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

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

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

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

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

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

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

intertribal: (like a thought touching up against a sig)
One of the little joys in my life is staying at other people's houses and reading their books.  For some reason it comes much more easily than reading books I bought for myself - it's like they're just there, free, weightless, "read me or don't read me, I don't care."  It's how I read The Quiet American and The Bell-Jar, and now it's how I've read Revolutionary Road (in the span of three nights) by Richard Yates.

It's the kind of book that I can imagine readers (especially today's readers) picking up, saying, "I hate all the characters, they're all so annoying and unsympathetic," and putting down.*  That's their loss, though.  And yes, everyone is portrayed almost in the worst light possible, which makes the recurring line from The Petrified Forest spoken by the female lead, April, "Wouldn't you like to be loved by me?" all the more ironic.  But they are human beings, and when I described the plot to my mother - "it's about this couple that considers themselves sort of 'above' the 50s, and they're always going on about the 'hopeless emptiness' of suburbia so they have these dreams of moving to Paris but when the wife tries to actually make these dreams reality, so that the husband will have time to 'find himself,' he gets cold feet and starts to be happy about his mundane job because he gets offered a promotion" - she said, "sounds like life."  And those are my favorite kinds of books.  Nobody here is extraordinarily anything, but they are so life-like in their concealed fucked-up-ness that I read compulsively. 

A lot of books try to do similar types of stories with life in suburbia today, but I have found that they usually descend into sentimentality and/or feature "darling" characters who the writer identifies with or, worse, admires, who get elevated treatment of a sort.  The only person in Revolutionary Road who sort of gets spared the quiet handsawing of Richard Yates is Howard Givings, the old husband of the real estate agent who just stays "steady down now" and turns off his hearing aid to drown out the world around him.  A strong sense of fatigue runs through these people, despite (or because of, more likely) their dreams and masks and plays and vestiges - one of the habits we witness from our main character Frank is the constant rehearsal in his head of what he's going to say to April about events still taking place at work in order to make himself sound like the most interesting man she's ever met, or what he's going to say to her to repair damage from a fight, so that you have to read very carefully to figure out if this is a projected future event or current reality - and it's like Howard is just tired of all this.

For me, two things stuck out: how much the 1950s reminded me of Lincoln, Nebraska (and 1950s New York is apparently what girls who go to Barnard still seek), and how great Richard Yates is at structuring plot and character development, and how extremely readable he is without sacrificing depth.  Everything just flowed with the sense of inevitability (and dread), from tense but mundane beginning to horrific end (see Stewart O'Nan's assessment).  I hate to sound so hallmarky, but it is pretty inspirational from a writing standpoint.

I think if I were to pick a song for this book, it would be one that has no sense of the 1950s at all:



* A couple chapters in the main character accuses his wife of acting out something from Madame Bovary, another book that was condemned by many of my AP Lit classmates as having no sympathetic character (as I recall they were happy when Emma finally died, in a "good, bitch is dead" sort of way).
intertribal: (i like it rough)
Katie is my favorite character of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  For a while I had a default icon that was called "because she looks like Katie."  She was the reasonable one (compared to her boyfriend Micah) in PA1, with a delicious darkward turn as she becomes possessed and kills Micah, as if telling him in the most ferocious terms, "see, this is what happens when you don't listen to me, dumbass."  PA2 reveals that she became possessed because her brother-in-law Dan "sicced" the demon on her - it was to save his wife and son, but still - and Dan gets his comeuppance and "Katie" gets "her" revenge when she comes to their big fancy house, demon-possessed, to kill Dan and Kristi (his wife/her sister) and take Hunter (the infant son).  In PA3, Katie is a child who gets dragged (literally) into Kristi's bad-idea-of-the-year "friendship" with the demon - she and Kristi both end up at least somewhat possessed and in the care of their evil witch grandmother Lois*.


I really love PA1, enjoy PA2 mostly for the big "Fuck U" it allows Katie to give, and am not such a fan of PA3.  I think this is because I didn't like the story that the creators (who changed from movie to movie) eventually laid out to explain what happened in PA1.  Witchcraft - especially of the matriarchal "coven" variety - in horror always sets off an alarm in my head: "this is a women-are-evil story."  That's accentuated in the Paranormal Activity franchise by the special importance given to the firstborn son, who everyone will go to extreme lengths to protect and who is apparently Blue Moon rare (girls in this family are basically throw-aways, especially if they can't be broodmares).  By contrast, Katie is sacrificed by her brother-in-law because she's nothing to him - she is an expendable, mother to no one.  Dan's teenaged daughter from a previous relationship, Ali, is the only one who says "hey, this isn't fair to Katie," and Ali is also safely tucked away on a field trip during Katie's rampage.  And while I liked the potential that Paranormal Activity had to be Katie's Good Girl Gone Bad (kind of Laura Palmer in reverse) story - even if witchcraft and a special son had to be involved - PA2 and especially PA3 show that there's nothing unique about Katie.  The same thing happens to her sister.  They get possessed and go bad because they're women (and I will note that the possession scenes always read very "rape-y" to me), the end. 

There's a perspective shift too.  In PA1, Katie and Micah are both leads, and you're in each of their headspaces; because the "paranormal activity" revolves around Katie and she's an adult, she might be more the main character than Micah.  PA2 is very decentralized - it's also very shallow in the sense that it's in no one's head in particular, and all the characters are ciphers.  In PA3, the boyfriend of Katie and Kristi's mother, Dennis, is the lead.  Katie and Kristi are children and not especially emotive ones, and their mother Julie is a non-entity.  The next closest thing to a character in PA3 is Dennis's male videography buddy.  It's interesting that in PA3 Katie and Kristi are basically there to be "creepy little girls" with incomprehensibly creepy behavior - "little girls are creepy," as my roommate says - whereas there's nothing creepy about Hunter, the baby boy in PA2, and the audience is simply meant to feel protective of him ("that poor baby boy," etc.).  PA1 sets itself apart from its sequels because we actually get to be in the headspace of the eventual-possessee, to see her as a three-dimensional human being instead of just a "creepy little girl" or a blank mother-type placeholder (in Kristi's case - who is Kristi?  God knows!). 

