Don’t Like: How Everything Is Totally Shitty Right Now

May 6, 2010

Everything is totally shitty right now. This is worth acknowledging.

You may have noticed I’ve been posting subjects of pretty much only stuff I like for the last year or so.  Part of this stems from a desire to be optimistic and not just resort to the ease of snark.  At one point I went back and skimmed all my posts and I realized just how easily I fell into inane belittling and mean-spirted-ness. Not overtly so, I’m not one of those bloggers who just unleashes pure venom against everyone and everything… just more than I’d like. It was mostly surprising because I don’t believe that to be part of my nature.

But it’s hard to deny that there’s a lot not to like right now.

For example: The gulf coast is now engrossed in one of the worst ecological disasters ever. For those thinking I’m about to crow on about environmentalism, there is in fact a larger human tragedy to this. The gulf coast fishing industry is now hampered once again. Maybe even effectively killed. The magnitude of the damage will have ramifications for years and it will cost the local gulf economy untold millions. Think this is exaggeration? The Exxon Valdez spill wasn’t a fourth the amount of oil spilled here and they are still feeling the effects 20 years later. I visited New Orleans just a week and a half ago and cannot tell you how much I love that city. And now to think that as they were just getting back on their feet after Katrina, all may be undone.

But there’s a lot more than just this. Horrible storms have flooded Tennessee’s great cities. Arizona just made racial profiling not only legal, but an active policy. Oklahoma legislature just made it okay for doctors to withhold information from patients. Britain may be in the midst of actively overthrowing their party in a special election. Cuba had their worst sugar harvest in over a century (this will be a bigger deal than you think). Oh yeah and Greece is going broke and effectively destroying the worldwide economy in the process. They’re not happy about trying to deal with it either.

I understand the impulse to politicize all these stories. Please. Don’t.(1)  Just take them at a human level.  Yes, there are always tales of something going horribly wrong somewhere in the world, but what’s striking about the climate right now is that all of these problems are of incredible magnitude. They’re the kind of stories that could dominate front page headlines for weeks and since they’re happening all at once our magnet-ball media doesn’t even know how to construct a uniform narritive. People need to be caring, but really there’s almost too much to address. So let’s just notice how extreme these situations are are… pretend they were happening directly to you. For some of you, maybe they even are.

These problems are not distant. They are immediate. They are American. They are all the kind of problems that we usually respond to with the kind of self-sustaining vigor that defines us.(2)

We just can’t seem to keep track of them all.

1 – It’s really hard not to politicize them, especially as Fox News continues to spit insidious conjecture about almost all of these subjects; including Michael Brown’s claim that the Obama administration wanted the oil spill to happen and did little to shut it down. Not only is that radically unsubstantiated, but it’s the kind of claim reserved for nutty 9/11 conspirators.  I’m not going to say that it can’t be put on television. That’s fine. I’m just saying you’re ethically bound to standards when you put this kind of information under the guise of “news.” It’s Fox’s fundamental flaw. Not that they are conservative, but that they undermine their own credibility with this kind of haphazard nonsense.  In fact, most of my favorite sources of information tend to lean conservative and I like them because they help me think about a problem in a different sort of context. Meanwhile, I have to out ignore fox news  in order to just get through the fucking day.

2 – and possibly our bullish-ness.


Love: Treme

April 13, 2010

“Won’t Bow. Don’t Know How.”

On the suface, we understand the meaning immediately. It is an unrelenting decree. A manta for city defined by an impassioned will to continue, despite having a litany of reasons to simply stop.

It is not just a tag-line. The words are uttered by Albert Lambreaux (played by the magnificent Clarke Peters A.K.A. Lester Freeman from THE WIRE) as he stands fully clad in his Mardie Gras Chief outfit: decadent, impeccable, absurd. No, Albert is not marching in Mardi Gras, but instead arriving at the door of a friend three months after the day their city drowned. This friend happens to a hauling business, and Albert dances and chants in his magnificent get up asking proudly if this friend will help clear the debris of a bar down the way. Albert’s reason is not practical; he needs a place to practice his Indian Chief routine in anticipation of the next Mardi Gras. His home has been destroyed and there is nowhere else to do so but his old abandoned stomping grounds. The debris just needs to be moved…  The friend has no reason to help. He’d spend that time earning desperately needed money clearing  for FEMA and more significantly, he swears his oath to another Mardi Gras chief.  It would seem to be a sacrilegious act.

Albert: “Won’t Bow. Don’t Know How.”

