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: (smoke)
I'm starting to think that writing about contemporary politics (a political thriller!) from the liberal perspective is like trying to analyze security and war from a constructivist perspective: goddamn near impossible.  Like a fish trying to ride a bicycle.  Etc.  My roommate says I will have bombs delivered to my mailbox if I publish this story, and I said nobody tried to bomb Margaret Atwood, but then again she could hide her true ambitions in extreme dystopia elements, which I'm not doing. This article suggests I take my cues from David Baldacci, whose ads I sometimes see on the metro, or apparently turn to legal thrillers (also check out the conservative author's covers sometime.  They are really very macho.)

Needless to say, I'm an Idiot Writer that does not think about readership and marketability until it's too late.

As you can tell from the novel's playlist, it's mainly a love story.  It's about the power of ideology, after all.  Really more It Can't Happen Here than anything with big block letters and the Capitol building engulfed in darkness and flames.  It's not really about the people with fancy titles trying to stop plots - I don't even know what the President's name is, and anyway, can anybody really imagine me writing something where a politician is portrayed as anything but a half-cocked, rambling lunatic?  House of Cards, this ain't.  None of the main characters have any real national power, although the protagonists are Johnny-come-lately political activists.  I also spend way too much time on interpersonal drama - I've been watching The L Word and goddamn if that isn't the best relationship drama I've ever seen, although I am not surprised at all that the only thing that's come close for heterosexual relationships is the psychotic and unpleasant Nip/Tuck - and rape culture and depression for this to be a true political thriller, I think.

  1. "Filth Noir" - Zeromancer: Sometimes you just have to risk it all to get what you want

  2. "Sometimes It Hurts" - Stabbing Westward: I hate myself when I try to get over you

  3. "Hey Man, Nice Shot" - Filter: I wish I would have met you, now it's a little late

  4. "Tensioning" - Sparta: The sky could fall, the bliss of beginning replaced with an ending

  5. "Not in Love" - Crystal Castles (Robert Smith): And we were lovers, now we can't be friends

  6. "Weapon of Choice" - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: I won't waste my love on a nation

  7. "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" - How to Destroy Angels: Someone I could die for, there's no way I could ever leave

  8. "Bodies" - Smashing Pumpkins: Love is suicide

  9. "We Are The Lust" - Death in June: Hold the knife, bloodied, to the throat of love

Also, Glenn Beck's written another novel, and it's a (surprise!) dystopia - as far as I can tell, the UN appears to be committing genocide in the name of protecting the Animals of the Earth.

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intertribal: (get back (you don't know me like that))
Natnari: I think I am fall in love with Park Chung hee
Me: who is that
Natnari: the Korean Dictator during 1970 80

Not gonna lie, my first thought was he was a Korean pop idol.  My second thought was, oh shit I didn't know that and I just did my readings on Korean industrialization!  My third thought was, yeah.  He was a pretty smart dude.
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: (even if i'm fucking with her)
I've never seen this justification for democracy promotion given by a U.S. official.  Granted, you usually don't see justifications for democracy promotion at all.
America has many goals but one we believe in strongly is helping nations build their own democratic institutions, because democratic countries rarely experience famines or start wars; when governments listen to their people, their first priority is usually to make their countries more prosperous, a goal we all share.  (from here)
It actually makes more sense than freedom-fries, regardless of possible accuracy problems.
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  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: (Default)
1. Money first.  Dreams later.  The Dark God of Capitalism, etc., The Unnameable Slithering Horror, is actually not the worst fate for Southeast Asia after all.
2.  I am exactly like my father, temperament-wise, hence my impatience with incompetence.  Uh-oh.
3.  Cities need effective mass public transportation.  Especially poor ones.
4.  Moderate Islam is in the fight of its life.  I don't want to sound hysterical but the situation is much more dire than I think outsiders know - not in terms of the effects on the amorphous "war on terror" but in terms of the survival of the affected nations/states. 
5.  I need to grow up.  I need to settle down.  I need to stop comparing myself to others and be honest with myself about what I need, not what others think I need. 
6.  Everybody wants to be Korean.
7.  I am actually pretty good at killing mosquitoes.
8.  Typing without an a key is hard.
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: (this land)
I'm Ludvig II, the Swan King of Bavaria!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?

