is the idea of "carrying the fire" despite the over-the-top desolation of the world around you, of this Christ-like little boy who neither dies nor ever compromises his virtuous qualities.  When I read this book I was like "???" because the first thing I read by McCarthy was The Crossing, which features no Christ-like characters, and a main character who, while not a bad guy, spends the last scene being abusive to a dog that needs his help, then feeling bad about it, wanting to make it up to the dog, and then being unable to find the dog.  There's no apocalypse, no over-the-top violence (compared to The Road, anyway), but I found it way more painful to read.  The Road presents a stark vision of virtue and destruction that I don't find grim or dark at all, despite all the violence.  The Crossing, though, I find grim.  Genuinely dark. 

This is not to say that I think even "real" darkness guarantees merit.  I don't.  "The Staying Freight" is neither "really" dark nor pretending to be, ends on a note of hope, and is great.  But fiction with "surface-level" darkness does seem to be in these days (though I don't know if that's what Heathcock's trying to write - probably not).  Some people respond to it and extol it, usually as reflecting reality and truth and "what the world is really like" (or in the case of The Road, it's "what the world will be like after the government is taken out"), and what seems to be a minority really object to it on grounds that it's depraved or whatnot.  And I wish more people would read The Violent Bear It Away.
intertribal: (black tambourine)
Okay, laughing a bit at all the people vigorously claiming that AMC's The Killing isn't a Twin Peaks rip-off.  Granted, it's a remake of a Danish show that I haven't seen, so either the Danish show is ripping off Twin Peaks and the American show is ripping off a rip off, or the American show is ripping off Twin Peaks all by itself.  Yes, there's the ridiculously ripped-off tagline, but the point of no return for me was the scene where the dead girl's father finds out that his daughter is dead while he's on the phone with his wife, who's at home in the kitchen.  It is sad and dramatic (the dad does the whole Mystic River thing, the mother is screaming at home).  But it felt so very "done before" to me because, look:


That scene (with Grace Zabriskie as the mother) was sort of the defining moment in Twin Peaks' pilot, and I could not believe that The Killing did something so similar.

So when I read reviews like "What really stands out for me, in this age of cookie-cutter procedurals, is how The Killing dramatizes the devastation a violent death has on a family, a community, on the people involved in the investigation" and "not as much about a young girl's murder as it is a psychological study of what happens afterward, how a tight-knit community tries to recover and how a dead child's mother, father and siblings learn to deal with their pain in their own private ways" my reaction is, have you seen Twin Peaks?  I get that two shows can be aiming to do something similar but not only is the approach the same, it's practically the same dead water-logged high school girl, secret life and flings with the town's most powerful grown men and BFF and inconstant boyfriend and all.  But no demon.  Which is a shame.

Cuz it's the tone of The Killing that really sets it apart from Twin Peaks.  It's basically Twin Peaks minus the humor and minus the supernatural.  It's all grim, all the time, with no moments of insanity or absurdity.  I do like the lead actress and the subversive undercover cop (the closest thing this show has to a break from the mundane, grim norm), and it's certainly not bad in any technical way, but it's nothing special.  Twin Peaks is special, and it's actually its particular supernatural trappings that make it so.  Randomly inserting people that happen to be vampires and werewolves clearly does nothing for a show; what I mean by supernatural trappings is Twin Peaks' embrace of the truly not-natural and not-normal and not-scientifically-objective, the "half light" in between spaces and times and states of consciousness/rationality, if you will.  And that stuff is not uniformly anything.  It's definitely not uniformly gloomy.  Like the dreams and the death omens and love and unusual ways of grieving and people who talk to inanimate objects and fish-coffee and secret government projects and inhabiting spirits all that "other" crap that's a part of human experience and human understanding.  Watching Twin Peaks was like finding a kindred spirit, for me.

On the other hand, I was watching Luther the other day - a BBC show with only six episodes in its first season - and while it doesn't have the same sort of prestige touch as The Killing and has been received poorly by the British press, it's the more interesting crime show IMO.  For one, it has Idris Elba as the lead (and yes, this is the main reason I started watching).  For two, it has a serial killer named Alice Morgan who's the self-described matter-destroying black hole to Elba's bright sun.  She kills her parents in the first episode but because there's no proof she's free to go, and she's like this recurring narcissistic ghoul that sort of tries to help Idris Elba's character resolve his personal problems but goes about everything very badly - Alice is great.  My favorite episode was the fourth, and actually it wasn't either of them that made that episode - it was Nicola Walker, who played the wife of a man she thinks is a recovering small-time crook but is actually a serial killer.  The scene where she finds out what her husband's done in a police investigation room is great in a way that Grace Zabriskie's Twin Peaks scene is great, though of course with very different emotions on display.  And Nicola Walker's ending... well, you can see what she does in this fanvid, although it doesn't do her justice.  She was a great emotional pivot.
intertribal: (Default)
Last night I was researching Iris Chang (the writers who committed suicide page is always interesting!), a Chinese-American journalist-cum-historian who got noticed when she published The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.  She wrote in her introduction that at a conference on the Nanking Massacre, she was "suddenly in a panic that this terrifying disrespect for death and dying, this reversion in human social evolution, would be reduced to a footnote of history, treated like a harmless glitch in a computer program that might or might not again cause a problem, unless someone forced the world to remember it."  It was an emotional response and an emotional book that was criticized by historians but was a bestseller in the U.S.  Chang was researching her next book - another account of another group of people victimized by the Japanese in WWII, the U.S. soldiers who were forced to participate in the Bataan Death March - when she suffered a break of some kind, was put on anti-depressants, and killed herself three months later.  

