intertribal: (meow)
"Miles and miles of perfect skin, I swear I do, I fit right in.  Miles and miles of perfect sin, I swear, I said, I fit right in, I fit right in your perfect skin."
- Hole, "Reasons to Be Beautiful"

This is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I'm actually going to respond to it: Can Male Writers Successfully Write Female Characters? Rod Rees defends his female characters in a way that makes you really appreciate Cormac McCarthy's refusal to write female characters, because he just knows he can't pull it off.  Because if there's one thing worse than a man who claims all women are incomprehensible, it's the man who claims to understand all women!

The old adage is write what you know and living in a house with two hi-achieving, confident and very ambitious teenage girls and having an intelligent and thoughtful wife (who happens to be beautiful to boot!) gave me, I thought, something of an insight into the female mindset.

Beautiful to boot!  I'm sure that makes her easier to try to understand.  Based on his descriptions of them, his female protagonists tend to be young, feisty, and ready and able to market themselves to men.  They admire their breasts in the mirror, use their sexual wiles to get themselves out of a tight corner (the backseat of a Volkswagen?), and call themselves "a lush thrush with a tight tush."  Rees protests that women do, indeed, objectify themselves.  And yes, many women do - many women are constantly preoccupied with their bodies, but about 80-90% of the time, such preoccupation comes from a very scary place of self-hatred and envy.  Even my most confident friends say things like, "bad news, I got fat :(" and when they tell their mirror selves, out loud, "I look hot," it's to combat the years and years of negative internal dialogue, their relatives' nitpicking, their boyfriends' secret stash of porn featuring women that look nothing like them, and of course, that ol' bugaboo, the media.

Rees also protests that women - grown-up women, that is, in the "visceral world of adult fiction" - use their sexual wiles.  Yeah, also true; some women do.  But again, it's accompanied by a whole host of other issues: flashbacks to uncomfortable/negative/non-consensual sexual experiences, fear of "something going wrong," and of course, the above body shame.  There's also the issue of personality shame: "I'm too awkward," "I scare people away," "no one likes me," "I'm not popular."  I'm not saying guys don't have this too - they do - but that this is a real insecurity experienced by many, many women (pretty much every woman I know) who are under pressure to be the kind of socially-adept coquettes that Rees apparently thinks is standard adult female behavior.  And as I argued in my essay on Shirley Jackson, women who fail to play the social roles assigned to them rarely if ever appear in fiction, and almost never as heroines.  This doesn't mean there's not a hunger for them, among both men and women, which is why fucked-up, maladroit women like Kara "Starbuck" Thrace and Lisbeth Salander have proved so popular, and why I've got high hopes for Sonya Cross on "The Bridge."  The issue, for me, isn't that Rees writes about women who don't exist.  I'm sure they do, somewhere - there's a lot of women in the world - and they're probably fucked-up in ways that Rees can't imagine.  The issue is that female characters like his are so obviously a male fantasy, and all they really do is contribute to the huge pile of excrement that is The Portrayal of Women in Media.

What it comes down to is this: spending your life looking at women does not give you insight into what it's like to be a woman, to think like one, to act like one.  All it does is enable you to create avatars who fetishize themselves.  When temporarily transformed into a woman for a movie, Dustin Hoffman came to the astonishing conclusion that the world was full of interesting women that he had not deigned to talk to, because they didn't meet "his" standard of beauty - because he had been brainwashed.  This is a really important discovery that more men need to make.  To some extent, it goes both ways, but men have more social tools at their disposal: wealth, power, seniority, wit, or even just being "not creepy."  By in large, women are still defined and judged by their physical characteristics.

Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype doesn’t work and hence struggle. Just a thought.

The stereotype, by the way, is the "ideal" heroine who doesn't "see herself as an object of male sexual interest" and doesn't "use her sexual charisma as a means of achieving an objective."  This is probably the most woeful, enraging assertion of all, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Rees hasn't read a lot of books, or stories, or songs written by women.  I mean, if he's really suggesting female writers write female characters who have no idea they're objects of male sexual interest, he really needs to listen to Courtney Love's entire ouevre, for one, and Catherine Breillat's, and Sylvia Plath's.  Believe me: we know.  And actually, there are female writers who write his type of self-fetishizing female characters: teenage girls writing bad fanfiction, copying what they've seen in some romance novels, some erotica, and male-gaze sex scenes.  He's got plenty of company. 
intertribal: (all i do is win)
A couple weeks ago (during the pre-break work crunch), I left the Graduate Research Center around 9 p.m. and decided to catch the shuttle back to the metro near the undergrad dorms.  There were four girls in the bus shelter when I got there - it was cold, but they were going out - teensy dresses, leather jackets, jesus-christ-heels, flat-ironed hair, mascara so thick it looks like feathers, gum.  The uniform for going out, especially in the under-21 set.  All white, all at least trying to look loaded.  The undergrads at AU have a reputation for being dumb rich kids from Maryland and the surrounding area whose parents were like "ohhh-kay, I guess you can go to college in DC but be careful sweetie" - the grads, by comparison, are like the underdog team in any given sports comedy (Georgetown, GW, and Johns Hopkins take turns pointing and laughing, but the price is wrong, bitch). 