Men are do-ers in the Paranormal Activity franchise.  Micah is dense and foolish, but he is the macho take-charge investigator - and this trait of his is sort of mocked in PA1 as Micah bombastically insists that "no one comes into my house and fucks with my girlfriend" and Katie's just like, "you don't have power here" (his defensive reply is something along the lines of "don't tell me I have no power").  In PA2, Ali is the investigator, but she's not an actor, and she apparently wields zero influence over any other character, making her relevant only as an info-dumper.  Dan, the brother-in-law, is the only actor, and shows piss-poor decision-making - firing the maid for saging the house, ignoring video footage that he himself arranged, and ultimately transferring the demon to Katie.  Dan is actually absent during most of the movie (when the women of the house are being afflicted with paranormal activity), and it falls on him to make up for his failure to be the responsible man of the house by saving Kristi and Hunter and sacrificing Katie to the darkness.  Dennis, Katie and Kristi's would-be-dad, is neither a dolt nor an asshole, and is more of a protector for Katie and Kristi than their own mother.  He's heroic and self-sacrificing, a sensible investigator, and the good-guy foil to the human villain, the evil grandmother (there are no human villains in PA1 or PA2, and I think this does change the dynamic of a horror story - just ask Stephen King).  And of course then there's the biggest do-er of them all: the demon.  With all the marriage talk in PA3, the demon is definitely male.  But whereas the human men of Paranormal Activity all (arguably) mean well as they try to fix this situation that their women thrust them into, the human women are either corruptible to the extreme or just irrelevant, and in all cases unable to even try to protect themselves or their loved ones.  Their bodies are the battlefield for the war/pissing contest between the human men and the male demon. 


The demon always wins, and it's through the demon that the human men are killed by the women in their lives.  The visual effect is different, though: on screen, it's psycho bitches on the loose (with the only really affecting death, at least for me, being Micah's at the hands of "Katie").  It's too bad that Katie's actions at the end of PA2 probably aren't Katie's at all.  I would have preferred her to be taking revenge on Dan and Kristi - if only subconsciously, if only with the last smidgen of Katie that still existed within the bloody Katie-shell - but it was probably just the demon being demonic en route to obtaining that precious little boy. 

"Jennifer's Body" - Hole
"Arsenal" - Kidneythieves
"Climbing Up The Walls (Radiohead cover)" - Sarah Slean
"Behind Blue Eyes (The Who cover)" - Sheryl Crow

*: Fun fact - Lois is my maternal grandmother's name!  This is why one of my middle names is Louise.  Because my mother didn't like the sound of "Nadia Lois."  WITCH! 
intertribal: (can we forget about the things i said)
My experiment with Mad Men is now over - it just got too depressing for me.  I have started devoting my couple hours of free time between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. (seriously) to Nip/Tuck, which so far I'm enjoying a lot more.  It's interesting, because they're ostensibly very similar shows - main characters are male professionals, there's a lot of emphasis on objectifying the female form and shallow facades (advertising, plastic surgery) - but whereas my reaction to Mad Men was "oh my God, I hate you all," my reaction to Nip/Tuck is "yeah, that's pretty much the way it is," and even though neither Troy and McNamara are anyone I want to know, I give them more leeway than I do anybody in Sterling Cooper.  I think it's a generational thing, though.  Like, which set of men and women are we taught to consider normal, or something like that.  Once again, I don't really like anyone (but ugh to McNamara's teenage son in particular), although I do have a strange fondness for Kimber and Julia.

I must say that I also enjoy the insanity and grotesqueness of Nip/Tuck.  And the music.  This is the full-length version of the opening theme - unsurprisingly, there's a ton of thinspo videos set to this song, but there's also a bunch of thinspo shit set to Radiohead's "Creep" and Fiona Apple's "Paper Bag," so whatever.  It makes me think of... well, grad school, but life in general if you're living in Go Getter World.  And I realize now that I am back in that world, and deeper in than I was as an undergrad because the emphasis now really is on becoming a full-grown yuppie, not just getting hot drunken pictures of yourself on Facebook (which is, I think, what it was in undergrad).  I kind of consider myself lucky that I fell into this job, even though I hate it and am fairly bad at it, because it hooks me up to the two professors who can connect me to anything/anyone in the very narrow field that I want to enter.  Hilariously I apparently decided to wed myself to this field in a matter of, oh, a month.  But I've sworn off government work as an option, so there you go.  I am left with think tanks.  I think I'm just kind of like, "okay, fuck it, Southeast Asia politics it is, fuckin' good enough."  My point is I don't necessarily feel like I have to struggle as hard as other people I know who are just starting to feel out a direction.  Of course, there is more to life in Go Getter World than having a well-connected job, as we all know, and I still feel pressure - "perfect soul, perfect mind, perfect face" - like whoa. 

Added: I think this pressure is also there for men in the grad program - obviously.  But it is different for women.  It's like we have to impress fucking everyone, all the time.

Also: It reminds me of whenever I'm asked "where else did you apply?" and I say that I chose AU over George Washington.  Even AU people don't get why I would, sometimes - why wouldn't you go for the better name, regardless of anything else?  And when I explain that GW didn't click with me, and AU did, I tend to get blank stares.  I usually have to add "well, AU is giving me way more money than GW would have..." before I get the "oh" of understanding.

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.

Thor

May. 11th, 2011 11:31 am
intertribal: (baby got heart attacks)
This was entertaining, much more so than most superhero or pseudo-superhero movies.  It's not particularly subversive, and the humor is kind of slapstick, but oh well.  The bad guys (to the extent that there even are bad guys...) are all aliens, so at least there's no demonization of human cultures going on.  The parts that take place on Earth are way more fun than the parts that take place on, uh, Thor's home planet.  Overall, alternated between funny and campy!dramatic, but in a very non-annoying way - and we all know how easy it is to annoy me.

I thought they actually did a really nice job with the everyday folk in this one - Natalie Portman's character was very likable and relatable and cute (and everything about Thor was filtered through her perspective, which was awesome, because it almost felt more like he was the love interest, not her - which is really fucking rare in action movies, to allow women to show desire - usually it's just like, Exasperated Love Interest Suddenly Becomes Willing To Make Out With Hero, How Did That Happen? Don't Ask), with her main adjective probably being "clever."  Her assistant, Darcy - the political science student - was the comic relief, and was a riot.  Then their beleaguered scientist mentor dude was Stellan Skarsgard, and he did a good job; I generally like Skarsgard anyway.  It all takes place in a very desertified New Mexico.