And with that, the friend consents. After all, these aren’t ordinary times in New Orleans.

This is TREME (and writing in general) at it’s best. It’s a scene steeped in a culture we barely know, but we are made familiar by a sense of osmosis. And yet those familiar with the culture can assure the authenticity: It’s researched. It’s cerebral. It’s cinematic. It’s deeply affecting. Better yet it is wholly analogous to the thematic mission statement of the show. It’s this kind of multi-dynamic that allows moments in TREME to soar. One might counter that there are a few weird moments in the show where we are treated to somewhat banal, cliche-ridden speeches on the unrelenting spirit of the people of New Orleans, but slyly these speeches are often come from the white upper class folks of the city. They love their city dearly all teh same, but simply lack the “real stakes” of devastation.  The kind of poor where you don’t have time to give two shits about semantics. So it’s reasonably understandable when the upper class falls back on these basic platitudes of decency and hardship: it’s in their nature and comes from a place of love. And it’s the kind of observation of meta-semantics that reminds you that you’re in the hands of a writing genius.

And David Simon is most certainly that. Fresh off of his run on the greatest show of all time, THE WIRE, one could say there are certain expectations. Being held in such high esteem could be daunting for some show runners, but David is could not seem to to care whatsoever about expectations. It’s actually that very disinterest which allows the politics of being “the show after” to handle itself nicely. TREME is not THE WIRE, nor is it ever really trying to be. It’s a bit more of an emotional piece. More about tone and character; less about systemic realities and institutions (though there certainly is shades of that). If we’re going to use a metaphor, imagine THE WIRE as an intricate diagram connecting you with human stories in the mire of institutional hell, while TREME instead tries to paint a portrait of personal stories in what might be a physical hell of post-katrina New Orleans. I’ve seen a few folks throwing around Altman comparisons (specifically NASHVILLE) and they are rather apt. But as is Simon’s nature, this is largely based on observation and documentation: an attempt to be honest about New Orleans. About music. About food. About class. About wealth. And about responsibility. And if we’re going to get all technical, this isn’t really Simon’s 2nd act to THE WIRE. That was already the astounding GENERATION KILL, though one might imply that since it was a mini-series it doesn’t count. But none the less we need to come to grips with what it is.

So do Mardi Gras Indians really matter that much? Truth be told, I only knew vaguely what they ever were before the premiere of “TREME” and certainly didn’t know what they were about. A little vague reading on the show beforehand lead to a little more reading, and to answer the question, yes they are important. They are superfluous. Their origins are obscured in hearsay. Their known history is mired in ugly racial tensions and perhaps criminal activity. Yet their real value is in the currency of deep cultural symbolism. They are now universally adored presences during the celebration, but their real lives are often secretive. No one has any real authority over them and each group,  referred to in TREME colloquially as “gangs,” works with a different chief perhaps helping with the amazingly decorative outfits and planning the rigorous planned performances. How does something so, again, superfluous gain such adoration? Because that’s the nature of these things. Silly traditions are often the most beloved because there’s no real reason to dislike them. The ugly side of tradition is often done away with in the name of pleasantries. And New Orleans has indeed had an ugly history. Places don’t become melting pots in the nicest of circumstances (Scorsese tried to tackle that less than flattering history in GANGS OF NEW YORK), but when a place has a strong sense of identity and pride those things can often melt away in the name of something better, usually something fun.

But Mardi Gras Indians are important enough to turn down FEMA dollars. This so much we learn.

“Do You Know What It Means?”

That is the title of the pilot and I can think of none more appropriate. Do you know about Treme (pronouced Truh-MAY), the neighborhood and titular inspiration for the show? Do you know about the Mardi Gras Indians? Do you know about beignets, and… Do you know? One gets the feeling that someone with thin skin would quickly counter that all this “do you know?” is nothing more than hipster bullshit. “I know about the real New Orleans. I got the cred,” and such and such. No. That could not be a more inane interpretation.

“Do You Know What It Means?” is really an invitation. We’re being asked if we would like to come along and discover what it all means. Simon’s loved the city for decades and acknowledges that it is become a part of him. He invited friends and natives of the city to help him create the show and share what “makes New Orleans” with people who may not know; to share it with us. It won’t be in an authoritarian way. They won’t beat you over the head with it. They won’t spoon-feed you. TREME opens with title card simply saying “New Orleans, Louisiana” and then “Three Months After” as even mentioning the subject of Katrina isn’t necessary. It’s redundant. We’re using a shorthand, but it’s a familiar one. It’s just another way of inviting from the very beginning. It’s always an invitation with David Simon. That’s why I will watch everything he ever does.