Chang immediately reminded me of Sarah Kane, the English playwright whose play Blasted used "extreme and violent stage action" to forge connections between England and Bosnia (Kane wrote "The logical conclusion of the attitude that produces an isolated rape in England is the rape camps in Bosnia and the logical conclusion to the way society expects men to behave is war"), whose personal despair was posthumously linked to a sort of global despair - that she was depressed "because [she sees] the world around [her] and think[s] what an awful place it is." 

But Chang's wikipedia page instead directed me toward Minnie Vautrin.


Vautrin was an American missionary who established and led the Ginling Girls College in Nanking prior to WWII.  During the Japanese invasion she tried to save as many women and children as she could by harboring them in the college ("up to 10,000 women in a college designed to support between 200 and 300") within the Nanking Safety Zone, established by the handful of Westerners in Nanking who stayed behind when the Japanese approached. 

The leader of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, interestingly, was a German businessman for Siemens AG, John Rabe.  He was a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party, and was elected leader for that very reason (the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact, the Westerners hoped, would give him extra leverage).  Rabe wrote "there is a question of morality here... I cannot bring myself for now to betray the trust these people have put in me, and it is touching to see how they believe in me."  His efforts to delay the Japanese to allow Chinese civilians to escape were credited with saving the lives of 200,000 to 250,000.  When he returned to Germany in 1938 he showed photo and video evidence of atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in Berlin, and wrote to Hitler himself asking him to get the Japanese to stop.  The letter never reached Hitler, Rabe was interrogated by the Gestapo, and ordered not to speak about the subject again.  After the war he was arrested by the Russians and the British for being a Nazi, but declared de-Nazified in 1946.  He and his family lived in poverty thereafter until his death in 1950, sustained by food and money parcels sent by the Chinese government.  His tombstone was relocated from Berlin to Nanjing.  An interesting flip-example is Chiune Sugihara, Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania during WWII who wrote travel visas on his own initiative to enable 6,000 Jewish refugees to escape death at the hands of Soviets and Nazis via transit through Japan - "an extraordinary act of disobedience."  He hand-wrote visas for 18-20 hours a day, wrote them all night before his departure when the consulate was closed, and was still writing them as his train pulled out of the station, throwing them into the refugee crowd gathered outside.  The Simon Wiesenthal Center, however, notes that these 6,000 were heads of household who were allowed to take their families, and therefore considers Sugihara to have saved about 40,000 - he and his family were granted permanent Israeli citizenship.  As his train left the station he said to the crowd, "please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best."

Back to Minnie Vautrin, who stayed in Nanking until 1940.  All she had was the somewhat less powerful American flag, but she went back and forth to the Japanese Embassy to get papers banning soldiers from committing crimes in overcrowded Ginling College (papers that were subsequently torn up by the soldiers themselves).  After the siege, "She even helped the women locate husbands and sons who had been taken away by the Japanese soldiers. She taught destitute widows the skills required to make a meager living and provided the best education her limited sources would allow to the children in desecrated Nanking."  Vautrin wrote in her diary - both her diary and Rabe's were discovered by Iris Chang - "I suspect every house in the city has been opened, again and yet again, and robbed. Tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out 'Jiu ming! Jiu ming!'—save our lives."  Vautrin's diary, which I've read a little of (555 pages of her papers are available from the Yale Divinity School), consists of her running around the campus beating back Japanese soldiers with her presence alone: "Went up to South Hill three times I think, then to the back campus and then was frantically called to the old Faculty House where I was told two soldiers had gone upstairs.  There, in room 538, I found one standing at the door, and one inside already raping a poor girl.  My letter from the Embassy and my presence sent them running out in a hurry - in my wrath I wish I had the power to smite them in their dastardly work."  Days later she wrote, "The days seem interminable and each morning you wonder how you can live through the day; twelve hours." 