Born with the name of Otto, you became Ludwig at the request of your grandfather, King Ludwig I, because you were born on his birthday. You became Crown Prince at the tender age of 3, and soon after stole a purse from a shop on the basis that everything in Bavaria belonged to you. Tragedy struck when your pet tortoise was taken away; relatives thought the six-year-old prince was too attached to it. Your childhood was lonely and formal. Once, you were prevented from beheading your younger brother by the timeous arrival of a court official. From the age of 14 you suffered from hallucinations.

Despite striking an imposing figure with your great height and good looks, your speeches were pompous to the point of incomprehensibility. You became even more of a recluse, often spending hours reading poetry in a seashell-shaped boat in your electrically-illuminated underground grotto.

You are most famous for building three fairytale castles - Linderhof, Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee - at tremendous public expense. Declared insane and confined to your bedroom by concerned (and embarrassed) subjects, you escaped on 13 June 1886, but were later found drowned with your physician in Lake Stamberg in mysterious circumstances.

intertribal: (aviatrix)

Yeah, so apparently the Gregory Brothers have been doing this for a long while (auto-tuning the news), but the Atlantic Wire just clued me in today.  These two are my favorites of the batch (watch them in order).  The first one was actually made in 2009, so it's just coincidence that Bachmann is front and center.  And you can never go wrong with turtles.
intertribal: (pro nails)
My story "Princess Courage" will live at Beneath Ceaseless Skies!  I've known about this for a while (there have been revision requests...) but I wanted to wait until Scott Andrews put it on his latest Recent Acceptances post, because that's when it felt official.  This is the story I mentioned in this post with "White Wedding" and all.  I'm a fan of BCS and rarely write stories that would fit their parameters, so it's exciting.  "Princess Courage" was inspired by my recent contrarian reading of Lord of the Rings and ended up becoming kind of like that movie W. except for William McKinley and except not in our world.

Here are two more songs used in the writing of this story - both by Hole.  As they contributed to the story they're less about gender and more about power in general (in particular invasion/colonialism and leadership/hero worship, but I see that in everything).

You should learn when to go
You should learn how to say no!
When they get what they want, they never want it again
I told you from the start just how this would end
When I get what I want, I never want it again


I'm Miss World, somebody kill me
I'm Miss World, watch me break and watch me burn
No one is listening, my friends
I made my bed, I'll lie in it
I made my bed, I'll die in it

intertribal: (luna)
My two library books are due tomorrow and can't be renewed again for whatever reason, so I just spent the last three and a half hours finishing them: The Priest by Thomas Disch, and Tik-Tok by John Sladek.  Both turned out to be pretty weird books, in different ways.

I've been wanting to read Disch for a while because he seemed like an interesting guy, but I only picked this book because the library had nothing else by him (I was looking for The Genocides).  The Priest is about - I guess - Father Patrick Bryce, a priest who also happens to be an alcoholic with a fondness for teen boys.  He's not the most likable dude, but he's also not the least likable dude.  The really bad guys are Nazi-homages, unfortunately, obsessed with a German saint and with holding young pregnant women hostage in a grotesque shrine to keep them from having abortions.  Father Bryce is blackmailed by a whole number of people and suffers strange flashbacks to the Dark Ages, where he's a nasty Inquisition-supervising bishop named Silvanus.  I enjoyed some of the writing and the complexity promised by the plot, but my interest/enthusiasm waned.  I'm not sure why.  I didn't get how all of it was going to tie together, and I disliked everyone.  A lot of the content just tasted like vomit - noxious people, medieval torture, catacomb prisons, murder, Satan tattoos.  And unfortunately, as the plot clumsily wraps up it starts feeling more like The Da Vinci Code.  I was okay "spending time with" Father Bryce - he was a well-grounded, complicated character who I felt bad for - but then the reader is splitting time between him and Silvanus, who's just ick, and then with a bunch of other characters who become "action heroes" out of nowhere.  I'm like, "Wait, where the fuck is Father Bryce?  Oh yeah, still trapped in the Dark Ages.  Damn it!"  I am perfectly willing to concede that I was not the right audience for this book, because I can't say that I "got it," and my feelings toward it are very... meh.  I kept forgetting who the hell all these damn people were and all the horrible things they'd gotten away with and how they knew each other.  What may stop me from trying more Disch, though, is the dialogue.  Oh man.  All his characters sound the same, and none of them sound like people.  It's surprising in a book that is otherwise competently written.  You've got a 12-year-old girl sounding the same as a middle-aged male priest - and this is a Just No for me. 