I may have never seen the Mardi Gras Indians, but I’ve seen New Orleans. I visited just a few months before Katrina struck and it was the highlight of my extended trip across the country. Beautiful. Honest. Gothic. Vibrant. Inspired. Food to die for and that’s from someone who probably loves food more than anything. And good god the music really is everywhere you look. I come from more of a blues background (my older brother is obsessed and I spent my entire childhood watching him develop into a rather good blue guitarist), but the roots of blue are everywhere too. I’ve been to hundreds of cities on this planet across four continents and even after a brief trip to New Orleans I can tell you with strict confidence that there is no other city I’ve seen with such a singular identity. It is the literal uncanny.

So when I watched on TV as an American City was sunk underwater, I knew we were on the verge of losing something much greater than some realized; something I barely had a taste of, but seemed know instinctively. I watched a days worth of horrible news footage when everything was still hazy; they were reporting on the horrible things perhaps occurring in the Superdome, not to mention the indignation of lacking government aid was so outrageous and the efforts put forth so nonsensical, that even Fox News Reporters were actively gnawing their teeth at the Bush administration. It was gut-churning in a way that was aesthetically different from say the complete and total shock of 9-11. It wore on me, but if you ask those around me I’m not the emotional type.  I tend to analyze rather than emote (e.g. 1500 words and counting on a single tv episode), but it really wore on me: the sight of a city destroyed. I took a car ride. It was a hot summers day in los angeles with golden sunshine and seemingly no reason to think about something over 2,000 miles away. At one point a black SUV pulled in front of me. I was looking down so I noticed the license plate first: “Louisiana.” Above it on the window, which had been covered in a fine layer of pollen, soot, someone had used their index finger to write just five simple words:

“Please God Help Our N’Awlins”

And right then I lost it. I cried in the kind of violent, uncontrollable fit that I hadn’t done since I was 7 years old. I’ve cried in movies, sure, but usually just a little eye watering. Nothing even close this. There were times I didn’t cry in moments of genuine personal tragedy. Thus I barely understood it. It was surreal. It was atypical. I sat there in traffic bawling for a minute and then finally got a hold of myself. I spent the ensuing months following it closely. A year went by and progress was still nowhere near where it deserved to be. It served as a critical humane juncture in the Bush Administration as his previous best quality was that he was thought to be “rescue/crisis handler” type of president, and his teams handling of New Orleans stands as one of the great monumental failures of American Government post WW2. Spike Lee handled much of it beautifully in his documentary “When The Levees Broke.” Today, all reports seem to indicate that things have taken a turn in the right direction. The uptick in tourism. The economy rebounding (though the economic crash was yet another roadblock for them). Even The Saints magnificent resurgence and eventual Superbowl run. In two weeks, I’ll find just how different it really is in varying degrees myself when I return to visit with some old friends. I can’t wait. We’re getting a chance to go jazz fest too. Yes, it’s the corporatization/bastardization of something normally so humble (something being the New Orleans jazz scene), but there are going to be A LOT of great acts all out and about around town. By all accounts it is definitely one of THE times to be there. It’s going to be wonderful.

So what does all of this have to do with the pilot again? What’s all this have to do with showing the country all the hardships in New Orleans “3 months after”?

We almost lost one of the best cities in the world. Maybe all that TREME is asking is do you really know what that means?


Like: This Article Absolutely Eviscerating Ayn Rand

November 2, 2009

I rarely do a quick blurb and link, but I couldn’t resist.

I’ve detailed my dislike of Libertarianism, Ayn Rand*, and even Slate before, but here is Johann Hari’s excellent and scathing evisceration of Ayn Rand based on two new biographies (props to Travis for the find).

Enjoy:

http://www.slate.com/id/2233966/

*I have since attempted to actually read Atlas Shrugged and get halfway through before giving up due to inherent nonsense. Meanwhile I have read all of the fountainhead in sort-of-skimming fashion.


Don’t Like: #5, Ayn Rand (on the list people, all of whom I would Punch if I saw them)

February 3, 2009

For a blog where I spend half the time bitching about stuff I don’t like, I do try to avoid careless internet asshatery and needless contrarian bullshit, and instead focus on some kind of minuate, or larger theoretical argument. Let’s be honest, often the internet descends into “I HATE YOU’RE YOUR FAVORITE THING!!!!!!!! RARRRRRRRRR! U R GAY!!!!”. I try to avoid that. But… Occasionally I indulge in my more base tendancies. So for this week:

Here’s a list of 5 people I would punch if I saw them.