Vautrin was "unnerved" by the war.  Seeing doctors at home in the U.S., she "blamed herself... and added that she was a burden and a failure." She felt "responsible for not being able to save more lives."  She had written in late December 1937, "The looting of our residence has been light and even that would not have taken place if I could have been in about four places at one time.  Our looting, therefore, is all to be blamed on me, because I have been too slow!"  She killed herself in 1941.  The idea that Vautrin was a failure who had not done enough seems totally ludicrous.  Who among us would have stayed in Nanking if we didn't have to, let alone commit to trying to save tens of thousands of people at the risk of death-by-bayonet?  Without even a weapon?  And yet: a failure.

She reminds me of Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian Force Commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the genocide.  He had asked the UN for more assistance - the UN said no, because the US said no, and the last Belgian troops (Belgium had colonized the Congo, and was as such the de facto "babysitter") withdrew, leaving Dallaire's peacekeepers to try to stave off killings alone - an impossible task, although he is credited with saving 32,000 people.  Dallaire now suffers from PTSD.  He was dismissed from the army because he was not responding to treatment and "was trying to kill himself through work."  He has tried to commit suicide - because "After Rwanda, Dallaire blamed himself for everything."  He says, "I failed, yes. The mission failed. They died by the thousands, hundreds of thousands."  Again - he failed?  

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, the news is too depressing, so we need something to escape to, some way to shut our eyes and keep ourselves from even being witness.  We stigmatize mental illness.  We live "Fitter, Happier" lives - "concerned (but powerless)."  "(The ability to laugh at weakness)."

 
intertribal: (baby got a nobel prize)
What I immediately thought of after I heard The Big News (I was watching Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, which did not cut away to any breaking news report, so I heard it from fengi on LJ first) was "what now."  Is the war on terror over?  I think your answer to that depends on what you think "causes" terrorism, or why you think terrorism exists.  By this measure I figure that moderates are most likely to think the war on terror is over.  A crime/offense took place (9/11), we had to go after the person responsible (Bin Laden), and now that person is dead - the end.  Justice is served, the slate has been washed clean, now we can start over with "peaceful dialog" (this was a comment on the NYT... made me laugh, I had to say, the idea that enemy death -> peaceful dialog.  Trying to imagine Bin Laden saying that after 9/11, you know, like, "well, now that the towers have fallen, I hope we can have a peaceful dialog with you guys."  What an empty gesture). 

But the right isn't going to think the war on terror is over - after all, Islamofascism still exists, and that causes terrorism, and until the entire religion is wiped out, terrorists will still exist, and we will still be at risk.  And the left isn't going to think the war on terror is over - because military, political, and economic policies that encourage terrorism either directly (funding terrorists) or indirectly (blowback) will continue, so terrorism will continue.  From a long-term view, it's hard to believe "terrorism" will ever be vanquished.  Guerrilla warfare will never be vanquished either.  It's a strategy of waging asymmetric warfare, not a cult.  But I guess the moderates will have a field year speculating about what this means for Obama's re-election and we'll be throwing around words like "murderous militant" and "enemy of democracy" (this was from one of Nebraska's representatives, Lee Terry.  I really doubt Lee Terry has a firm understanding of what democracy actually is, based on this statement), etc.  The domestic political scientists and politicians and pundits will be going nuts pretending they have any clue what goes on internationally in their efforts to forecast What This Means For America, and this isn't a conversation I'm really interested in.

So this is pretty much Anti-Climax of the century, for me.  Hadn't we all moved past this, in our justification of Iraq and Afghanistan?  Hadn't we all adopted new excuses: liberating women, liberating civilians from dictators, spreading democracy, making the world safe - and then, fixing what we broke?  I thought that good old revenge was already off the table.  But now we're back to Square 1, apparently, and in U.S. history books of the future the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a few long paragraphs, no more than a textbook page, under the title Response to 9/11.  Then maybe whatever happens next - wherever we go next, in our war on terror - will be under the next entry, another few paragraphs.  Hundreds of thousands of people killed: the "response." 

Also, I've read some comments that the U.S. turned itself into a monster in order to respond to 9/11, but I don't know about that.  I think it's a nice fantasy, that America was some kind of stoic Lady Liberty prior to 9/11 and then was transformed into Hel the Hag by a massive act of violence, good girl gone bad.  But it's hard to say that after reading a book like Overthrow or Shock Doctrine.  Foreigners have been waking up to find themselves in secret torture cells with a CIA agent for decades.  Let's not forget that, even though it would be easier to.  It is frightening, really frightening, to look at the news in the context of the history of U.S. foreign policy.  Maybe that's why a lot of political scientists don't like to do it.

So, anyway: some historic-centric links.

Juan Cole: I was also dismayed by the propagandistic way the White House promoted its war on and then occupation of Iraq. They only had two speeds, progress and slow progress. A big bombing that killed hundreds was "slow progress."... I think if Bush had gone after Bin Laden as single-mindedly as Obama has, he would have gotten him, and could have rolled up al-Qaeda in 2002 or 2003. Instead, Bush’s occupation of a major Arab Muslim country kept a hornet’s nest buzzing against the US, Britain and other allies.