Tik-Tok I wanted to read because of the premise: in the foreseeable future, the incredibly misanthropic and cunning robot Tik-Tok goes from being a servant of various bizarre households to an acclaimed painter to a healthcare CEO to Vice Presidential candidate - killing humans as the whim strikes him on the one hand and playing to whatever vision of robot-hood humans want from him on the other.  I loved this book.  It reminded me of darling Catch-22, which I incidentally thought was science fiction the first time I read a snippet of it.  Sladek clearly had a blast creating an absurd vision of the future - starting with Ridiculous and Bad Situation 1 and just making it worse and worse.  But Tik-Tok doesn't go down like vomit, because it's very funny (to me, anyway) and it doesn't waste time getting you to care about anyone.  Children, pets, love interests - forget it.  They'll probably all end up in the grinder.  This is one of my favorite passages (it reminded me of the Canadian pipeline project currently being pushed through Nebraska):
The USS Leviathan would not be anything like an ordinary carrier.  It would be a monster platform, some fifty miles across and equal in area to the state of Delaware.  It would launch both missiles and planes of all types, and it would be capable of fast movement around the countryside.  

In the first design, Leviathan was to run on wheels, thus promoting the interests of a large rubber company.  But the number of tires required turned out to be 135 million, plus spares (a tire change would be needed every hundred yards).  Unless a complete rubber factory were taken on board - one of the alternative suggestions - the entire ship would have to hover.  Grumbling, the rubber company settled for a contract to provide the giant hovercraft skirt required.

Both houses of Congress shoved through the necessary legislation.  There were objections that Leviathan would cost too much, would be a sitting duck, would devastate any land over which it happened to hover.  But by now the Army wanted it as badly as any of the dozens of states, thousands of companies and millions of workers.  The combined force of industrial, political, military and commercial arguments rolled the project over all opposition as one day Leviathan itself would crush down anything in its path.  One junior Senator who continued to oppose it was sent on a fact-finding mission to Antarctica while the bill was railroaded through.

From the start, there were problems called "teething troubles".  The fans which were to lift the craft were at first too weak, then (redesigned) so powerful that they blew away the topsoil for miles around the craft, created dust storms and buried small towns in soildrifts.  A computer company suggested expensive monitoring equipment to regulate each fan, but this never seemed to solve the topsoil problem.  A chemical firm then went to work on a binding agent to hold the topsoil in place; Leviathan would spray the stuff out before moving.  After months of experimentation with expensive agents, they found the best to be ordinary water.  The Leviathan was now redesigned to accommodate huge water tanks holding whole lakefuls of water.  Even so, it would never be able to stray more than fifty miles from a major water source (though thousand-mile flexible pipelines were considered).  
The truth is, I was interested in Tik-Tok because the whole robot-slaves-in-a-human-world thing seemed like it might strike the same chords as my novel, and it sort of did - Tik-Tok himself is a lot like my character, Peter, just way over the top, and at one point the political group American People First comes up with a Keep America Human slogan, much like my disenfranchised villagers come up with Keep Junction Human (I kid you not - I cracked up when I read it).  So I felt real conceptual kinship with this book, even though my novel isn't satirical, and was sad to see it end.  I'll definitely read more Sladek.

But apparently fans of The Priest find it hilarious and ironic, so maybe what all this means is that humor is subjective. I think I felt like The Priest didn't go far enough for it to really be funny to me, whereas Tik-Tok functioned entirely in the realm of the absurd. 
intertribal: (Default)
At least, I don't think so.  I mean, no one is talking about it.  There was an article in the paper that was so non-alarmist I pretty much ignored it.  And then I read a comment saying we shouldn't be quick to sneer at Japan's nuclear power plant safety because in Nebraska two nuclear plants are starting to "swim."  I was like, what now? 