These girls would have intimidated the shit out of me when I was an undergrad, by sheer virtue of looking like they knew how to dress, knew how to be cool, had friends, were going "out," etc.  They crowded around one iPhone watching the "Rack City" video like it was some kind of scandal that they were watching it at all.  Then other girls, and one guy who was clearly trying to play the pimp role, joined them - by the time the shuttle got there, there were about two dozen of these little rockstars ready for their big night out.  They took up nearly the entire bus, and treated the thing like it was their personal party limo.  Everybody preening in the window. 

And then there was me, and one other grad student in the class I'd just gotten out of - both of us had our earbuds in and gave each other customary curt nods - and at the back of the bus, by herself, one lowly undergrad who was not invited to the Party.  And she wasn't ugly, or frumpy, but she was still wearing makeup junior high style and her hair was unkempt and her clothes weren't cool.  I looked at her and the gulf separating her from the Cool Kids and thought, "there but for the grace of God go I."  In fact, that was me as an undergrad, and it was awful.  I remember trying to get the look right everyday before class - because I sure didn't go to parties - and just failing all over the place.  Just never got there.  I had the chance to be part of a preppy-cool clique early on in college and I simply could not keep up appearances.  Because when it doesn't feel natural, it feels like you're trapped on some hideous piece of gym equipment, climbing up but slipping down and under so much strain. 

I have no clue how I got out of it (a similar thing happens on the Law & Order episode "Quit Claim," when Connie shows the judge a picture of her in college to show how women's appearances can change, and the judge is like, "point taken").  Time, maybe?  Finally going to a school that I feel fondness and "spirit" for?  Those two years in Nebraska getting drunk in a more "low-key" environment?  A year pretending to be a presentable date for a normal Nebraskan boy?  Is it wearing jeggings and bandage dresses, God help me?  I don't know.  I don't know how I fell in with the popular crowd in my program, how I became one of the girls that "brings the party," someone who "knows people."  Natnari always jokes that you have to schedule a social appointment with me two weeks in advance.  There is much closer correspondence between professionalism/competence and popularity in grad school - it's actually a very good thing to be friends with the faculty and staff; the resident bombshell of SIS is staff.  It's definitely a good thing to have a white-collar job - the more networked, the better.  But the art of Being Cool is also much more intense because we're that much closer to adulthood, and I'm not falling off the StairMaster this time, and I just do not know why. 

So I kind of wanted to go up to that girl on the bus and tell her it'll get better (I feel like I shouldn't use that phrase anymore, but how else to say it?).  But it's not like I don't get imposter syndrome either - imposter at my job, imposter as a student, imposter as a popular girl most of all - it's not like I don't half the time feel like "inside every Chris Hargensen and Sue Snell is a Carrie White clawing to get out."  I'm just trying my best not to let the two "sides" merge.  I do not want to be a Mean Girl, which is why I maintain my effort to be (almost) everyone's friend - a goal I originally set up to just not be unpopular again, for the love of all that was good and holy.  But I can see how easy it would be, to be a Mean Girl, especially when you've always been on the wrong side of the bleachers and you're on this nouveau-riche high.  Especially when being on the wrong side of the bleachers in your teen years graced you with a constant, consuming sense of resentment (ressentiment?).  And especially when, like Gatsby, getting rich didn't get you what you really wanted all along. 

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: (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. 


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.


May. 6th, 2011 04:43 pm
intertribal: (baby got an alibi)
PYM by Mat Johnson is a whole bunch of awesome (as [ profile] pgtremblay promised it would be).  It is, basically, the kind of science fiction/fantasy* that I really enjoy and get a lot out of.  That is:
  • Well-written.
  • Written with passion.  I don't know how to describe this really, I just know it when I see it.
  • Overflowing with sharp, biting, often-funny social commentary. 
  • Smart.  The whole thing is a sequel and satire of Edgar Allen Poe's rather racist, open-ended fantasy The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and the narrator is a black-but-looks-white literature professor who's just been denied tenure for refusing to go along with the college's pointless Diversity Committee.  The original story features an undiscovered island full of extraordinarily black, blacker than black people, as well as an Antarctica that's home to an extraordinarily white, whiter than white giant.  That's all I'll tell you, because finding out what happens after is the good part - the journey is the reward itself, etc.  PYM is mental acrobatics - not difficult to read, though, and very engaging - but the set-up is mental acrobatics. 
  • Not an exercise in authorial wish fulfillment.  I mean, there is a ton of desire and wishing going on, but... the best laid plans, etc.
  • Just a little bit wacko = kind of like the endearing quality "whimsy," but a lot less cute and a lot more WTF. 
It's also a lot of fun and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, most of the way at least (the tone changes near the end).  Mostly this is due to Johnson's evident great talent for voice.  And another thing (I may get flack for this, but whatever...)?  I don't think this could have been written by someone who wasn't black.  Or at least it would have been extraordinarily hard.  So much of it - and I really mean this, it's basically the whole book - is about (the author's take on) being black in America, being black within the social and cultural history of America.