The aliens - Thor's people, and their enemies the Frost Giants - are a little headscratchy.  They have a nice-looking planet, sure, with the cosmos as their sky and a long psychedelic crystal highway that leads out to the rainbow bifrost bridge - kind of like something off a sketchy "space art" web site.  And their attire reminded more of Saint Seiya than anything else, did anybody watch that show?  Disturbing anime, that.  Anyway, they're all completely identical to humans aside from their ridiculous armor, which was played for some laughs when they eventually came to Earth.  The Frost Giants are corpse-gray with red eyes and live in a desolate ice world.  Character development in this "realm," as Thor would say, was a little weak, but I think is a good example of what I was saying the other day - heroic heroes are more interesting than antiheroes. 

Thor comes straight out of Hero Mold, you see.  He is a total stupid dumbfuck when he first becomes an adult, but his flaws are hero flaws - wants to go after the enemy and teach them a lesson, doesn't want to wait for diplomacy, must defend honor, blah blah blah - a lot of sound and fury and prideful bombast, but he doesn't angst or consider switching sides or even behave all that reprehensibly.  There was one part where I thought he might suffer A Very Painful Lesson (TM) because he's smashing all these Frost Giants with his whack-a-mole hammer while miles away his friends are about to get eaten by a gigantic ice Balrog/Troll, but no, he sees that they're in danger and saves them.  He has some character defects, but they're heroic defects.  And he becomes much less of a dumbfuck as the movie progresses.  But thank God, you know, thank God that he wasn't "I'm just a loser and I'm sad about my average life but holy shit look I have superpowers now I am uber cool woohoo."  I am so done with that kind of superhero.  With Thor, at least we've moved beyond the standard "what does this power mean?" conversations, because you know, Thor knows he has power.  He's been groomed to be a leader all his life.  So instead of "you too can be a leader" claptrap you can actually concentrate on what good leadership is (not that this movie is very deep, but eh).  And if that means that fewer boys in the audience can "relate" to Thor, too damn bad for them.  Captain America looks right up their alley.

Loki, his brother, the "bad guy," is a whole bucket of crazy.  He's kind of sympathetic, and he's certainly Thor's shadow-self, and he doesn't seem to be motivated by Unrepenting Evil or whatever, but neither his motives nor his personality are consistent.  I don't mean that he develops as a character like Thor does - he's just wildly inconsistent.  I accept that he's keeping his true motives and plan to himself, but towards the end I kept going like "Loki, why are you doing that?  I thought that's what you wanted!" and "Loki, what the fuck?"  Unlike Thor, you never really figure out what Loki believes or values - we get that he values himself, yeah, but he seems to have literally no opinions or belief system beyond that - which is just as bad as the villain that is evil Just Because.  

But, oh well.  The movie ultimately comes down not on the side of genocide, which for an action blockbuster, is pretty good.
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: (baby got eight more lives)
From a Ferretbrain review of Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear (review by Dan Hemmens):
What annoys me about Kvothe is not so much that he's a gratuitous Mary-Sue, but that despite this fact he is taken incredibly seriously by critics. People bitch about how unrealistic it is that everybody fancies Bella Swan [A/N: From the much-maligned Twilight series], about how stupid it is for teenage girls to indulge in a fantasy where powerful supernatural beings are sexually attracted to them. People laugh at characters like Sonea and Auraya [A/N: Heroines written by fantasy writer Trudi Canavan] because they're just magic sparkly princesses with super-speshul magic sparkle powers. But take all of those qualities – hidden magic power, ludicrously expanding skillset, effortless ability to attract the opposite sex despite specifically self-describing as being bad at dealing with them, and slap it on a male character, and suddenly we get the protagonist of one of the most serious, most critically acclaimed fantasy novels of the last decade.

Of course you can't ever really say, for certain, how a book would have been received if you reversed the genders of its author and protagonist, but something tells me that a book about a red-haired girl who plays the lute and becomes the most powerful sorceress who ever lived by the time she's seventeen, and who has a series of exciting sexy encounters with supernatural creatures, would not have been quite so readily inducted into the canon of a genre still very uncertain about its mainstream reputation.
This, by the way, is why I love Ferretbrain.  And have a very low tolerance for reflexive bashing of Twilight.  Some of it, I'm convinced, is straight up fear/disdain of catching girl cooties.  Some of it is under the guise of a "concerned citizen," in this case people who say it's "bad for girls" - it's bad for young girls to idolize unhealthy relationships, but apparently it's totally fine for young boys to idolize unhealthy relationships.  Female wish fulfillment must be guarded very tightly so that it doesn't go down bad paths and stays on a realistic straight-and-narrow, but male wish fulfillment?  Boys will be boys.  Or even better, that's just entertainment!  Or I guess in this case, that's the standard-bearer. 

Boy, when I become famous some day and someone asks me in some well-meaning interview which genre (out of science fiction/fantasy/horror) is the least hospitable to female writers and readers, it's going to be so hard to decide!
intertribal: (this chica right here gotta eat baby)
This post began with a slightly meandering article by Roxane Gay at The Rumpus about the words we use to write about rape.  While I think she needs to interrogate herself as a writer a bit more - "I write about sexual violence a great deal in my fiction. The why of this writerly obsession doesn’t matter," she says, but yeah-huh, it does matter - but the beginning is a fine criticism of a New York Times article about a gang rape in Cleveland, Texas (bold mine).
The Times article was entitled, “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town,” as if the victim in question was the town itself. James McKinley Jr., the article’s author, focused on how the men’s lives would be changed forever, how the town was being ripped apart, how those poor boys might never be able to return to school. There was discussion of how the eleven-year-old girl, the child, dressed like a twenty-year-old, implying that there is a realm of possibility where a woman can “ask for it” and that it’s somehow understandable that eighteen men would rape a child. There were even questions about the whereabouts of the mother, given, as we all know, that a mother must be with her child at all times or whatever ill may befall the child is clearly the mother’s fault. Strangely, there were no questions about the whereabouts of the father while this rape was taking place.