But apparently there is this, from a Pakistani news wire:
A shocking report prepared by Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (FAAE) on information provided to them by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) states that the Obama regime has ordered a “total and complete” news blackout relating to any information regarding the near catastrophic meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant located in Nebraska.

According to this report, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant suffered a “catastrophic loss of cooling” to one of its idle spent fuel rod pools on 7 June after this plant was deluged with water caused by the historic flooding of the Missouri River which resulted in a fire causing the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to issue a “no-fly ban” over the area.
This is what the (local) Columbus Telegram says, among others:
For example, there's a report that a Russian nuclear agency has accused President Barack Obama of covering up a nuclear near-meltdown on June 7 at Fort Calhoun.

In fact, said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Omaha Public Power District, there was a fire in an electrical switchgear room that day, but the spent-fuel pool was in no imminent danger and a fire-suppression system extinguished it quickly.

The plant temporarily lost power to a pump that cools the spent-fuel pool, but power was switched to a backup pump, said OPPD, which runs Fort Calhoun. During the 90-minute interruption, the temperature of the pool increased a few degrees, but the pool was not in danger of boiling, the utility said.

The reactor and spent-fuel pool are in a normal, stable condition and are protected from flooding, OPPD said. The plant was shut down for refueling in April and will remain shut down until floodwaters recede.

Another Internet rumor claims there's a no-fly zone around Fort Calhoun Station because of a radiation leak.

"Rumors about a radiation release at the site - that never happened," said Victor Dricks, spokesman for the NRC Region IV office in Arlington, Texas.

Dricks said a no-fly zone put in place around all U.S. nuclear power plants after Sept. 11, 2001, has been relaxed, but planes are not supposed to fly or loiter near them.

OPPD spokesman Jeff Hanson said air space around Fort Calhoun is restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration to a two-mile radius below 3,500 feet because OPPD was concerned small planes would get tangled in high power lines.
Basically, comments on this Reuters article sum up the situation:
What I find amazing is that the International Media knows what happened, but the US Media is not reporting it. I guess Weiner was a useful idiot for Obama to the end, eh? Or was Obama’s stupid ATM comment an attempt to distract America from the truth? is where Europe is reporting on the issue. In addition, there has been no reporting on the increase in infant mortality on the West Coast due to Fukishema, which is still an on-going disaster. I am very sad that Reuters has chose to accept government dicta for serious journalism.
People’s paranoia is starting to make me laugh and get scared at the same time. The source for the article is the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency! Come on people! Did anyone actually go to that website? It has an English version and there is no mention anywhere on that site of this ‘catastrophe’. Do a search for Nebraska…no mention of it anywhere... A temporary loss of cooling to spent rod pool is hardly “one of the worst nuclear accidents in US history.” (The quoted part is from the website). Here’s more headline from that website: 1. Obama Orders 1 Million US Troops to Prepare for Civil War. 2. U.S. Forces Plan Direct Action Against American Citizens.
This sort of interplay isn't new, of course.  It's just very, very weird to be so near the center of it.  So for everyone's edification, we in Nebraska are not dropping dead of radiation sickness and have also not been carted away/evacuated/eliminated/any of that shit.  We are, as ever, discussing the next football season, nursing homes, and death row inmates.  Or, even closer to the center of impending disaster, discussing the College World Series and crime.  We are alive!  We are still here!

intertribal: (black wave/bad vibration)
First, a study finding that "almost twice as many Americans would prefer to have a son rather than a daughter."  If you actually look at Gallup's report, though, this has been pretty typical since 1941.  Basically, it's because of men - 49% of men prefer a boy while 22% prefer a girl, and 31% of women prefer a boy while 33% prefer a girl.  For some people (not all) I think there's a little bit of "I want someone like me" involved in this kind of thing, both for psychological reasons and because you "know" how to raise someone of your own gender.  Like when my mother was pregnant, she wanted a girl and my dad wanted a boy - or rather, he "expected" a boy because he "could not believe" that he would not have a boy.  But women seem to have less of this than men.