#5, Ayn Rand

Reasons: For taking a rational counterpoint to extremism and countering it with a form of opposing extremism. For writing an extremely long and tedious book that makes the same point and over and over for no rational reason other than to make it. Then creating a bogus philosophical theory out of it. Or before it. Or whatever. She sucks.

Judgement: Basic logistical failures across the board.

Punishment: PUNCHED.

Difficulty: Deceased, mysogny.

Look at this asshole:


Don’t Like: Heroin, Black Tar, Golden Triangle, Ammonium Chloride, Poppy, Etc, Etc.

October 28, 2008

As I continue my massive research project, here’s a few tidbits about heroin’s chemical make-up, history and the golden triangle.

Chemistry: (Via Wiki)

Heroin (INN: diacetylmorphine, BAN: diamorphine) is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy. It is the 3,6-diacetyl ester of morphine (hence diacetylmorphine). The white crystalline form is commonly the hydrochloride salt diacetylmorphine hydrochloride, however heroin freebase may also appear as a white powder.

As with other opiates, heroin is used both as a pain-killer and a recreational drug. Frequent administration quickly leads to tolerance and dependence and has a very high potential for addiction. If sustained use of heroin for as little as three days is stopped abruptly, withdrawal symptoms can appear. This is much quicker than other common opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.[1][2]

One of the most common methods of heroin use is via intravenous injection (colloquially termed “shooting up”). When taken orally, heroin undergoes extensive first-pass metabolism via deacetylation, making it a prodrug for the systemic delivery of morphine.[3] When the drug is injected, however, it avoids this first-pass effect, very rapidly crossing the blood-brain barrier due to the presence of the acetyl groups, which render it much more lipid-soluble than morphine itself.[4] Once in the brain, it is deacetylated into 3- and 6-monoacetylmorphine and morphine which bind to μ-opioid receptors, resulting in intense euphoria, decreased pain perception and anxiolytic effects (relief of anxiety).

Internationally, heroin is controlled under Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.[5] It is illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell heroin in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom and Swaziland. However, under the name diamorphine, heroin is a legal prescription drug in the United Kingdom. In the Netherlands, heroin is available for prescription as the generic drug diacetylmorphine to long-term heroin addicts. Popular street names for heroin include black tar, junk, skag, horse, chiva, “H”, “Boy”, and others.

History:

The opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia as long ago as 3400 BC.[6] The chemical analysis of opium in the 19th century revealed that most of its activity could be ascribed to two ingredients, codeine and morphine.

Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, an English chemist working at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, England. He had been experimenting with combining morphine with various acids. He boiled anhydrous morphine alkaloid with acetic anhydride over a stove for several hours and produced a more potent, acetylated form of morphine, now called diacetylmorphine. The compound was sent to F. M. Pierce of Owens College in Manchester for analysis, who reported the following to Wright:

Doses … were subcutaneously injected into young dogs and rabbits … with the following general results … great prostration, fear, and sleepiness speedily following the administration, the eyes being sensitive, and pupils constrict, considerable salivation being produced in dogs, and slight tendency to vomiting in some cases, but no actual emesis. Respiration was at first quickened, but subsequently reduced, and the heart’s action was diminished, and rendered irregular. Marked want of coordinating power over the muscular movements, and loss of power in the pelvis and hind limbs, together with a diminution of temperature in the rectum of about 4° (rectal failure).[7]

Wright’s invention, however, did not lead to any further developments, and heroin only became popular after it was independently re-synthesized 23 years later by another chemist, Felix Hoffmann. Hoffmann, working at the Bayer pharmaceutical company in Elberfeld, Germany, was instructed by his supervisor Heinrich Dreser to acetylate morphine with the objective of producing codeine, a constituent of the opium poppy, similar to morphine pharmacologically but less potent and less addictive. But instead of producing codeine, the experiment produced an acetylated form of morphine that was actually 1.5-2 times more potent than morphine itself. Bayer would name the substance “heroin”, probably from the word heroisch, German for heroic, because in field studies people using the medicine felt “heroic”.[8]

From 1898 through to 1910 heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. Bayer marketed heroin as a cure for morphine addiction before it was discovered that heroin is rapidly metabolized into morphine, and as such, “heroin” was basically only a quicker acting form of morphine. The company was somewhat embarrassed by this new finding and it became a historical blunder for Bayer.[9]

As with aspirin, Bayer lost some of its trademark rights to heroin under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles following the German defeat in World War I.[10]

In the U.S.A the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914 to control the sale and distribution of heroin and other opiates. The law did allow heroin to be prescribed and sold for medical purposes. In particular, recreational users could often still be legally supplied with heroin and use it. In 1924, the United States Congress passed additional legislation banning the sale, importation or manufacture of heroin in the United States. It is now a Schedule I substance, and is thus illegal in the United States.