Good stuff.  Wish more stuff was like this.  

* But I'm pretty sure this would get shelved in the "literary" section of the library, despite the, uh, ice yetis involved.
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)
This is why racism remains a "thing" in my novel, which is post-apocalyptic (and I don't even have the apocalypse coming from across borders - it's just part of social organization in Junction Rally, as it has been for all its years of existence).  The Yellow Plague: Asians and Asian Americans in Post-Apocalyptic and Zombie Fictions by Bao Phi:
But like many brands of American horror and action genres, popular post-apocalyptic and zombie fictions tend to veer towards straight American male fantasy - many of the fictions and films in the genre operate under the assumption that, if all hell breaks loose, all issues of race, class, and gender are (supposedly) irrelevant compared to basic human survival - and consciously or otherwise, most leaders that emerge in these imagined post-racial scenarios are straight, white alpha males. In the Western pop imagination, there seems to be a desire to wipe the difficult questions of co-existence off the table - and what better way to do that, then to imagine a situation where five to ten random (and mostly white) strangers must fight off mindless brain-hungry hoards while trying to divide the bullets, bacon, and fresh water into equal shares? Where the musings and philosophies of fancy pants artists and social commentators like myself are next to useless?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good thing I wasn't checking LJ, cuz I wouldn't have gotten any of my many tasks done today.  I'm not going to comment on the TOC thing itself, because it's all the stuff that comes out of the woodwork once the TOC red-herring has been beaten to death that I find more noteworthy.  I've put my thoughts on "PC" as a slur on [ profile] cucumberseed's LJ, so this is what I have left.  It's a little angry, but I'm a little angry.  I usually confine this type of thing to other people's LJs, but I feel the need to say something this time.  Particularly over things like "Most modern people are color-blind and gender blind and don’t care whether you’re a WASP or some dude from Argentina or a girl from that village in Togo."  That is not true of most people in Lincoln, Nebraska and it's not true of most people at Columbia University and it's not true of most people in Jakarta, Indonesia.  My own mother says she isn't color-blind, and she married "out of' her race and religion. 

Bondoni's argument advocating that we stop being oppressed by the PC parrots reminds me of a chain letter I got in middle school from an LDS friend, saying "75% of Americans believe in God.  Why can't we just tell the other 25% to sit down and shut up!!!"*  I responded with a long-ass convoluted email about how horrified this made me, and one of the reasons I gave was basically "Dude.  Are you seriously claiming that religious people in America are more persecuted than non-believers?"  But then the term "reverse racism" was born, and it seemed like every little inch, every little sign that maybe the demographics of power would shift to reflect the demographics of the country, that maybe the same people wouldn't have all the power all the time, was taken to be a sign that those people who never had power were going to rule, iron-fisted, over the people they "usurped." 

[This paranoid push/pull and desperate grip on diminishing power is true in other countries too, cuz humans love power and security, although it's a lot more complicated in places where the now-majority is descended from people who were enslaved by the now-minority, and the now-minority still has a lot of the country's wealth - that is, post-colonial countries.  So I'm not going to touch that.]

I don't think the majority social group in America is in any danger of being guillotined.  I really, truly don't.  Even if minorities wanted that (which they don't - I'm going to give everybody the benefit of the doubt here and say no one wants genocide), the reason they are called "minorities" is because there just aren't enough of them to overrun the majority group.  But I would like the majority social group to remember that these people who are suddenly "threatening to take your shit" - your job, your seat in the lecture hall, your place on that science fiction TOC - they didn't just fall out of the sky.  Or to keep with the SF theme, out of a spaceship.  They've been here the whole time.  In the ditches, in the fields.  In the shadows.  Taking the dirty jobs - or being forced to take them.  Does this mean your life's been roses?  Nope.  Civilization's a bitch, ain't it?  And if you want to start some kind of anti-capitalist revolution, you can count me in.

The End.  Shelly still loves you, she's just pissed.  We didn't start the fire - no we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it.