This, however, is interesting - "both male and female Republicans are more likely to want a boy than are their gender counterparts who identify as Democrats."  Education level is also interesting - among respondents with a high school diploma or less, 44% prefer boys and 25% prefer girls; among postgraduate respondents, it's 32% for boys and 33% for girls. 

Anyway, the Atlantic suggests that while Americans may - like other cultures/societies - prefer boys to girls, they don't actually do anything to try to get more boys.

Second, Texas is trying to decide whether or not to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have a confederate flag license plate.  The vote is delayed because the ninth member of the DMV board died and they have to pick a replacement.  Nine other states already have allowed the group such a license plate, and they sued Florida when Florida said no, leading a federal judge to decide that Florida was engaging in "viewpoint discrimination."  (My mother said "In that case I'm going to get a license plate that says the Tea Party are fuckers and if they say I can't have it then I'll sue Nebraska for viewpoint discrimination)  Jerry Patterson, a son of a confederate veteran, spoke in favor of the license plate by arguing that confederate veterans served honorably in the Civil War, just as he did in Vietnam:
"Not all things in Vietnam were done in a manner that I'm proud of. I served in Vietnam but I'm not proud of what happened. This is history and any time you commemorate history and those who served honorably, be they... the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I think they should be honored.”
Beyond the license plate thing: this is why I hate the word "honor."  Proud of what happened and yet still have served honorably.  Actions you can't be proud of, but done in an honorable way.  I think "honorable" and all its variants should be replaced in that sentence with "obedient," or some word that signifies "did what I was told to do by people with more power than I."  Then again, pretty much every military group in the world seems to call themselves honorable no matter what they're doing, so I'm not sure ethics has anything to do with "honor" now anyway.
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 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 heart attacks)
I can't get over how different the Lord of the Rings books are from the Lord of the Rings movies, and how much I - in general - prefer the movies.  I'm pretty sure this makes me a bad person (writer? fantasy fan?) in some way.  Mostly I am just so tired of Gandalf and all the non-entities that surround him.  I know, I know.  But The Return of the King really should be called The Return of the Gandalf, because he's all Ra-Ra-Rasputin right now.  Uh oh, Boney M segue!

Wow, re-imagining that song with LOTR just made my morning substantially better.  Must resist temptation to revise entire lyrics to fit LOTR.

I also can't get over how my mother refuses to accept that Lord of the Rings was written in the 1940s and not the 1600s.  I keep telling her, and she keeps going, "really??!"

ETA: Crap, I'm becoming convinced that I need to totally re-structure the current short story WIP from the perspective of a new protagonist.  FUCKING HELL AFTER ALL THIS WORK
intertribal: (baby got a nobel prize)
I'm coming to this a week late or thereabouts, but my friend Halley just told me about this today - Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senate Minority Whip, stated on the Senate floor that "If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."  Actually, abortions are 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. 

CNN asked him what's up with that, and his office responded, "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, a organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."  In fact, Planned Parenthood is not allowed to use taxpayer money for abortions (also in fact, I wouldn't give a damn if 90% of what they did was abortions), but whatever.  Facts!

So Stephen Colbert has a new twitter hash tag, #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement:
  • "Once a year, Jon Kyl retreats to the Arizona Desert and deposits 2 million egg sacs under the sand."
  • "John Kyl is 90% prune juice."
  • "Jon Kyl has the world's most extensive catalogue of snuff films."
  • "Jon Kyl assassinated Archduke Ferdinand."
Aside from validating my mother's statement that Arizona is "the prime wacko state" because their legislature decided to allow concealed and openly carried guns in public spaces on college campuses (I can only assume high school is next - those students gotta defend themselves or getting shot's on them!), this reminds me of the “Did Glenn Beck Murder and Rape a Young Girl in 1990?" hoax mocking Beck's habit of making crazy accusations preemptively framed as innocent questions, and the Rick Santorum redefinition as revenge for likening homosexual sex to incest and polygamy.  It's the Anonymous age. 