The overall tone of the article was what a shame it all was, how so many lives were affected by this one terrible event. Little addressed the girl, the child. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose body was ripped apart, not a town. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose life was ripped apart, not the lives of the men who raped her.
You do notice this a lot in news articles about rape, especially in small towns or suburban communities, and especially - maybe exclusively - when the suspects are teenaged boys.  It's as if the boys are as much a victim as the girl.  I think it can be worth investigating how a town reacts to a gang rape (Glen Ridge, NJ, for example), but sometimes I wonder: how many times do we need to hear the same opinions from these seemingly identical, wagon-circling communities?  The article claimed to be probing "how could their young men have been drawn into the act," whatever that means, but that's not actually where they went with the article.  Because then the article would actually talk about, you know, motive to rape, tendencies toward violence, domestic violence in the town, etc.  Instead the article probed "how could their young men have fucked this little girl?" (oh, she looked older than she was - got it - that means they're not pedophiles, so that's good). 

I get that the Times was soliciting neighbors' opinions and these were the neighbors' opinions, but why is this actually worth a story?  No duh, the neighbors blamed the girl and pitied the boys and bemoaned the state (reputation?) of their town.  I could have figured that in my sleep.  Why is this worth repeating and promoting in the form of an article that does not offer any analysis of their opinion?  Do they deserve some kind of public outlet because they bred a bunch of predators?  Because that might have been an interesting line of inquiry: so how and why did you instill these values in your young men, Cleveland, TX?  Otherwise, I don't care about their ruined community.  Their ruined community is not a human interest story.  Just like I do not care about how The Ryan White Story offended the residents of Kokomo, Indiana.  Sometimes towns deserve to be pilloried.  Sorry, but there it is.  I mean, this NYT article actually says:
“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
Classic.  Pathetic.  These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives?  What about the girl they raped?  Is it because the boys seem like a greater loss to the town, I wonder - the loss of these promising young men to the justice system, when good men are hard to find (whereas an 11-year-old girl that they all but say dressed like a whore, well, who cares, they're a dime a dozen)?  Is it overwhelming sympathy and empathy for the families of the suspects, even though as one commenter at the Rumpus suggests, they apparently raised rapists (whereas this girl's mother, well, she's the one that let this happen)?  Is it the instinct that seems to pop up whenever something bad happens in one's community, to generalize it until it's so broad that you too can claim to be personally affected and devastated, because goddamn if you're going to let this selfish child hog all the attention?  Or is it just easier to write articles about reactionary people being reactionary, predictable people being predictable?  Maybe it's just an example of communal value, and communal priorities (as Hot Fuzz says, the greater good!), overriding individual value.

In any case, Roxane Gay is one of many people to have complained about this article, and the NYTimes has issued two responses.  There are some very biting comments replying to the second response, and it's worth reading.  My favorite:
“She’s 11 years old. It shouldn’t have happened. That’s a child. Somebody should have said, ‘What we are doing is wrong.’” Implying what, it would have been fine if she was an adult? How reassuring that there's a "voice of reason" in the community.
Yes, such are the questions that we should be asking indeed.  But coverage of rape always sounds the same.
intertribal: (little red)
As usual, haven't read the novella of The Mist.  Consider this a commentary on the 2007 movie.

The monsters were fun; the bigger the better.  Liked that it was all because of a military project trying to contact other dimensions. 

I really dug the ending of the movie.  I wanted the awesome old people to live and I still dug the ending!  The ending, IMO, made this movie work.  It made bland, anonymously heroic David with his beloved little son (I am starting to get really tired of a certain set-up, if you can't tell) - and the rest of his team - accountable characters instead of the holier-than-thou messengers of righteousness that they were sort of set up to be (I have found that movies that try to lampoon/criticize holier-than-thou messengers of righteousness on one side of the political spectrum - in this case, the religious fundamentalist side - usually end up erecting their own holier-than-thou messengers of righteousness on the other side, to act as the correct counterweights.  Left Behind for Leftists, right?  It's ugly no matter who does it, though.  And I've done this myself.  I know it is hard to resist).  I really didn't think another version of Mike the Dutiful Constable from Storm of the Century - whose greatest sin was cheating on a goddamn test! - was really necessary, but at least Frank Darabont had the balls to let this version of Mike make a wrong move.  I give him A LOT of credit for that.

Also, there's been some talk about the role of condescension in politics these days - the idea that educated liberals condescend to "red-state Americans," so to speak, and uh... this movie didn't exactly dispel that.  Having the red-staters say things like "Do not condescend to me!" (while essentially validating any feelings of condescension toward them) did not help.

See, if we just could have paired the first 90% of War of the Worlds with The Mist's ending... we would have like the best, most depressing, most realistic monster invasion movie ever.  Oh yeah, and with the cast of W of the W, please, because the guy who played David could not act, on top of the already crippling setback of David being the most boring character in the whole movie.  It is crazy to me how boring main characters can be.  And I don't mean main characters who act as windows to the world - I mean genuine protagonists.
intertribal: (twin peaks: cooper)
I think this is true of all online social media, but the amount of bad asses on YouTube is really quite amazing.  This is evident on movies like Storm of the Century.  If you are not familiar, that's the Stephen King teledrama where an island community is terrorized by a wizard/demon/evil spirit (Andre Linoge) during a blizzard, forcing them to make the choice between: a) giving the evil wizard one of the town's children, and b) all dying, including the children (well, presumably.  They all believe this will happen because the evil wizard certainly seems to be capable of it).  In the story, the town decides by majority vote on Choice A.  Through random draw (maybe) the evil wizard takes the child of the one guy (Mike) who wants to do Choice B (while his wife Molly agrees on Choice A).  It's all very sad and tragic.  The narrative is sympathetic to everyone involved, and takes pains to explain why the townspeople made Choice A, even though it's the wrong choice.