*: might not be 75.  It was somewhere in the 70s, so I just went for the median.  Also, I am well aware that LDS people have been discriminated against, but this was not LDS vs. the rest-of-the-world.  In fact, I'm sure if the statistic was reversed, and the conclusion was "why don't we just tell those Mormons to sit down and shut up!!!", she wouldn't have forwarded it to me.
intertribal: (twin peaks: laura)
I saw Wes Craven's My Soul To Take last night - it was actually pretty decent.  The plot was a little convoluted, with all the souls splintering and being captured and going into babies and all, but I really enjoyed the characters.  They were teenagers - "who look like they're actually in high school," as Christina said - from various social cliques who were not at all cardboard cut-outs.  They acted like actual people.  They all had flaws as well as positive traits.  No one was romanticized or vilified. 

But here's the other thing: I think that writers often get the message to build three-dimensional, realistic, balanced characters.  But part of that, and the part that I think tends to fall by the wayside, is that these lovely three-dimensional characters are still part of society.  They're influenced by social norms, by the expectations others lay on them; they feel more comfortable with some people than others.  A lot of them probably want to stay wherever they're comfortable.  And in most high school settings, they're going to be sitting somewhere within a hierarchy.  In other words, these characters need to reside in realistic social systems, IMO - realistic, of course, for whatever world has been built.  My Soul To Take totally nailed this one: the beautiful popular girl isn't going to fall for the unpopular, loser-ish outcast - she's got a reputation to maintain, or she doesn't think he'd be good for her, or she doesn't find his type attractive, or "it just wouldn't work."  Does that mean she's a shallow, selfish bitch/whore with nothing more to her?  No.  Of course not.  She's still a whole person, just like the outcast is still a whole person.  It just means they don't exist in a social vacuum. 

Of course, this is not to say that beautiful popular girls have never fallen for unpopular outcasts, or that I as a rule cannot "buy" a story where that happens.  Just that I feel like fictional characters seem to defy society a lot more than real people do.  It's also not to say that social roles are straitjackets, because that's crazy deterministic.

How important this is varies from person to person, I know.  But I've discovered that it's very important to me.  It makes me feel like there's less lying going on, usually about how good the world is (or alternately - in the case of horrific dystopic totalitarian states where EVERYTHING IS BAD and EVERYONE SUFFERS - how bad the world is).  Plus I like seeing social systems in action, I guess.  There's a reason I majored in political science.

P.S.  Watching One Missed Call 2.  Could have sworn director Tsukamoto sampled a bit of audio from one of the LOTR movies.  Only this time instead of Frodo mesmerized by the ring, we have girl being attacked by ghost.  It's all the same, really.
intertribal: (smoking room)
1.  Marc Thiessen on Jon Stewart - extended, unedited interview, in three parts.  One of those cases where Jon Stewart looks genuinely disturbed.  Part 3 is like arrgh.  This is Marc Thiessen - he has an endorsement from Dick Cheney: "Marc Thiessen knows, in ways that few others do, just how effective, heroic, and morally justified were the interrogators who kept this nation safe after 9/11. If you want to know what really happened behind the scenes at the CIA interrogation sites or at Guantanamo Bay, you simply must read this book." 

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

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

4.  A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, by Amitava Kuvar.  "He quotes the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who asked us to understand “why millions of people in poor countries that have been pushed to one side, and deprived of the right to decide their own histories, feel such anger at America.”"
intertribal: (ride with hitler)
Since [ profile] selfavowedgeek made one, I decided to make a 4th of July playlist too.  It's a touch on the cynical side.  And by a touch I mean a huge wallop on the cynical side.  But that should surprise no one. 

Part I.  America Talks To Itself

1.  "American Pie" - Don McLean

Did you write the Book of Love, and do you have faith in God above if the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock 'n' roll, can music save your mortal soul, and can you teach me how to dance real slow?

2.  "The 50 States Song" - Sufjan Stevens

Visit Nebraska, there's nothing to do

3.  "Born in the U.S.A." - Bruce Springsteen

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary, out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burnin' down the road - nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go
Born in the USA, I was born in the USA
Born in the USA, I'm a long-gone daddy in the USA

4.  "Army Dreamers" - Kate Bush

What could he do, should've been a rock star - but he didn't have the money for a guitar
What could he do, should've been a politician - but he never had a proper education
What could he do, should've been a father - but he never even made it to his 20s

5.  "Fortunate Son" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Some folks are born made to wave the flag, ooh, they're red, white and blue
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief", oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
Some folks inherit star spangled eyes, ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them "how much should we give?" they only answer, "more, more, more"
It ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one

6.  "Rooster" - Alice in Chains

Walkin' tall machine gun man, they spit on me in my homeland
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy, got my pills 'gainst mosquito death
Yeah, they come to snuff the rooster, yeah, here come the rooster

7.  "For What It's Worth" - Buffalo Springfield

There's battle lines being drawn, nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Paranoia strikes deep - into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid - step out of line, the man'll come and take you away
Stop, now, what's that sound - everybody look what's goin' down

8.  "(Antichrist Television Blues)" - The Arcade Fire

Dear God, I'm a good Christian man, in your glory, I know you understand,
That you gotta work hard and you gotta get paid,
My girl's 13 but she don't act her age, she can sing like a bird in a cage,
Oh Lord, if you could see her when she's up on that stage!
Do you know where I was at your age?  Any idea where I was at your age?
I was working downtown for the minimum wage, and I'm not gonna let you just throw it all away.
I'm through being cute, I'm through being nice, oh tell me, Lord, am I the Antichrist?!