The problem of this twitter hash tag is that I think it risks spreading a joke without the punchline - this senator mixed up 3% with 90% in Congress in order to "demonize" an organization, so what the hell else is said in Congress that's blatantly incorrect but has been more efficiently streamlined into our political discourse?  I assume a whole bunch of statistics about military spending and UN dues and health care and taxes - and that people won't remember, but they will remember that John Kyl is 90% prune juice.
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: (Default)

Some people have commented on the seemingly heavy-handed politics of Monsters - the issue of border-crossing and the Wall and of course, Mexico being an "infected zone" that must be kept at bay - and the most awkward lines of dialogue are the ones that try to straight-forwardly discuss the idea of America building walls and sealing itself in, and how different America looks from the other side of the Wall, and we "forget all this" when we're in our "perfect suburban homes."  But that's extraneous stuff that's not at the heart of the movie.  Monsters goes beyond any current political issue.  It's really about coexistence/extinction/evolution, and the possibility of understanding an alien that isn't a humanoid little big-eyed bugger but looks like Cthulhu. 

Serious kudos to the decision not to make these aliens totally horrific, by the way.  They do kill people, but for them it must be like swatting at flies, and they do other things besides kill - they hang out in lakes with fallen aircraft, they moan plaintively, they lay their pretty glowing eggs in trees that the U.S. military then chemical-bombs, they turn off televisions, they communicate with each other through gentle touch and look like ethereal, celestial beings. 

It's sad that people have said nothing happens in this movie - I'm guessing because aliens aren't popping out every other minute and having fist fights with the main characters - because the movie shows that a great deal has happened since the alien-carrying space probe landed in Mexico and North America is continuing to change.  It's a bottom-up movie, which means we don't see the U.S. president frowning over the situation with his cabinet, and we don't see people living in underground shelters or totally extinguished or anything - because this is about how life went on in Mexico after the aliens landed.  One of my favorite bits was a five-second clip of a Mexican info-cartoon for children showing a happy little Dora-the-Explorer-like girl putting on a gas mask and standing in front of a wall, behind which a googly-eyed, unthreatening squid monster dances around.  Those kinds of details make Monsters remarkable.  

A Mexican port official explains that if you have money, you take the ferry to the U.S., bypassing the alien-infested infected zone, and if you don't have money, then you "go by land."  Third-world-first-world relations continue pretty much as they always have, with passport drama and bribe drama and "why do your friends have guns" drama, as an industry of illegal infected-zone crossing has developed.  In a lot of ways Monsters is more of an "Americans trapped outside America!" movie, but it's a Grade A example of that subgenre, neither making things unrealistically easy or unrealistically hard, and not making it about Evil Dangerous Mexicans threatening the Poor Innocent Americans.  But then there are moments where the movie rises above that subgenre - when the leads find an ancient pyramid that's been grown over by jungle, for example, leading you to wonder if our civilization will also be overtaken by these new lifeforms.  But who can say?  What little we see of the U.S. implies that the American people have an inflated, confused perception of the aliens' threat level, because they don't have to deal with the aliens on a daily basis.  But the people of Mexico have been living within spitting range of the infected zone for six years now (the wall protecting the U.S. from the infected zone is made of brick, and the one protecting Mexico from the infected zone is more like a very tall fence), and they're not going to leave because their work is here, their family is here, as a taxi driver explains.  They've also started to pick up some things about the aliens' life cycle and behavioral patterns, and the aforementioned friends with guns explain that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone - this doesn't quite work out because there's so little bridge of understanding between the "creatures" and the humans, but these scenes of altered, adjusted life - after the running and screaming is over, as the director says - is really what I watch sci-fi for, and Monsters hits this out of the park.  I bought this world.  Detailed, believable, and intense.  Nothing like the ridiculousness of Avatar.

Also sad are the comments I've read saying this is just a relationship movie.  I don't even know what to make of those comments, honestly.  So many sci fi movies feature heroes with love interests, but I doubt anyone said that Transformers was a relationship drama.  The two leads develop a bond that can't be consummated, because she's engaged.  Is it because they have actual conversations and think about their lives?  It's not as if the action stops so that they can stare into each other's eyes.  It's baffling to me that anyone could think there was too much relationship drama, but sort of reminds me of a couple discussions in SF/F lately about how if you include a sex scene or too much relationship stuff then a book somehow jumps out of SF/F and becomes romance - yet another "issue" that I cannot wrap my head around (does that mean Updike wrote romance?  it's laughable, the obsession with formulas that some SF/F fans have). 
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