Chris Hedges (that paragraph about the empathy the US received after 9/11 is incredibly true, and incredibly sad, in retrospect): 
The flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

I was in the Middle East in the days after 9/11. And we had garnered the empathy of not only most of the world, but the Muslim world who were appalled at what had been done in the name of their religion. And we had major religious figures like Sheikh Tantawy, the head of al-Azhar – who died recently – who after the attacks of 9/11 not only denounced them as a crime against humanity, which they were, but denounced Osama bin Laden as a fraud … someone who had no right to issue fatwas or religious edicts, no religious legitimacy, no religious training. And the tragedy was that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are.

We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence. What were the explosions that hit the World Trade Center, huge explosions and death above a city skyline? It was straight out of Hollywood. When Robert McNamara in 1965 began the massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, he did it because he said he wanted to “send a message” to the North Vietnamese—a message that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.  These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation—the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed.
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
Don't Be Afraid of Becoming a Pilot!
The risk for pilots appears to be high, for instance from aircraft incidents or accidents. Is this really a realistic reason for parents to be afraid of their children becoming pilots? The risks are relative. I myself have been involved in an aircraft accident, but I am still alive.
Any article from Indonesian Aviation, you should take with a big ol' spoonful of salt. 
intertribal: (baby got a poison gas)
Mt. Erebus, Earth's southernmost volcano, on Ross Island, Antarctica:


The mountain was named after a ship in the British Royal Navy, the HMS Erebus.  The HMS Erebus was named after an ancient Greek "personification of darkness and shadow, which filled in all the corners and crannies of the world," or maybe the lower half of the underworld.  The ship went to the Antarctic in 1840 under Captain James Ross.  The island the mountain sits on is named after the captain, and the mountains are named after his ships, Erebus and Terror.  After studying the Ross Ice Shelf, magnetism, oceanography, and Antarctic ornithology, the two ships went to the opposite pole in 1845 under Captain Sir John Franklin.  That expedition didn't end so well.  The ships became moored in the ice, were abandoned, and later boarded by Inuits looking for copper.  Their wrecks haven't been found, but people are still searching for them.


Man Proposes, God Disposes, by Edwin Landseer (1864)

Air New Zealand Flight 901, a sightseeing flight that crashed on the slopes of Mt. Erebus on November 28, 1979, killing all 257:


Edmund Hillary, Mr. Everest and a New Zealand native, was scheduled to act as a guide on the flight.  He had to cancel to do a speaking tour in the U.S., and his good friend Peter Mulgrew filled in for him.  It was the second time he narrowly missed dying in a plane crash - in 1960 he was supposed to be on TWA Flight 266, but was late.  His first wife and daughter did not share his luck, as they died in a plane crash in Kathmandu in 1975.  In 1989, Edmund Hillary and Peter's widow June, both having lost their spouses to plane crashes, got married.  


Edmund Hillary with an airplane he used to explore Antarctica

The Air New Zealand flight crew were used to flying along the open water of McMurdo Sound, so they had dropped to 2,000 feet (technically, flights were not supposed to descend below 6,000 feet, but the Air New Zealand sightseeing flights violated this rule regularly to provide better views).  They did not realize that the coordinates had been adjusted earlier that morning to take them over Mt. Erebus - the briefing the pilots attended earlier in the month included copies of the old flight plan, and amazingly they were never directly told that the plan had changed.  The Mt. Erebus path would have been protested as too dangerous by U.S. Air Traffic Control, and Justice Mahon argued later there had been a deliberate attempt by Air New Zealand to cover it up - rather than latitude and longitude, the computer program simply displayed "McMurdo" as the final destination.  Mt. Erebus is 12,448 feet high.

On top of the new coordinates/flight path, the flight experienced a "sector whiteout" when the automated computer system took the airplane toward Mt. Erebus.  The ground was completely covered with snow; the overcast clouds were entirely white.  Through optical illusion, the horizon disappeared and the mountain became invisible.  The plane disintegrated upon impact.
 

The recovery effort was named Operation Overdue.  Workers camped on the mountain beside the wreckage, struggling on 12 hour shifts to recover all human remains - from under the fuselage, under the wings.  The bodies were covered in "black human grease" from burns and the workers became covered in this grease as well.  Inspector Jim Morgan led the mortuary team:
The Skua gulls were eating the bodies in front of us, causing us much mental anguish as well as destroying the chances of identifying the corpses. We tried to shoo them away but to no avail, we then threw flares, also to no avail. Because of this we had to pick up all the bodies/parts that had been bagged and create 11 large piles of human remains around the crash site in order to bury them under snow to keep the birds off. To do this we had to scoop up the top layer of snow over the crash site and bury them, only later to uncover them when the weather cleared and the helos were able to get back on the site.  [...]