But YouTube users want you to know that they would NEVER HAVE MADE THIS CHOICE NEVER EVER:
  • I would have stood along with Mike. Good always wins out. The townspeople should have all taken a stand against the evil.
  • I would walk off the end of the earth before I gave a kid away to demon
  • i cant believe that these people would do something like that
  • michael anderson you are the man!!! his stupid ass cunt wife didnt even stand behind him that shows you that she didnt love her son that hard. respect to michael at least your son will know that you stood behind him and these people are so stupid
  • At least Michael did try to get his son out of this like any good father will.
  • I`d say, better to all die there and then with the possibility of all going to Heaven, rather than living longer but knowing you sent a child to Hell.
  • i would of took my child and left too he had a gun i would of shot my way out and she needs a good slap
  • i would prefer let die my child and let it go with God to heaven, that play with his future might become the son of the devil!! that molly is an asshole
  • Weak townspeople!!
  • no way someone would take my kid without killing me first
  • Fucking cunt Mollie. Of course it was fixed you dumb bitch. Mike should have fought harder and took his son before that queer Lenoge asked if they made their decision yet
I have to say, I have trouble believing them.  Yeah, of course there are a (very) few people like Mike around.  The great majority of us are not like Mike (and I think that's the whole point of Storm of the Century: how easy and common it is to make the wrong choice, how much easier it is to see things clearly in hindsight, when the stress and insanity of the moment is gone!).  I get that we all want to think we're the one exception to the rule, just like all our children are above average here on Lake Wobegon, but I do not think the point is that this town is just wretched and evil for choosing Choice A.  The town is excruciatingly normal and human.  We fit that definition as well.  Like my favorite quote from "Courage" goes, "The human tragedy consists in the necessity of living with the consequences."  See also the chorus: "Courage, it didn't come, it doesn't matter/ Courage, couldn't come at a worse time."  Here, just have the damn song.


I'd even go so far as to say Not In My Back Yard tough guy antics actually make people more susceptible to the moral trickery that Andre Linoge sets in motion... it's so dogmatic, so self-assured for no good reason, that it's like putting on blinders.

Anyway, this is ironic timing given that I saw the movie The Rapture last night, which resolves similar themes in a decidedly different way.
intertribal: (smoking room)
I mentioned a while back that I got a free copy of The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, through a give-away at SF Signal.  I've finished it.  It is one of the worst books I have ever read - but maybe I'm the wrong reader for it, because I don't read the action thrillers that this thing is modeled on. 

I suspect that a lot of readers are just happy that these vampires are not Twilight vampires.  Indeed, they are unmistakably fiendish, murderous, grotesque.  They even defecate as they drain you of blood!  While I sympathize with the "finally, GORE!" crowd, these vampires aren't really vampires either.  They're more like zombies.  Can you imagine Lucy shambling down the road in a bathrobe, flailing mindlessly for anything that's got a vein available?  No.  Vampires are supposed to have some degree of charisma, some amount of style - I'm the person who thinks Herzog's Nosferatu is one of the most gorgeous and romantic movies ever.  They are not supposed to be a sexless horde.  Yes, The Strain's monsters suck blood.  But they fit the zombie category better.  Same with the vampires in the I Am Legend movie.*

Onto the thing that really bothered me.  More than the bad writing and unconvincing battle scenes (several Amazon reviewers mention the improbability of an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor with broken hands being the kick-ass action hero that he is), more than the repetition of vampires attacking their neighbors and turtle-slow pacing: I accurately predicted what would happen to the main characters. 

The main character (MC) is a "handsome," "genius" CDC dude who's in the middle of a divorce.  He really, really, really wants to be around his son Zach, who is just like him, brilliant and intense, etc.  Unfortunately, his beautiful ex-wife (who was the one calling MC a "handsome" "genius"), who never understood him and was always second to his work, wants custody of Zach.  And she has a new boyfriend who MC thinks is trying to replace him in Zach's life.  New boyfriend is pathetic (works at Sears) and sniveling.  Also, MC has a new love interest, who also works at the CDC (has the potential to understand his brilliance!) and gets along with Zach.  

So I'm like, hmm.  Clearly new boyfriend is going to die a horrible death.  Clearly Zach is going to end up with his rightful father.  If not for the new love interest, ex-wife would also end up with the MC, but given the new love interest, she will also die to make way for the MC's new and improved family.  I knew this because it is the plot offered up by disaster movies such as 2012 and War of the Worlds**.

I was exactly right.  Not only did new boyfriend turn into a vampire, providing the MC with the opportunity to stab him repeatedly (I think this was actually narrated in the book as stabstabstab), but the ex-wife was turned into a vampire who now wants to steal away Zach, the bitch!  One of the final lines of the book?  "The custody battle for Zach was not over."  She escapes to presumably reappear in the second book, as the MC laments that she will "haunt Zach forever."  And the girlfriend?  She stays behind in the final battle to take care of Zach. 

This kind of thing really bothers me, and I'm trying to figure out why.  For one I'm not sure about a custody battle subsuming the end of human life in New York City.  And on a basic level, it seems unrealistic as hell.  Disasters - or genocides - are not typically wish fulfillment scenarios (imagine if instead of vampires, people were being annihilated by an army instead; imagine the outrage that would ensue from trotting out genocide as an excuse for the main character to get whatever he wants [assuming he's seen as righteous and not a war profiteer, of course]).  Then there's the nasty little "why are you so special that the disaster works out aces for you, when everyone else is dying?  why should I be happy for you?" feeling, like it just doesn't seem fair, or justified.  But of course who am I to criticize what someone else wants to do with their story?  Why do I even want stories to be fair/justified?  I wouldn't care if the MC wasn't also this heroic figure that we're supposed to cheer for - I love to hate Milo Minderbinder from Catch-22, for example - but this book is written in such a way that there's no negotiating what side you're on, no unreliable narrator, no perspective except for the MC's.  Maybe I'd prefer it if the MC was scheming to use the vampire apocalypse to get Zach, get rid of his ex-wife, impress his girlfriend.  Etc.  Sure, he'd be a dickface.  But he'd be more interesting.  It would seem more accurate.  The outcome would not be inexplicable. 