Production and trafficking:

Manufacturing

Heroin is produced for the black market by refining opium. The first step of this process involves isolation of morphine from opium. This crude morphine is then acetylated by heating with acetic anhydride. Purification of the obtained crude heroin and conversion to the hydrochloride salt results in a water-soluble form of the drug that is a white or yellowish powder.

Crude opium is carefully dissolved in hot water but the resulting hot soup is not boiled. Mechanical impurities – twigs – are scooped together with the foam. The mixture is then made alkaline by gradual addition of lime. Lime causes a number of unwelcome components present in opium to precipitate out of the solution. (The impurities include inactive alkaloids, resins, proteins). The precipitate is removed by filtration through a cloth, washed with additional water and discarded. The filtrates containing the water-soluble calcium salt of morphine (calcium morphinate) are then acidified by careful addition of ammonium chloride. This causes freebase morphine to precipitate. The morphine precipitate is collected by filtration and dried before the next step. The crude morphine (which makes only about 10% of the weight of opium) is then heated together with acetic anhydride at 85 °C (185 °F) for six hours. The reaction mixture is then cooled, diluted with water, made alkaline with sodium carbonate, and the precipitated crude heroin is filtered and washed with water. This crude water-insoluble freebase product (which by itself is usable, for smoking) is further purified and decolourised by dissolution in hot alcohol, filtration with activated charcoal and concentration of the filtrates. The concentrated solution is then acidified with hydrochloric acid, diluted with ether, and the precipitated heroin hydrochloride is collected by filtration. This precipitate is the so-called “no. 4 heroin”, commonly known as “china white”. Heroin freebase cut with a small amount of caffeine (to help vaporise it more efficiently), typically brown in appearance, is known as called “no. 3 heroin”. These two forms of heroin are the standard products exported to the Western market. Heroin no. 3 predominates on the European market, where heroin no. 4 is relatively uncommon. Another form of heroin is “black tar” which is common in the western United States and is produced in Mexico.

The initial stage of opium refining—the isolation of morphine—is relatively easy to perform in rudimentary settings – even by substituting suitable fertilizers for pure chemical reagents. However, the later steps (acetylation, purification, and conversion to the hydrochloride salt) are more involved—they use large quantities of chemicals and solvents and they require both skill and patience. The final step is particularly tricky as the highly flammable ether can easily ignite during positive-pressure filtration (the explosion of vapor-air mixture can obliterate the refinery). If the ether does ignite, the result is a catastrophic explosion.


Don’t Like: 4th Wave Feminism (But It’s VERY Complicated)

October 18, 2008

Warning: This is a discussion of semantics.

I am a Feminist… I am a dude.

Understand I’m not trying undermine the notion of being a feminist. I know some women take issue with how liberally men are willing to label themselves as such and deeply respect that. I know this guy who considered himself a feminist and he was also a remarkable verbal abuser and one-time physical abuser.  But in his deranged head, he was “oh so feminist”. So one can understand the apprehension.

But… well, I’m going ahead and saying it anyway.

I’m doing it because feminism has a lot of different definitions, and most of them are pretty reasonable definitions. That’s what happens in a good discourse.

To be fair, 4th Wave Feminism isn’t even a thing. It’s a term some people kind of assigned to describe what’s happening right now in feminism. There were of course other real waves: 1st wave) suffrage. 2nd wave) women’s lib movement of 60’s-80’s. 3rd wave) early 90’s corrections to the “failures” ie women have the right to act like a man, earn the same wages/positions/etc. There’s more to third wave, but since there’s no singular defining trait/event, that’s an okay description.

So… 4th wave.

First off, let me state that I think that sexism is still such a huge problem in this country. HUGE.