Part II.  America in the World; The World Talks Back

1.  "Amerika" - Rammstein

We're all living in Amerika, Amerika is wunderbar
We're all living in Amerika, Coca Cola, wonderbra
We're all living in Amerika, Coca Cola, sometimes war
This is not a love song!  I don't speak my mother tongue!  No, this is not a love song!

2.  "God Loves America" - Swans

So God forgive America, the end of history is now
And God may save the victim, but only the murderer holds real power

3.  "Touched" - VAST

I looked into your eyes and saw a world that does not exist
I looked into your eyes and saw a world I wish I was in
I'll never find someone quite as touched as you
I'll never love someone quite the way that I loved you

4.  "Crumbs From Your Table" - U2

You were pretty as a picture, it was all there to see
Then your face caught up with your psychology
With a mouthful of teeth, you ate all your friends
And you broke every heart, thinking every heart mends

5.  "Beware" - Deftones

You should know, really, that this could end
You should know I could never make it work
Do you like the way the water tastes?  (Like gunfire!)
Do you like the way the water tastes?  (Stop it!)
Beware the water!  Beware the water!

6.  "Hate This And I'll Love You" - Muse

Oh I am growing tired of allowing you to steal everything I have
You're making me feel like I was born to service you - but I am growing by the hour
Cuz I was born to destroy you, and I am growing by the hour

7.  "Murderer" - Low

Don't act so innocent, I've seen you pound your fist into the earth
And I've read your books - seems that you could use another fool
Well, I'm cruel, and I look right through
You must have more important things to do
So if you need a murderer, someone to do your dirty work...

8.  "Forgetting" - Philip Glass

A man wakes up to the sound of rain from a dream about his lovers who pass through his room
The man is awake now, he can't catch his sleep again
So he repeats these words, over and over again:
Bravery.  Kindness.  Clarity.  Honesty.  Compassion.  Generosity.
Bravery.  Honesty.  Dignity.  Clarity.  Kindness.  Compassion. 

Part III.  Group Hug!

"We Didn't Start the Fire" - Billy Joel

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again, Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline, Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide, foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shore, China's under martial law, rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore!
We didn't start the fire - it was always burning, since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire - but when we are gone, it will still burn on and on and on and on...
intertribal: (pleased to meet you)
1.  Tatjana Soli [The Millions]: Legacy of a Photo.  AP headquarters at first rejected the photo for the indecency of frontal nudity, rather than focusing on the bigger indecency of children being burned alive. Ut and head of the department, Horst Fass, argued that napalm had burned off her clothes and refused to crop the photo. Finally an exception was made because of the news value of the story... Although the Chicago Tribune ran Stephanie Sinclair’s photo of the dead Iraqi girl, some worried that it was too graphic, and a compromise was reached to include a story on the legacy of cluster bombs with it. According to an interview with Sinclair on “I found that the Iraqi civilian story was really hard to get published in U.S. publications. And I worked for many. I don’t know why. I think they’re looking at their readership and they think their readers want to know about American troops, since they can relate to them more. They think that’s what the audience wants.”  [Bonus: Uplifting closing paragraphs!]

2.  Bruce Falconer [The American Scholar]: The Torture ColonyDeep in the Andean foothills of Chile’s central valley lives a group of German expatriates, the members of a utopian experiment called Colonia Dignidad. They have resided there for decades, separate from the community around them, but widely known and admired, and respected for their cleanliness, their wealth, and their work ethic... The days were productive. Schaefer exhorted his colonos to righteous sacrifice, frequently reciting the words “Arbeit ist Gottesdienst” (“Work is divine service”). Large signs attached to garden trellises and decorative iron latticework inside the Colonia reinforced the message with pious declarations like “Supreme Judge, We Await Thee” and “We Withstand the Pain for the Sake of Dignity.”... Schaefer, through an informal alliance with the Pinochet regime, allowed Colonia Dignidad to serve as a torture and execution center for the disposal of enemies of the state.