And then there's the whole Hooray for Patriarchy aspect of it all.  Mothers are pretty much all doomed in The Strain, and by doomed I mean "turned evil."  There are two female characters of any importance - the ex-wife and the girlfriend, both defined entirely by their relationship to the MC - and the ex-wife goes bad, of course, while the girlfriend is billed as this sort of tough, smart counterpart to the MC but is really just the MC's toadie and on-call baby sitter.  She mostly stands back and screams in horror.  Two other female characters at least appear repeatedly: a blood-sucking lawyer turned vampire who eats her neighbor's kids (and then hunts her own kids) and just wants to get rich off lawsuits, and an unstable OCD-afflicted housewife who kills herself when her husband becomes a vampire (because she needs him to survive).  Contrast with the only vampire who shows any degree of complexity and morality - OCD housewife's husband, who nobly chains himself up in the shed so that he won't hurt his family.  D'awww.  Maybe this would make a good Father's Day present or something.  Certainly not a good Mother's Day present.  A father's love is protective, self-sacrificing, virtuous.  A mother's love is possessive, harmful/deadly, frightening.  What the fuck, you know?

* I suspect that somebody who's well-versed in the I Am Legend story could argue that it influenced The Strain, but that somebody is not me.
** To give W of the Worlds credit, though, it doesn't kill off mom's new boyfriend (or mom, but mom only dies if there's someone to take her place anyway).  I also appreciate W of the Worlds for clearly showing Tom Cruise's character's flaws - i.e., showing why his wife got a divorce, why he doesn't have custody.  In the case of 2012, though, mom's new boyfriend actually steps aside and then dies so that the "real family" can be together. 
intertribal: (grim reaper)
From Richard Seymour (Lenin's Tomb), "A community of heroes":
Roosevelt et al contended that to save America, a new frontier was needed: by waging wars of expansion, always with the fondest motives, always with civilisation and Christian virtue in mind, Americans would be impressed by their collective power and would "come to see themselves, as they had done in the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and in the colonization of new land, as a community of heroes engaged in a struggle upon which the future of humanity depended." Well, if that isn't American imperialist ideology to a tee. The firefighter, policeman, intrepid reporter, blue-collar bum, incorruptible union activist, brave American soldier - heroism is the supreme imperialist virtue (even if its application is cowardly, corrupt, venal, brutal, and in general as unlikely to inspire admiration as any form of human conduct).
In the comments somebody mentioned "tough trucks (heroic trucks)".  Like so:

intertribal: (can't look)
I know, I only randomly do Friday links.  That doesn't mean they are not still links on a Friday.  Also, I changed my layout!
  • The wonderful Abigail Nussbaum writes about the TV show Justified.  I don't watch it, although it seems like my kind of thing.  I don't know, you can only have so many FX gritty crime shows in your life.  And by "so many" I mean one.  Nevertheless, the review itself is, like all of her commentary, delicious:
    Justified pokes and prods at its characters' concept of masculinity, but it leaves Raylan's alone.  This has the unfortunate consequence of suggesting that Raylan's is the true masculinity, the one to which all other men can merely aspire--unfortunate because Raylan's version of manhood is so very tenuous, based on a fictional construct probably garnered from TV shows, rooted in a culture a hundred years gone to which he has no personal connection... and quite obviously arrived at due to his burning desire to leave Kentucky and Arlo Givens in his rearview mirror. As I've said, Raylan often acts as the silent witness to other men's struggles with their manhood, only coming out of his shell when the season's overarching plot, involving the Crowders and his father, heats up.  It's only in these scenes that we see Raylan's polite exterior crack, and only in his interactions with Arlo that he comes close to earning Winona's characterization of his as the angriest man she's known.  But it's also in these scenes that the cowboy persona is most tamped down, so that the question of Raylan's anger and his relationship to violence is never really addressed.
  • Elizabeth Tamny makes a remarkable discovery about the way Hollywood portrays female writers: "It seems like there is this trope of the female author just transferring (painful events from) her life to paper. Bing bang boom. Writing!"  Mark Athitakis comments: "It may be that male writers on screen tend to be presented as Important Authors while female writers are presented as "Sad People Who Can Only Manage Their Heartache by Getting It Down on Paper.""
  • My friend Yue wants to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter like so bad, dude (article is not G-chat convo with Yue).  Although NGL, that Forbidden Journey rollercoaster sounds cool.
K, that's all I got.  Sorry, and have a good weekend.
intertribal: (can't look)
Fantasy fans frustrate me sometimes.

Alison Flood (who I often disagree with) writes at The Guardian about her experience reading Conan stories and how turned off she is by the way different races are described, and the way women are described, and the way intersectionality brings the two together into a horrible union: The more lily-white a woman's skin, the more prized she is, says Flood.  So she wonders: "Is it ridiculous to criticise Robert E Howard's enjoyably pulpy Conan stories for their 1930s attitudes to women and race?"

The resounding response to this question: of course it is!  (And of course Flood responds to all this hysterical defensiveness of Conan with "but I really did enjoy a lot of it, I swear!  I promise!"  Ugh.)

- so what...take it in context. Do you critique sub-Saharan African or Oriental literature for its focus on particular races?
personally, as soon as you say Oriental you are docked like 1,000 points in my book.
- attempting to over-analyse them is the wrong way to approach them.
- its like dissing Harlequin romance novels for heaving breasts, wimpy heroines saved by manly men, and schmaltz writing.* Conan was always the romance novels for teenage boys.
- Oh, on the matter of political correctness or whatever you want to call it, I don't think it's all that bad. It's reconstructed, perhaps, and there's some stuff sitting between noble savage paternalism and popular xenophobia, but they are by no means Nazi screeds or something. I'm a pretty wishy-washy PC sort of a guy, but I don't see that as a big failing in the Conan stories, particularly if you consider the times and - more so - the men's adventure writing genre.
- No, you couldn't get away with writing like that today but so what? They're still good tales. The racism jarred? Just as well you didn't read the Del Ray editions which are the definitive texts, unlike your edition which was based on texts edited in the 1970's to make them more politically correct.