After we had almost completed the mission, we were trapped by bad weather and isolated. At that point, NZPO2 and I allowed the liquor that had survived the crash to be given out and we had a party (macabre, but we had to let off steam).
These workers suffered post-traumatic stress.  16 bodies were not identifiable and the bodies of 28 passengers were never found. 


The official accident report, not surprisingly, blamed pilot error.  It is always easier to blame dead pilots.  Public outcry led to a one-man inquiry by Justice Peter Mahon, who accused Air New Zealand of "an orchestrated litany of lies."  However, Air New Zealand appealed these findings to avoid having to pay damages.  Air New Zealand didn't deny Mahon's conclusion as to the cause of the crash - the new flight plan and the bad weather, not pilot error - but objected that there had been no conspiracy, no cover-up.  The Privy Council agreed with Air New Zealand.  However, Mahon received a posthumous Jim Collins Memorial Award for "exceptional contributions to air safety." 

The doomed airplane had only just returned to service.  It was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and in May of that same year another DC-10 had crashed in Chicago, killing 271 - the deadliest air crash on U.S. soil - resulting in DC-10s being grounded around the world.  In the early 1970s, two DC-10s had been in accidents because of the faulty design of its cargo door (A/N: these two accidents and those cargo doors were the basis of the plane crash in my story "Everything Dies, Baby").  The FAA, which has closer ties to the airline industry than the NTSB, bailed out McDonnell Douglas in those earlier incidents.  Although the 1979 accidents had nothing to do with McDonnell Douglas or the DC-10's design, the public reputation of the DC-10 bottomed out.  Sales of the airplane never recovered.  But in 1989 - the year Edmund Hillary and June Mulgrew got married - another DC-10 crash-landed without one engine or any flight controls in a dramatic fire ball that nonetheless only killed 111 out of 296.  In this case, "experts praised the DC-10's sturdy construction as partly responsible for the high number of survivors."  This latest crash, in a corn field off a highway in Iowa, served as inspiration for Peter Weir's movie Fearless.  The DC-10 continues to fly under a new name, the MD-10.  McDonnell Douglas has merged with Boeing.

Sightseeing flights in Antarctica stopped after the Mt. Erebus Disaster.  Air New Zealand has never resumed them but Qantas picked it up again in 1994, through Croydon Travel.  On their New Year's Eve flight passengers sing "Auld Lang Syne" and dance to a live jazz band as they become the first people to see the new year sun. 


In 2009, thirty years after the crash, Air New Zealand apologized to the families of the victims who did not receive adequate "support and compassion" from Air New Zealand, and paid respects to the pilots that they had initially blamed.  CEO Rob Fyfe said:
For many, flight still has that element of magic, a sense of awe, that promise of reaching out to explore new worlds and a sense of adventure. And so it was for the crew and passengers of flight TE901, that set off to fly over the amazing Antarctic wonderland almost 30 years ago...

We are exposed to risk every day of our lives and aviation is no exception. Despite the enormous efforts taken to minimise the risk associated with flying we cannot eliminate risk completely and occasionally, very occasionally, accidents occur.
The occasion was the unveiling of a sculpture commemorating the crash, called "Momentum."  "Momentum" is also associated with the crash of another Air New Zealand flight in the Mediterranean the year before, which killed all 7 on board.  The Mediterranean crash occurred in the morning of November 28, 2008 - exactly 29 years after the crash on Mt. Erebus.  It stands at Air New Zealand's head office in Auckland.  Prime Minister John Key also spoke at the event:
"The Air New Zealand crew who perished on Mt Erebus had been especially chosen. The passengers who travelled with them were also exceptional. They displayed the kind of curiosity, boldness and bravery that sets New Zealanders apart from the rest of the world [A/N: Japanese, American, British, Canadian, Australian, French, and Swiss citizens were also on board].

Today's ceremony provides an opportunity to honour those people who died in these two accidents. I hope that this quivering sculpture that signifies the fragility and beauty of air travel, will go some way to assuage the grief anger and sadness at the terrible waste of human potential."
"Momentum" isn't the only memorial for Flight 901.  A stainless steel cross stands on Mt. Erebus above Scott Base, and a memorial for the unidentified is at Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland, where the unidentified remains are buried.  Next to the memorial is a Japanese cherry tree planted by the Japanese Bereaved Family Erebus Society.  Auckland Airport hosts a memorial for the crew with the words "This garden is your special place."  Special stained glass windows are part of the St. Matthew's in the City Church and St. Stephen's Church.  In January 2010, victims' relatives placed a sculpted Koru by the cross on Mt. Erebus - the Koru is filled with letters written by the relatives.  Philip Gibbs, the chaplain who presided over this latest memorial service remembers: "Living in such a place, hardly affected by humans, I developed a strong sense of the sacred in the immensity of the natural environment. Could its magnificence hide secrets of the cosmological beginnings of space, matter and time?  In the silence of the icy continent, the creative Word calls forth life as it has done for eons. The southern continent resists human intervention."