3.  Loren Coleman [Twilight Language]: 3 Days, 3 Attacks.  I have pointed out that in China (and Japan), due to their strict firearms laws, such countries tend to manifest their "copycat school violence" in terms of "stabbing" series.  Five incidents in a little over a month and three attacks in three days have left at least 9 children dead in China, all by knife-wielding older males... A mentally ill teacher on sick leave for the past four years broke into a school and wounded 18 students and a teacher in southern China’s Leizhou city in Guangdong province on April 28... The attack on March 23, 2010 shocked China because eight children died and the assailant had no known history of mental illness. At his trial, Zheng Minsheng, 42, said he killed because he had been upset after being jilted by a woman and treated badly by her wealthy family. He was executed by firing squad on Wednesday, April 28, just a little over a month after his crime.
intertribal: (but the levy was dry)
This is such a great exercise in social norms.

So, some web site, MoviesOnline.CA, publishes a very poorly written list of "Top 10 Truly Disturbing Films."  The writer's name is Michael.  Michael has some pithy statements prefacing his list: "I am not a fan of gore and I am not a fan of films like HOSTEL which for me are nothing but torture porn. Gore for the sake of gore does nothing for me but movies with intricate stories and truly disturbing content and messages not only resonate with me but leave me truly terrified."  Okay then.  His list is supposed to be "Disturbing films that offer enticing stories, great characters, and most of all a truly terrifying experience."

Okay, great.  Supposedly he's watched thousands of movies and owns all this horror and all that.  The list:

Blindness ("stunningly well done," "shocking and fantastic")
Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door ("disturbing and emotional," "will definitely leave you feeling violated")
Frontieres ("
a far superior film to High Tension")
Last House on the Left remake ("brutal," "brutal")
Jack Ketchum's The Lost ("all that more disturbing," "extremely disturbing")

Inside (
"With the exception of an extremely flawed ending INSIDE... has an extremely graphic and brutal ending")
Teeth ("Dark and well written its a film you will chuckle at and wince.")
Hard Candy ("intense and dark")
Martyrs ("
one of the most intense and intelligent films I have ever seen," "one of the most disturbing and well done films I have ever seen")
Deadgirl ("
intelligent and extremely dark film that is both disturbing and entrancing")

Here's the thing about his list.  4 out of 10 (Last House, Teeth, Hard Candy, Deadgirl) are basically rape-revenge movies.  Another is straight-up rape (Girl Next Door).  Blindness is a crap shoot, somewhere between the two.  That's 6.  Frontiers teeters on the brink of rape-revenge.  That's 7.  The Lost, Inside, and Martyrs all feature women being murdered or tortured.  I know that everybody's got their own squick factor, but geez.  Now that is a homogeneous list. 

If we must go down rape road, at least do something deeper than psychos + victim = brutality + vengeance, eh?  Move beyond the voyeurism and the pathetic attempts at moral cleansing?  Get a little introspective, perhaps?  Where is Irreversible?  Straw Dogs?  A Clockwork Orange?  Salo?  Oh, wait, men are violated in Salo as well, never mind.  There's not even a Lars Von Trier in this lot - and Von Trier actually tries to go somewhere new with misogyny.  I've seen Blindness and Frontiers.  They're both awful.  Bloody Awwwful.  Blindness is grotesque, but not well-done.  Frontiers is not disturbing or well-done.  Both are illogical and annoying.  The only two I'd want to see on that list are Inside and Martyrs.  Each notable because they feature women torturing women. 

He also remarks on Girl Next Door that "most films of this nature I would find highly offensive."   Right.  He then asks his readers what movies "left you feeling violated."  Right.

As one of the commenters said, "Eraserhead??!?"  Yes, indeed.  Where IS Eraserhead?  In fact, David Lynch is nowhere to be found!  David Lynch!  Also notably missing is Takashi Miike (!!), or anyone else on the Asia Extreme circuit (Has this guy heard of Ebola?  The Guinea Pig series?  Oldboy?  Battle Royale?).  I suppose Philosophy of the Knife and Cannibal Holocaust are "torture porn" (not enough rape?).  Political disturbance is out the window too, apparently, as Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation are MIA.  Some would also make the case for The Exorcist or Jacob's Ladder.  Believe it or not, there are other social norms out there!  Humanity's scope of experience does encompass things beyond rape-revenge!

I don't object to depicting violence or sexual violence on screen, on page, on the radio.  God knows I don't.  In fact, I'm a proponent of showing more violence, because censorship clearly hasn't gotten us anywhere.  Of course it's generally unpleasant to watch a character be tortured.  But don't mistake a scene featuring "attractive women being violated by perverse sickos" as an automatic transcendent level of human disturbance.  Sexual violence is prevalent in the world, and in history.  Violence practically comes standard.  What makes a movie or a book or a music video disturbing is not "unflinching brutality" - that stuff you just slough off with water.  It's the stuff that happens in between, the stuff it does to you.  Where's the catharsis?  What happens next?  And let's be honest.  You wanna watch another?  You feel guilty?  You feel scared?  What?  Why does Last House On The Left, of all things, keep you up at night? 