Man, it is SO AWESOME when "politically correct" is used like this.  Geez, thinking that women who are not porcelain white can be attractive is so PC, geez.  Gosh, if we were just BEING HONEST... /sarcasm

I get "taking things in context."  I really do.  I let a lot of classic lit take a pass because of this, and because there are redeeming values in the book.  Obviously I am a fan of the Mythos (though one of the lovely things about that is that it is constantly reinvented today without Lovecraft's B.S.), but that doesn't mean I just say "so what" to Lovecraft's racism (and hey, what interesting implications for horror as it pertains to changing social values, eh?).  Heart of Darkness is one of my all-time favorite books, although I also think that Achebe's criticisms of the way it depicts Africans are totally valid.  I have never read Conan and I don't want to (because epic barbarianism is not my genre), but I suspect if I did I would probably think it was funny in a pathetic way, remember that it is a product of its time, put it back on the shelf, and point and laugh at people who read it.  This isn't even about Conan.  You can replace Conan with any number of things that now come with the warning, "product of its time."

It's the responses that really get to me, the "who cares if it has that because I had fun reading it when I was an adolescent boy" thing.  Does that mean they'd give it to their sons?  Probably, yeah.  After all, so what?  Why not?  So Conan lives on, Conan with his lily-white women, Conan who ironically cannot be criticized because he is not to be taken seriously.  Whereas classic lit, which is actually, you know, meaningful and interesting and not the equivalent of a Michael Bay movie with half the intelligence, is constantly called out for its outdated bullshit.  Which is good, interesting, and ultimately necessary, because we are people living TODAY, analyzing it TODAY.  Like my Colonial Encounters class, talking about the way Tin Tin and Babar have been changed over the years, to get rid of the horrific racist cartoons in one and the weird-ass imperialist mindset in the other.  Nobody said let's go out and burn all copies of Rin Tin Tin.  It's saying, "hey, let's talk about this, look at how norms change over time, look at how embedded colonial narratives were, even in ads for detergent and coffee, did any of you pick up on this as kids?"  I wrote a paper on how Peter Pan is an iteration of the Noble Savage myth.  I love Peter Pan, but hey, it was an interesting idea.  Like this awesome thing I found on Victorian Chromatic Anxiety in Jane Eyre (i.e. "Jane's all white")

And some of the comments on that site did engage with what Flood brought up, suggest other works to try, explain things in a more in-depth way, etc, while still liking Conan stories.  There are, of course, Tolkien fights.  Which is fine.  Engagement and discussion, that's what you want!

But when the response to the idea of a discussion of these issues is a defensive "so what"... damn, it makes me want to break stuff.  This is the same thing that people say to defend Enid Blyton, another product of her time - "it doesn't matter, it's just for fun" or "it doesn't matter, it's just for kids"

What the he-ell does that imply, exactly? 

I'm not saying no one is allowed to read Conan or what the hell have you.  You can even read Enid fucking Blyton for all I care - I don't even want to ban Mein Kampf, so far be it for me to try to disallow literature with psycho ideas and norms.  I'm saying this sort of response to criticisms that a book has racist/sexist imagery is really frustrating.  Nasty little tidbits tucked in books - especially books for adolescents, especially books for entertainment - do not mean nothing. 
 
ETA: As Lindsey says below, media does not in and of itself cause people to be prejudiced - not in the olden days, not now.  If it wasn't a problem in society, it wouldn't be a problem in a book.  Obviously it is a problem in society, however.

* Just to note, I don't let romance novels off this hook either.

iron man 2

May. 9th, 2010 10:47 pm
intertribal: (to be with you in hell)
Context:  I saw the first Iron Man because our passes didn't work on Speed Racer (I was one of those crazy people who liked Speed Racer, btw), and I must confess that it was a little much for me.  I know, "too much" is basically the definition of a superhero movie, but the whole uber-American rock star CEO thing was just not something I could get into. 

This Movie: Because of the above, I actually ended up liking Iron Man 2 more than Iron Man.  Things go wrong in this one.  There's some doubt cast on the viability of the military-industrial complex, both for a nation and a person.  The whole thing is basically a metaphor for nukes - right down to flashbacks to Iron Man's dad making '50s era, Jetsonian promotional vids for technology that will save the world, etc. - so fittingly the two big specters in this movie are: 1) Dangerous, angry people who've been steamrolled by America and its shiny, fancy nukes making shitty, dirty nukes; 2) Nuclear energy turning out to be poisonous in the long-run.  And in the end, the bravado is toned down.  I for one appreciated this.  My favorite scene was probably Iron Man's disastrous birthday party that kind of highlighted how ridiculous the "techno-fantasy" can become.  No wait, my favorite scene was actually the one where Iron Man (or rather the guy that wears him, Tony Stark) presents Pepper with strawberries as an apology, and it turns out that's the one item she's allergic to.  That's what I mean: things go wrong for the rock star CEO in Iron Man 2.  I mean, I was actually rooting for him at the end here, and I wasn't rooting for him in the first one.

The action is a little meh on this one, to be honest - my eyes kind of glazed over - but since The Dark Knight my standards for action sequences have gone up astronomically.  There's also this whole subplot with the Avengers that I thought could have been junked, because introducing random people who look like they're from another superhero universe just distracts, frankly.  If I was not sitting with someone who knew who the hell these people were I would have been going, "who the fuck are these clowns?"  And do we really need to have the "climactic" battle between weaponized mechas intercut with Scarlett J. in a leather catsuit using sexy martial arts to take down security guards?  Don't answer that.  My point is I'm here to watch medium-sized robots fight, and Scarlett unfortunately reminded me way too much of this Scarlett, from this horrible, horrible movie.  That's bad.

Overall, though, I liked the movie and can recommend it.  

4s Marry 4s, 7s Marry 7s:  Yes.  But I think Pepper is awesome, so YMMV.  I thought the snippety interaction between RDJ and Paltrow was one of the best things about this one, and the saving grace of the first. 
intertribal: (but the levy was dry)
At io9 there's a fun little what-it-says-on-the-can article, "Good Character Development Includes The All-Important "F*@% Yeah" Moment."  I enjoyed reading this - I think everyone knows exactly what is meant by a "fuck yeah" moment, even if (like me) you don't know most of the examples cited.  The article says, "It's harder to root for characters who don't have [fuck yeah moments]. In fact, I'd say it's hard even to identify with characters who don't ever make you go "fuck yeah.""  But y'know, the more I thought about it, the more I came up with exceptions to the religion of Fuck Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

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


p.s.  My icon was made for this post.
intertribal: (all you bitches by your christian names)
These are the same psychos who think DBZ is about Jesus, right?  Gotta justify our bloodlust somehow.  You see this in Jesus Camp too.