Societal Problem #1- the mixed messages we’re sending young girls. We live in a culture with an increasing religious population which abhors both women’s sexuality, femininity, and homosexuality. At the same time, we have a secular society where sexuality is increasingly out in the open (some in a good way too, but mostly a bad way). Think about MTV/Reality shows. Hell, most everything on television is nuts. It’s not the “showing of the skin” it’s the unintelligent and crass way this sexuality is presented (HBO may be the most gritty but they deal with their subjects so intelligently it’s often to make a point… except Entourage but that show sucks).  With the two conflicting messages, every young girl is trying to fight between being a madonna and a whore. This conflict has always been an element to humanity no doubt, but within today’s culture there are a lot of new kinds of obstacles. (There was a great recent movie about this subject: “Towelhead” by Alan Ball.)

Societal Problem #2 – Frat culture – I’m not speaking ill of fraternities necessarily. I’m speaking ill of the associating stereotype of how “frat guys” behave. And we all know what I mean by that. Now going off that mentality, I have this dumb pseudo-pop-psychology theory and it goes something like following: Elementary school boys grow up and are afraid of girls. They want the approval of their guy friends and for those guys to think they’re totally awesome. They start to grow up and have problems relating to teenage girls and react by starting to get angry/misogynistic. It gets worse and worse and soon they’re just trying to score chicks so they can get high fives from their buddies. So they hate/resent women and only use them patriarchal status symbols…. And I think this is fucking 50% of the male population. I really do. I see it everywhere and it pretty much disgusts me. Don’t get me started on the college boys who put drugs in girls drinks at parties. To me there’s nothing more abhorrent than that kind of behavior. It’s a hate crime to me.

Societal Problem #3 – It was kind of always this way. These are not new problems for our society. It’s mostly just that sexual abuse is FINALLY starting to be reported with more frequency. And these aren’t the final numbers by a long shot. The amount of rural sexual abuse that goes unreported is simply stunning. Absolutely stunning… And historically it was even worse.

Societal Problem #4 – there’s no central concrete obstacle for feminism at the moment – the problems with the third wave feminism are only multiplied today because the perceived problems are all conceptual. With the advent of title 9, increased support for equal pay, etc. there are fewer and fewer concrete obstacles.  So why are things still so shitty? It’s because the attack is now on a thought system and that makes things, uh, rather difficult.

As a result, I think 4th wave feminism is pretty fractured. It’s somewhat like today’s music, it’s like there’s competing genres. Do you like emo or hip hop? Are you super indie Mr. Hipster or top 40? Feminism has similarities. There’s some more militant forms of feminism now, but since I tend not to like militant forms of pretty much anything, I won’t even get into that.  One the other side of the political spectrum, there’s the amazingly strange “feminists for life” group . The name does not imply they are feminists for the remainder of their living years, but instead being women who are intensely pro-life… that one’s… interesting. But most kinds of feminism today are now in the form of micro-analysis; the daily interaction of men and women, the subtexts of film and literature, and international comparison. It leads to a lot of fascinating stuff that I enjoy reading with vigor.

… It also leads to a lot of unfair stuff.

What’s specifically is unfair? Lots of stuff really, but one example of the negative aspects would be modern feminism as a game “of gotcha”. Now the dynamics of “gotcha” are now surprisingly popular in the era of Palin and her complaints of “gotcha” media tactics. The main difference is these journalists are trying to expose the woeful political ignorance of a candidate. Asking about the Bush Doctrine is not a gotcha question. Heck, if I know what the bush doctrine is it is NOT A GOTCHA question. Anycrap, I digress. Gotcha feminism is taking valid arguments and points and applying them to situations where they don’t necessarily apply.  It’s like (a) set up a valid point (b) apply point to a given situation that may not apply and (c) tear into it. Examples:

Example #1: The bechdel test

let’s go to wiki: The Bechdel test: The strip popularized what is now known as the Bechdel test, also known as the Bechdel/Wallace test, the Bechdel rule, Bechdel’s law, and the Mo Movie Measure. Bechdel credits her friend Liz Wallace for the test, which appears in a 1985 strip entitled “The Rule“, in which a character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something besides a man.[4]

(ignore the boldness here, I’m have formatting problems, sorry) First off. I really love Bechdel rule. As a writer it helps me immensely. I also think it’s pretty obvious the point of the test is to really just point out how few movies actually do this… which is great. But following this test? My god. There’s so many great movies that say a heckuva lot of interesting things that do not pass this test in any way. AND there are a lot of shitty, pandering movies that say awful things about females and DO pass the test (I’m looking at you 27 Dresses). And yet I’m constantly surprised by how many people use the test as some kind of justification for a movie’s validity. (It all goes back to how most screenwriters are males who have no idea how to write female characters, that’s how simple it is).