The ultraviolence in Clockwork Orange terrified me, yes.  But what scarred me for life was this: my family members laughing during the rape scenes, and the depiction of Alex as some kind of hero.  I think our friend Michael was only honest with Teeth ("the next minute you are groaning. Especially if you are a male.") and Inside ("I have two children and at the time my youngest was only a month old so I could not stomach the idea of watching this film").  At any rate, this notion that rape in and of itself is the most disturbing, brutal, stay-with-you-for-years-and-haunt-your-dreams thing that can possibly be shown on celluloid is small-minded and hard to believe and suspicious, quite frankly. 

I'm also going to take a moment to point out that the list seems to have been compiled for the sole purpose of putting up classically enticing women-in-peril movie stills.  In case we were still in doubt.

So what is this?  Personal hang-up?  A serious case of an emaciated movie repertoire (and this guy's a movie REVIEWER)?  Or an example of a wider psychosis?  I'm just gonna leave this here: A Whole Lot of Poor Judgment.

And spare me the bullshit.
intertribal: (meat cleaver)
Scarface and Capturing the Friedmans have more in common than you might think.  Besides both being incredibly awesome watches, that is - five out of five stars to both.  Yes, I had not seen Scarface until a couple weeks ago. 

They both revolve around "reviled villains" who have been black-marked by the society they live in - 1980s Miami, 1980s upstate New York.  After brief experiences living "the good life," something has slipped, some care has not been taken, and Tony Montana and Arthur Friedman find themselves in jail, with both their social standing and family life in ruins.  Seemingly overnight, they have become hazards to society.  Communal napalm.  And they are treated appropriately.  Their friends and neighbors have either abandoned them or left death threats through the telephone.  They've become scapegoats for a complicated illness that the whole community feels, but can't pinpoint - because nobody's going to point at themselves.  Except, of course, Tony Montana and Arthur Friedman.  True pillars of the community that they are, they will gamely carry on the mantle of their social role to their deaths.  Guilty plea, blame it on me.


Notice, however - neither Tony Montana nor Arnold Friedman are saints.  They are far from it, in fact.  CtF concludes - based off Friedman's own letters - that Friedman was a pedophile and he had acted on it (but he was probably innocent in the incredibly lurid case he was prosecuted for).  Montana smuggles cocaine and kills anyone who gets in his way, and on the side he kills anyone who gets involved with his younger sister.  This isn't Salem, Mass.  It's also not Forks, Wash., with all its "what if I'm the bad guy?" bullshit.  No, these are the Bad Guys, in-the-deed-the-glory, right down to their Inevitable Downfall. 

I wish I could find Tony Montana's speech on  YouTube, but it's all shit quality.  But here's the gist - and this takes place at a very ritzy restaurant filled with rich white people, after having chased off his wife with the admonition that she's a junkie who can't have kids - "You need people like me so you can point your fucking fingers and say 'that's the bad guy.'  So, what does that make you?  Good?  You're not good.  You just know how to hide, how to lie.  Me, I don't have that problem.  Me, I always tell the truth even when I lie.  So say goodnight to the bad guy.  Go on.  Last time you're gonna see a bad guy like this again.  Go on.  Make way for the bad guy, there's a bad guy comin' through!" 

Victimized communities is from Debbie Nathan, an investigative journalist who first suspects all the parents are participating in mass hysteria.  Not even going to try to find that clip.  Here's the policeman's quote that sets it up: "Sometimes there'd be some idle conversation about you know, another boy was sodomized five times, but my son was sodomized six times.  As if that meant something in the overall scheme of things."  And here's Nathan: "There's a whole community atmosphere that gets created in a mass abuse case like this.  There is definitely an element when a community defines itself as a victimized community, that - if you're not victimized, you don't fit into that community."

Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste
intertribal: (thinkin about it)
I went to watch Battle for Whiteclay last night. It's a movie about, well, Whiteclay - a tiny town whose alcohol-related death rate is 300% higher than the national average.

"Neville Red Star receives medical attention after a severe, alcohol-related, fall" in Whiteclay, NE. By Lyric R. Cabral.