More Churches Promote Martial Arts to Reach Young Men
The outreach is part of a larger and more longstanding effort on the part of some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility.

“The man should be the overall leader of the household,” said Ryan Dobson, 39, a pastor and fan of mixed martial arts who is the son of James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical group. “We’ve raised a generation of little boys.”

Over the past year and a half, a subculture has evolved, with Christian mixed martial arts clothing brands like Jesus Didn’t Tap (in the sport, “tap” means to give up) and Christian social networking Web sites like Anointedfighter.com.

Men ages 18 to 34 are absent from churches, some pastors said, because churches have become more amenable to women and children. “We grew up in a church that had pastel pews,” said Tom Skiles, 37, the pastor of Spirit of St. Louis Church in Arnold, Mo. “The men fell asleep.”

In focusing on the toughness of Christ, evangelical leaders are harking back to a similar movement in the early 1900s, historians say, when women began entering the work force. Proponents of this so-called muscular Christianity advocated weight lifting as a way for Christians to express their masculinity.

Jesse Johnson, 20, a potential convert, was subdued in a chokehold and decided not to return home with the other church members after his bout. He stayed in Memphis, drinking and carousing with friends along Beale Street, this city’s raucous, neon-lighted strip of bars.
I agree that we've raised a generation of little boys, but disagree that encouraging MMA will solve the problem.  Not that I have anything against MMA.  But it shouldn't serve as medication for the bruised male ego.  That's making problems worse, dudes! 

And the fact that it's "predominantly white" churches getting involved leads me to conclude that there's a lame persecution-of-the-hegemons complex involved here too.
intertribal: (all you bitches by your christian names)
Tennis is my new DBZ-substitute.  And oh, when it works, it's better than NCAA football could ever be (I know football has physical contact on its side - it's also a team sport, and in tennis, injury is a guaranteed loss unless you're Michael Chang).  I should point out that a lot of times, it doesn't work.  A lot of matches are ho-hum, clinical, predictable.  If you win the first set 6-2, you're not usually going to lose the second 6-3, and you pretty much never lose the third set 6-0. 

I realized this when I realized I was watching the Federer-Davydenko quarterfinal for like the fourth time on ESPN 360 (Hulu for sports psychos!).  And not just the exciting finish or the comfortable middle sets either.  The whole damn thing, horrifically bad beginning and all.  I actually watched it live too - starting at MIDNIGHT, thank you Williams sisters - but I had to keep switching to the X-Files (which had a creepy evil doll premise but rather disappointing execution - the fact that it was co-written by Stephen King is making me seriously doubt all that I thought was right).  Watching this match was like watching a DBZ episode.  Minus the blood and explosions.  The commentators called it "the weirdest match they'd ever seen," and if by weird they mean roller-coaster-awesome, then yes, I agree. 

On a tangentially related note, I watched Shaft (2000) tonight.  I was a little doubtful at first, but then I saw Christian Bale's name in the opening credits and Christina said he played the bad guy and I was like, WHERE DO I SIGN UP.  And it was actually a pretty awesome movie, so good job, Shaft.  Keep in mind I think Running Scared is one of the most underrated action movies out there and I kept seeing actors I LOVE in it (me: "Look, it's Mekhi Phifer!"  "Look, it's Beecher!"), so I was pretty easily convinced.  Vanessa Williams was useless (not an actress...), but Toni Collette was awesomely realistic.
intertribal: (Default)
Strange things are afoot in Big 12 football.  At the end of the season, Kansas coach Mark Mangino was fired for abusing his players (one was made to do a bear-crawl until his hands bled, then a bunch of other (black) players said they'd been threatened with being sent home to get shot with their "homies").  Now, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has been suspended from coaching Tech in the Alamo Bowl for putting a player who said he had a concussion in a closet as punishment for "faking" the concussion.  It is craziness.  It's also worth noting that Leach had been one of Mangino's big defenders: "The mean man told some player something he didn’t want to hear... Well, there’s a mean man in Lubbock that tells people stuff they don’t want to hear, too, and that’s just part of it.”

And it gets weirder.  The player who made the accusation, Adam James, is the son of ESPN announcer Craig James - who had been scheduled to call the Alamo Bowl.  He has been removed from that post, but Craig James has been calling Texas Tech games all year.  Said a user on Life In The Red: "his broadcast of the Tech-NU game was not close to being balanced. He made it sound like the NU D gave up 60 to tech, when in fact it was the least yards a Leach team had ever gained, and one TD was scored by the Tech D!" 

Yeah, see, this is why I'm glad I discovered sports blogs.  Not only have I discovered that I am not crazy to hate Brett Favre and Tim Tebow - and, Christ, that many other people, even Americans, hated the ridiculously bombastic coverage of the 2009 US Open - but they give me an alternative to the corrupt machine that is ESPN and its cohorts.  Because seriously, FUCK that shit.  This is why I watch Awful Announcing.

As a side note, I actually like Texas Tech (more than the other three Texas teams in the Big 12, anyway) - I like how Mike Leach is all "arrr I'm a pirate" and the team runs into the stadium in Lubbock led by this chick in a Zorro costume, I mean, it's awesome, you know.  Mike Leach clearly talks too much and has a really short fuse when it comes to his players (he's said that his players were wrong to listen to their "fat little girlfriends", he banned the players from having Twitter pages when one player tweeted that Leach was late to a team meeting because Twitter is just for "narcissists" anyway) - times like that that I'm happy our coach does not talk to the media at all, and mostly just goes batshit psycho on referees.  Still, I have always preferred blunt coaches to smarmy ones.  And God knows what all is going on in this story, but the whole Craig James angle makes it less straightforward.

But: I'm not one of those people who thinks that college football coaches should be able to do whatever they want to their players (if certain NFL coaches would grow a bit more of a spine, however, I would not object).  I'm never going to be all, oh those boys just need to toughen up, society's gotten too soft.  Because that just creeps me out, to be frank.  It's one thing to be blunt.  But if being blunt means you make it obvious that you're a sadist, you still suck. 
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