Example #2 – Firefly is sexist!

Here is an excerpt from a feminist blog that got passed about the internet for awhile for it’s almost stunning over-reaction. It was in regards to Joss Whedon (a popular figure in the “girl power” arena) and his show Firefly. The author decided to tear into the show and expose it for the sexist piece of shit she thought it was:

Aside from women being fuck toys, property and punching bags for the men, the women have very little importance in the series. I counted the amount of times women talk in the episode Serenity compared to the amount of times men talk. The result was unsurprising. Men: 458 Women: 175. So throughout the first episode men talk more than two and a half times as much as women do. And women talk mainly in questions whereas men talk in statements. Basically, this means that men direct the action and are active participants whereas women are merely observers and facilitators.

That’s what we call gotcha tactic. The points she brings up have no real baring on whether a show is sexist or not. It simply can’t. It’s classic scientific conundrum of correllation and cause.  Add in the fact that most of the characters are male (especially all the evil baddies) and one of the female’s main character is crazy and only talks rarely, then well… it just seems even more irrelevant.

I really suggest giving this blog post a look http://users.livejournal.com/_allecto_/34718.html … the funny thing is the more I read the post the more I find bits of validity to her points… but it is such a strong reaction to something that doesn’t have nearly the kind of malice she is describing. Of course the show doesn’t stand up as the perfect model of feminism. That’s not what he’s trying to do in the slightest. The kinds of feminist issues in Buffy aren’t even on this show’s radar. And more importantly, they don’t have to be. Firefly is really about a universe that’s crumbling. It’s crumbling on a epic scale and they live in a stunningly depraved world. So a lot of bad, bad shit happens. On top of that, much of whedon’s “sexism” is coming from a critical view. Every one of them is a deeply flawed character, that I don’t think he even had a chance to scratch the surface with (look at the first season of buffy… and where it ended up going. That first season was crap in comparison). I’m inclined to think that he’s cognizant of the females and I think he’s hyper-aware of their feminist drawbacks. But oh yeah… the show happens to be pretty darn good.

I showed the blog post to my friend and he simply wrote back “here’s a list of things that do not fit in with my narrow world view”

Sure that’s a little curt (he did so for humor’s sake) but it gets at the very point I’m trying to make. It may seem like I’m just picking on these two examples but there are countless other instances that overwhelm my impression of the direction of feminism (at least on the collegiate level). Most forms of modern 4th wave feminism are just so darn limiting in their scope. Does “not feminist” = bad? It’s just an inherent question one has to ask themselves when participaing in “feminism”. By adopting any ideology do we limit the exceptions?

At one point in the blog the author digs into the interracial relationship in firefly and makes this comment:

Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour. I have known a black woman whose white husband would strangle and bash her while her young children watched. My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoe like an object and possession. Joss Whedon does not share my view, of course, and he paints the relationship between Zoe and Wash as a perfectly happy, healthy union.

First off, I’ve personally known healthy white male/black female relationships. That statement is wholly fucking ridiculous and maybe even racist. There can’t be? Really? That’s simply naive. The author may claim I’m naive because I’m being ignorant, but that’s horseshit and i’ll stand by it. And yes, OF COURSE the aforementioned racist exoctism is an issue in our society. But that doesn’t mean we have to rush out and make every interracial relationship ABOUT the problems of the interracial relationship. That’s ridiculous. She even goes onto bring up excellent films which deal with the subject of racial sexuality and says we should watch those instead. The movies she mentions are all excellent (like Rabbit Proof Fence). But, folks, wtf does that have to do with Firefly. That’s not the subject

As a result of this kind of feminist gotcha-ism, many males go on to make ridiculous conclusions about feminism on the whole… like this:

Needless to say, but that’s a dumb conclusion. Is it complete without merit? YES. That is a sentiment without any merit. It’s a sexist statement down to its very core. But what it does highlight is an unintended consequence to some of the 4th wave’s more unfair analysis. Now I’m not JUSTIFYING a reaction like this in the slightest. A sexist reaction is a sexist reaction. But in the wake of discourse, it awakens the notion of pragmatism in micro-analysis.

There it is… pragmatism. It seems like the biggest obstacle of the 4th wave is the limits of its structure. Does micro-analysis eliminate the scope of macro-analysis? Does feminism need to incorporate the human condition? Can feminism adapt to incorporate a wide range of definitions?