Whiteclay is a "village" of fourteen people on the Nebraska side of the Nebraska-South Dakota border. On the other side of the border is Pine Ridge Reservation. Seven of the U.S.'s poorest counties are in Pine Ridge. Whiteclay has existed for a hundred years, snuggled up underneath Pine Ridge, solely for the purpose of selling alcohol. Pine Ridge Reservation's tribal council has long outlawed alcohol, you see. Whiteclay has four liquor stores - all owned by whites - and they sell 4.5 million (4,000,000) cans of dirt cheap malt liquor every year. That is approximately 12,500 cans a day. As cheap as alcohol is, it's not always cheap enough, so alcohol is also offered in exchange for roughing up people that are behind on their tab, harassing visitors, and sex. Alcohol is also sold to the clearly intoxicated and the underaged. All this in spite of legally, there is no place for Pine Ridge residents to drink this alcohol - they can't go back to Pine Ridge, and it's illegal to drink "on the premises" of liquor stores. Of course, there is little to no law enforcement, and Whiteclay's "downtown" consists of people who have drunk themselves to death on the premises. Not unrelated is the extremely high rate of suicide (teen suicide is 150% higher than the national average) and abuse in Pine Ridge.

An article in the December '09 issue of Harper's Magazine about Pine Ridge, "Ghosts of Wounded Knee" (the battle site being within Pine Ridge), that touched on Whiteclay toward the end:
Blind-drunk Lakota stumble along the road. A man with a hat that reads NATIVE PRIDE sleeps against a building, using a five-gallon bucket for a pillow. The only businesses in town are "bars," really just tin-roofed shacks, owned by whites, with stacks of malt liquor cases behind counters. On offer: Hurricane High Gravity, 8.1 percent alcohol, one dollar for a twenty-four-ounce can. Or Camo Black Ice. Or Evil Eye Red Kiwi Strawberry. All cheap, all around 10 percent alcohol, twice an ordinary beer. They taste like paint thinner and burnt breakers. Heavy drinkers on the rez are often said to be "mizzing out" or "blank."

Brian Believer Jr.: Winter, Johnny was always bundled up, they'd offer him a sleeping bag or a blanket. Sometimes I'd come over here, colder than hell, he'd still be standing out here with a big old hood sweater on. I said, Where do you sleep, and he says, Don't worry, I got a place to sleep. ... We're Lakota warriors, and we should be able to take care of ourselves, but all we get is just the VA checks. A VA check won't even buy you a house. I don't know what's going on. I don't care.
Of course, former Nebraska Governor Johanns isn't going to shut down Whiteclay because, hey, those liquor stores have the right to try to make a profit. It's free enterprise. This same Governor Johanns will also go to Pine Ridge and ask them to shut down casinos because of the moral bankruptcy they bring about for the (white) people that go there.

When the stores' liquor licenses need to get renewed, the issue goes to the Sheridan County Board. Whiteclay's supporters always tell the two towns closest to Whiteclay, Gordon and Rushville, that if Whiteclay is closed, "they" will just swoop down on Gordon and Rushville - if they want alcohol, they're going to get it, and you don't want those drunk Indians in your town, now do you? The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission says alcohol consumption is a matter of personal responsibility. When one liquor license is suspended - the owner is a felon - another guy from a different town immediately throws his hat in the ring. He wants to open another liquor store to replace the one that was "lost." Another supporter of Whiteclay suggests that maybe Pine Ridge should give up prohibition and just sell alcohol on-reservation. "Didn't seem to hurt the United States," he says.

Meanwhile, many of the people dying of exposure and alcoholism in Whiteclay are veterans. One man says he got out of the military and looked at the American flag and said, "You people killed my people" - then told his mother not to let them bury him with the flag.

Pine Ridge has declared Whiteclay a public nuisance. Duane Martin Sr., one of the Indian activists featured in the movie, tried to organize a blockade between Whiteclay and Pine Ridge and was told that he'd have to go through the Nebraska legislation system. "Nebraska, man," he says, "They don't listen."

After watching this movie, I think that he's right.
intertribal: (darling little demon)
Lucia sent me this text today: In 1492, Native Americans discovered Christopher Columbus lost at sea.  What a loser!!  Send 2 every1 if u dnt believe n Columbus Day! 

And if not for that, I wouldn't have known it was Columbus Day.  I immediately thought of the first essay I read for Colonial Encounters, "Good Day, Columbus" (from Silencing The Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot).  I kept my course reader for a reason!  But after work I had pilates, so I'm only getting around to typing it up now, and watch by the time I finish it won't even be Columbus Day anymore [Update: Yeah, it's not.]:

Prologue: For in the monumental efforts of the Portuguese state to catch up with a history now eclipsed by nostalgia, I saw the nostalgia of the entire West for a history that it never lived, its constant longing for a place that exists only in its mind... The West was America, a dream of conquest and rapture... Except that I was in Belem whence Europe's face looked no clearer than that of the Americas... Belem's steady effort to patch up its own silences did not reflect on Portugal alone.  It spoke of the entire West - of Spain, France, and the Netherlands, of Britain, Italy, and the United States - of all those who, like Columbus, had come from behind to displace Portugal in the reshaping of the world.  And as much as I did not like it... its spoke also of me, of all the lands disturbed by their cacophony. 

The West does not exist. I know. I've been there. )
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