"May the grace of Antarctica’s stillness be yours, the grace of its beauty and vastness be yours,
to enlighten your dreams, to open your spirit to eternity, until the angels of light awaken you." - Philip Gibbs

"During the Antarctic summer, snow melt on the flanks of Mount Erebus continually brings debris from the crash to the surface of the snow; it is plainly visible from the air."

ETA: For those interested in a documentary, Flight 901 to Erebus is pretty good (though dated).
intertribal: (baby got a nobel prize)
Tim Hetherington, the conflict photographer who directed Restrepo, was killed in Misrata, Libya (along with many Libyans).

Cue some genuinely asinine comments by people suggesting that Restrepo is "sedition" because war doesn't need to be shared, and Hetherington got what he asked for and "it's hard to feel much grief for those who walk in to harms way when there is no need to do so" (pity only goes out to soldiers killed in war, not people who are there just to make "some point").  

If people like those commenters were in charge, there would be no need to worry about the world ever improving.  Conflicts would be hush-hushed and no one would be accountable and people would die and the rest of us would stick our heads in the sand and never, ever stick our necks out for any cause.  Someone replied to these comments asking "would you say the same to John Steinbeck, if he were still with us?"  I assume any civilian who tries to document any war is fair game.  Who the hell do they think they are, right?  So fuck you too, Hemingway.
intertribal: (baby got a nobel prize)
This is why racism remains a "thing" in my novel, which is post-apocalyptic (and I don't even have the apocalypse coming from across borders - it's just part of social organization in Junction Rally, as it has been for all its years of existence).  The Yellow Plague: Asians and Asian Americans in Post-Apocalyptic and Zombie Fictions by Bao Phi:
But like many brands of American horror and action genres, popular post-apocalyptic and zombie fictions tend to veer towards straight American male fantasy - many of the fictions and films in the genre operate under the assumption that, if all hell breaks loose, all issues of race, class, and gender are (supposedly) irrelevant compared to basic human survival - and consciously or otherwise, most leaders that emerge in these imagined post-racial scenarios are straight, white alpha males. In the Western pop imagination, there seems to be a desire to wipe the difficult questions of co-existence off the table - and what better way to do that, then to imagine a situation where five to ten random (and mostly white) strangers must fight off mindless brain-hungry hoards while trying to divide the bullets, bacon, and fresh water into equal shares? Where the musings and philosophies of fancy pants artists and social commentators like myself are next to useless?

Let's say that North Korea or China suddenly launched an attack on present-day America, like in the video game Homefront or the upcoming remake of Red Dawn. The popular, traditional white male western narrative would then position a white hero leading a resistance of people against the invaders, and our race wouldn't matter - because we're all Americans right?

No. History has taught us is if that shit went down, and Asians in Asia attacked America, the first people who would be fucked would be Asian Americans. We'd be imprisoned without due process, called traitors, tortured and murdered in the street. And yet none of this is ever explored in post-apocalyptic scenarios where Asians bring about doom. I guarantee you, if a science-project-gone-wrong in North Korea causes zombie apocalypse tomorrow, you can bet it's the Asian Americans who won't be getting their share of beans at the survivalist pot luck.
I think this argument - on the emotional/psychological desire for an apocalypse to "wash away" people and structures you don't like - is perfectly applicable to post-apocalyptic fiction that isn't British and isn't even all that "cozy" (i.e., involves cannibals and zombies and killer flus).  Some of the comments imply it better fits the American model anyway.  Related: "AEnema" by Tool: "Some say we'll see Armageddon soon/ I certainly hope we will/ Learn to swim, see you down in Arizona Bay." Who reads cosy catastrophes? by Jo Walton:
I argued that the cosy catastrophe was overwhelmingly written by middle-class British people who had lived through the upheavals and new settlement during and after World War II, and who found the radical idea that the working classes were people hard to deal with, and wished they would all just go away.

In the classic cosy catastrophe, the catastrophe doesn’t take long and isn’t lingered over, the people who survive are always middle class, and have rarely lost anyone significant to them. The working classes are wiped out in a way that removes guilt.
And from the comments (man, this is so why Zombieland did not work for me):
On a bad day, it could even be secretly, guiltily desirable: all those people who fit so well in the modern world, but didn't know how to deal with *real* change, would be swept away. And the people who knew how to prepare would be vindicated. The reader is implicitly in the category of people who can deal with change, of course, by virtue of having read the book.