Most of the male/female relationships I know are pretty even handed, both economically, socially, and fundamentally.  But some of them definitely would run against the grain of someone’s differing notion of feminism. And once again, YES this even-handedness is CERTAINLY not the consensus on the whole of this country. How can it be? The 50% frat culture I mentioned before and religious sentiments make me nuts. Most pornography makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Those are the obvious battles and I’m talking about the more subtle ones that stem from battles over the things that shape our modern cultural landscape like Firefly and the Bechdel test.

With that, how does 4th wave feminism, in it’s current position, move forward?

There are still some public obstacles. The glass ceiling in the economic front. I think there needs to be some rebellion against the confines of the growing religious attitude, the confines of frat culture, and a global movement toward feminist aid in 3rd world countries where human life is worth less than an IPhone.

And heck I’ll say it… In some ways I think the American feminist experience is becoming much more about redefining the male role than ever before. How do men indeed become feminists while still owning, well, let’s just call it “the male mystique?” (to borrow a phrase). Yes, I’m sick of the “frat” culture. I’m sick of the blatent sexism… but how does feminsm combat that? I simply don’t see the trend of micro-analysis helping. I don’t know… Sometimes it does very well and I’ll read an article that pinpoints these exact problems in our daily life… but a lot of times I encounter the other stuff.

Maybe we’re just approaching a difficult time where the line between feminism and humanism is becoming blurred.

* Final note: I fully realize this whole post is dangerous. Please keep in mind It’s not a paper. It’s not well thought out. I only looked over it once.  It’s kind of a stream of consciousness tangent designed to bring up points. That’s all it is intended as. And I hope all it’s taken as. Thank you.

UPDATED –

-Finally have a second post that sort of adds to this discussion in somewhat tangential ways. About Gene Tierney’s performance in the 1944 film LAURA.


Don’t Like: Debates

October 3, 2008

Debates to put it simply, are just asinine.

I have so much trouble watching them. Some of it has to do with the lack of appropriation I mentioned in the post before. But mostly because they are so insanely predictable to the point of gouching out my eyes.

These are not debates. They’re a series of talking points where the candidates move toward the middle and dump buzzwords like an NFL running back dumps coke deals. (That doesn’t make sense I just think we have to mention that a popular RB last year was just busted for a freaking coke deal folks).

Anycrap, debates aren’t about politics. They’re about elections.

I find politics fascinating and I find elections mind-numbing. They have so amazingly little to do with politics it brings me to tears often, crying dejectedly in the shower a la The Crying Game.

So it’s like watching a little game between two people who are only going to talk about what they’re going to talk about. That’s not fun.

What’s more amazing to me is that no Democrat has the balls to stand up and say I’m a democrat.

My imaginary Biden point last night:

Yes we believe in higher tax revenue and you know why? We need that fucking money. This country has been running on the equivalent of fumes for 7 1/2 years now. We’re stitched together with duct tape and false promises. The Republican philosophy on government is a ruse, a trick. They lower taxes. They cut crucial programs. They underpay firefighters, police, and teachers. They stop developing public transportation.  And then they tend to start amazingly expensive wars. To pay for them, we just borrow money like your crackhead brother. Would you trust anyone with the individual equivalent with a 10 Trillion dollar debt? And don’t give me that garbage that the debt doesn’t matter. It matters HUGELY. Hell, China just agreed not to lend us anymore money our financial situation is so bad. Guess what? We need to balance the budget. But we can’t cut domestic spending because that would utterly destroy an infrastructure on the verge of collapse. We need the money to do it. We’re democrats. This is what we do. And executive-ly speaking? We do it well. Post WW2, the stock market has always performed better under democratic leaders. The misery index is always much better. These aren’t talking points. These aren’t opinions. These are facts. And the American people can stand behind facts. We simply do it better. We don’t don’t run a fucking sham operation like the Republicans have.  And they HAVE. How can they be “for the environment” if they don’t fund it? How can they be “for schools and police” if they don’t fund them? How can they be “for alternative fuels” if they don’t fund them? We’re “for good health care” but you know, they don’t fund it. It’s a ridiculous notion. ‘Yeah we’re for those things, I mean we’re not going to pay for their development or anything, but yeah, you know’. God. It’s ridiculous. It’s a shame that after 7 years most Americans just seem to be waking up to it now. “*

*note: the above statement could never be made in an election. Why? Because it makes you sound like a dick… and in the game of electioneering, nothing turns off swing voters like being a self-righteous asshole. Even when you’re glaringly correct.**

**Yes, I’m aware this makes me sound like a dick too.***

***I’m okay with that.