The desire to be freed of social constraints and to get fat off humanity's detritus crosses the economic divide.  
Pop Agitprop from Cheap Truth #13, published in the 1980s, a series of scathing reviews by sci-fi authors, of sci-fi authors - I think this gets to the heart of the problem with a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction very well (and is related to that terrible Dodge Ram commercial as well, re: the sheer amount of self-stroking misanthropy that goes into crafting a post-apocalypse):
The gem of this collection is Vernor Vinge's "The Ungoverned," a sequel to his commercially successful novel THE PEACE WAR. In this ideologically correct effort, radical Libertarians defend their realm from an authoritarian army. Thanks to their innate cultural superiority and a series of fraudulent plot Maguffins, they send the baddies packing with a minimum of personal suffering and a maximum of enemy dead.

First, and very characteristically, it is post-apocalyptic, conveniently destroying modern society so that a lunatic-fringe ideology can be installed as if by magic. Vinge avoids extrapolating their effects on society, because society is in shambles.

John Dalmas contributes a decent male-adventure Western. Unfortunately this story pretends to be SF. It is set on yet another colonial planet lapsed into barbarism, a fictional convention that allows SF writers to espouse reactionary social values without a blush of shame.

Dean Ing's recent novel for Tor, WILD COUNTRY, takes a similar tack. This book, the last in a post-apocalypse trilogy, is a meandering series of shoot-'em-ups. Its hero is an assassin. The villain is a gay heroin-smuggler, as if an America devestated by nukes did not have enough problems. Ing's hasty depiction of future society is grossly inconsistent; ravaged and desperate when the plot requires desperadoes, yet rigidly organized when Ing suddenly remembers the existence of computers.

The book is a Western, set in a West Texas conveniently returned to the robust frontier values of Judge Roy Bean. Men hold their land, with lasers if possible, while women raise corn and keep the home fires burning.

The book is speckled with maps, diagrams, and lectures on the Second Amendment, which, one learns, "absolutely and positively, guarantees citizens their right to keep and bear arms."  Like his fellows, Ing treasures this amendment, the last remnant of the American policy that he is willing to respect. There isn't much mention of, say, voting, or separation of powers. Power resides in the barrel of a gun, preferably the largest and shiniest possible.
No We Can't by Hunter (this one is political, but I think it ties in nicely with the apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic, vision, and the desire for this vision to actually happen - thanks to [livejournal.com profile] realthog for linking it):
Past-America could provide at least some modest layer of security to prevent its citizens from descending into destitution in old age; we in this day cannot. Past-America could pursue scientific discoveries as a matter of national pride, even land mankind on an entirely other world; we cannot. Past-America was a haven of invention and technology that shook the world and changed the course of history countless times: whatever attributes made it such a place we cannot quite determine now, much less replicate. Public art is decadent. Public education is an infringement. Public works are for other times, never now.

America of the past could build highways and railroads and a robust electrical grid. We cannot even keep them running. Of course we cannot keep them running: that was past-America. That past America had a magic that we modern Americans cannot match. Perhaps it was beholden to Satan, or to socialism, or merely to some grandiose vision of a better future, one with flying cars or diseases that could actually be cured, with proper application of effort. Whatever the case, past-America was wrong and stupid, and we know better.

We are told all the things America cannot do. We have yet to be told any vision of what we might still be able to do, or what hopes we should still retain, or why our children will be better off than we were, or why we ourselves will be better off than we were a scant few decades ago. Perhaps the very climate of the world will have changed, and the sky will be hotter, or the storms will be bigger, but none of those are things we can do anything about. Perhaps there will be nuclear disasters, or oil spills, or epidemics, or perhaps a city here or a city there will be leveled by some unforeseen catastrophe; we can be assured of it, in fact, but none of those things are things we can expect to respond to better next time than this time. Those are not, we are told, the tasks of a nation.
intertribal: (baby got a poison gas)

Yeah, you clearly love the outdoors.  "I love nature, as long as I'm the only life in it!"  How sad.

As always, from the Koyaanisqatsi-esque "Bring In The Night": "Man is a destroyer.  His is not the joyous, self-confident destruction of the barbarian, nor is it the matter-of-fact and purposeful destruction of a predator fulfilling its natural imperative.  Man's destruction is the sour byproduct of life in dysfunction.  Man's destruction follows the deadly rhythm of life out of balance.  Man destroys his own life while also destroying all life on Earth, neither admitting to his destruction nor even recognizing it.  Man has squandered his powers, and our scorn for him has grown boundless."
intertribal: (something in my eye)
I really liked you, man.  I mean, especially in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, seeing as how you made that movie worth watching.  I memorized all your lines!


"Remember that chap about twenty years ago? I forget his name. Climbed Everest without any oxygen, came down nearly dead. When they asked him, they said why did you go up there to die? He said I didn't, I went up there to live."

"I believe I've spent enough time in the company of death."
intertribal: (Default)
He died on Saturday

He was someone I looked up to, from an academic distance.  I quoted his essay, "American Militarism and Blowback: The Costs of Letting the Pentagon Dominate Foreign Policy" in my thesis: 
  • "The United States is currently the most powerful country in the world, boasting a large, technologically-advanced, and widely stretched military with 800 Department of Defense installations overseas (2002, 25)" and
  • "Johnson, for example, aptly describes the reinforcement of American imperialism through the culture of militarism (2002, 29)" and
  • "Johnson uses the 800 Department of Defense installations the United States has built abroad to argue that the United States has created 'a new form of imperialism' (2002, 25, 28)", and
  • [quoting Johnson directly], "[empire in Japan] was costly to the United States in terms of lost American jobs, destroyed American manufacturing industries […] The American government continued to accept these costs as the price of keeping its empire together" (2002, 27)" and
  • "As Johnson writes, the United States operates 'on the wrong side of history' (2002, 28)."
But by then he was already influential to me, and that alone doesn't describe how much.  He was one of the very few political scientists that felt like "my kind of people" - a security specialist concerned about empire and expansion and militarism (it started with his post-Cold War observations on Okinawa).  When I first read him, I remember thinking "finally!"  Professor Cooley recommended him - and especially his theory of blowback - to everyone.  Johnson on the theory:
"In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes - as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 - the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback."
R.I.P., Chalmers Johnson.

intertribal: (keine lust)
Russell Brice on sherpas and tourist-mountaineers:
The sherpas that are helping us, you see how immensely strong they are, but remember also they are mere mortals, and that they also have families, and that they have lives.  It's not their job to die alongside you because of your ambitions.  If I see that that's going to happen, I'm going to call the sherpas away.  I'll deal with that in court later.  And you'll die.  Because it's not their job to die for you.
Well, this sort of illuminates his seeming decision not to rescue David Sharp.  And considering how devoted this dude is to the sherpas he works with, it is an understandable attitude.  There are definitely some weird socioeconomic dynamics at work here. 

Also, I said it before, and I'll say it again: the sherpas are bad ass.  They've all summitted Everest like ten plus times (whereas an American mountaineer gets a lot of applause if he summits twice), and they're the ones that lay the safety ropes for the tourists (meaning they are not climbing with safety rope).  Insane!  I guess because they live at a high altitude and start climbing Everest when they're children, their bodies are really well-suited to mountain-climbing.  Still.
intertribal: (can't look)

The Temple of Music, 1901

Now that I'm thinking about World's Fairs [it's in Shanghai this year, I have been informed]...  this is the story that I always think of, originally relayed by my History of US Foreign Relations professor. 
President and Mrs. McKinley attended the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York... McKinley had an engagement to greet the public at the Temple of Music. Standing in line, Leon Frank Czolgosz waited with a pistol in his right hand concealed by a handkerchief. At 4:07 p.m. Czolgosz fired twice at the president. The first bullet grazed the president's shoulder. The second, however, went through McKinley's stomach, pancreas, and kidney, and finally lodged in the muscles of his back. The president whispered to his secretary, George Cortelyou “My wife, Cortelyou, be careful how you tell her, oh be careful.” Czolgosz would have fired again, but he was struck by a bystander and then subdued by an enraged crowd. The wounded McKinley even called out "Boys! Don't let them hurt him!" because the angry crowd beat Czolgosz so severely it looked as if they might kill him on the spot.  [source]

Czolgosz's experiences had convinced him there was a great injustice in American society, an inequality which allowed the wealthy to enrich themselves by exploiting the poor. He concluded that the reason for this was the structure of government itself. Then he learned of a European crime which changed his life. On July 29, 1900, King Umberto I of Italy had been shot dead by anarchist Gaetano Bresci. Bresci told the press that he had decided to take matters into his own hands for the sake of the common man.

[Czolgosz's] last words were "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people – the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."  As the prison guards strapped him into the chair, however, he did say through clenched teeth, "I am sorry I could not see my father."  His brain was autopsied by Edward Anthony Spitzka. Sulfuric acid was poured into his coffin so that his body would be completely disfigured, resulting in its decomposition within twelve hours.  His letters and clothes were burned.  [source]
I find all this shit really sad for some reason.  I think it's the combination of "Boys!  Don't let them hurt him!" and "I am sorry I could not see my father" that gets to me - plus, of course, the backdrop of a world's fair. 

It was supposed to be the big hydro-electric expo - hence the lovely appearance of the Temple of Music at night - but "the operating room at the exposition's emergency hospital did not have any electric lighting, even though the exteriors of many of the buildings were covered with thousands of light bulbs. Doctors used a pan to reflect sunlight onto the operating table as they treated McKinley's wounds."  From McKinley's speech at the expo: "Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancements. They stimulate the energy, enterprise, and intellect of the people, and quicken human genius."  [source]
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