171 posts categorized "annoying"

February 18, 2009

An Appeal To The Anti-racist Hive Mind ...

... and especially my POC out there.

I'm working with someone who is my superior (I'm freelance, so pretty much everyone is my superior). This is a regular arts writing gig and I'm the only person of color who writes there regularly. All the other writers are white, and most are male. So the writing that gets done here covers primarily white artists. No, not primarily ... almost exclusively. Most of the writing about artists of color comes from me (it's about 75% of what I write.

And let me just say here that I don't mind writing mostly about artists of color. I don't feel like I'm missing out on some essential experience by not writing about white artists. But I resent like hell being the only one.)

It's Black History Month--it's more than half over, in fact--and the only piece on black artists so far is mine. In fact, all of the other pieces so far this month are on white artists, with one exception: an Asian American artist who collaborates with a white artist. I've already had an email exchange with this superior about how we're not covering enough black artists in Black History Month, but he chose to misunderstand me, saying I could switch out one of my assignments to cover a black artist if I want to.

So it's time for me to write him a serious email about how he needs to diversify ALL the stuff that everyone writes and that effort needs to come from him--being the superior. He needs to request more pitches about artists of color from the other writers, and to hold them accountable if they don't do it. But before he can do that, he needs to change his own attitudes.

Other details: our communication is by email. I've had an exchange with him about this before and thought he heard me, but he seems to think now that because I'm the only person who seems to care about this, that I'm the only one responsible for bringing diversity to this situation.

So are there any POC out there who've been in a similar situation and have SUCCESSFULLY advocated for greater diversity? Especially if it was with a superior who was reluctant and had a bad or laissez faire attitude at first but ended up changing their mind and doing it? Any success stories out there you tell me that will give me a model for how to approach this guy?

January 24, 2009

Obama's Arts Policy

From his Agenda on the White House website:

Arts:
Our nation's creativity has filled the world's libraries, museums, recital halls, movie houses, and marketplaces with works of genius. The arts embody the American spirit of self-definition. As the author of two best-selling books — Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope — President Obama uniquely appreciates the role and value of creative expression.

That's it. That's the whole thing.

Pretty fuckin' weak, Barry. You're gonna have to do better if you want to get into FDR's ether. Three punk-ass sentences do not get those mural painted, those Okies photographed, and those plays staged, okay? It's time your smug ass recognized the giants whose shoulders DREAMS FROM MY FATHER stood on, and how fucking many of them worked for the WPA.

Time to cough up.

January 18, 2009

Requisite BSG Post

I really want to want to blog about Battlestar Galactica, but I just can't be bothered. I just don't care. Is that wrong?

January 15, 2009

Defining and Identifying Cultural Appropriation

Here's what's going on and why I'm doing this now.

First of all, I'm not gonna deal with global cultural appropriation, but rather focus on American appropriation of cultures brought into the US either by immigrants or by Americans who went abroad and brought stuff back. Okay, here's a brief and incomplete definition of "cultural appropriation" I wrote in this post a couple of years ago (you have to read the whole post to really get where I'm coming from.):

Cultural Appropriation: The unhealthy aspect of multiculti, where a more powerful culture raids a less powerful neighboring culture ... and appropriates aspects of that culture without proper acknowledgment of the "home culture" or understanding the cultural context from which these aspects spring. Examples: yoga, Buddhism, hip hop and ebonics-derived slang, graffiti art, etc.

I think that's adequate as a basis, but I DO think I need to distinguish between two concepts so that people get it. The two concepts are:

  • Cultural Appropriation
  • Cultural Syncretism

Syncretism generally refers to the process of reconciling or melding of differing views or beliefs or uses. This can happen intentionally, or by a natural, unconscious process.

More or less discrete cultures that come into contact with one another, either through geographical proximity, migration, conquest, trade and exploration, or in other ways, will start to syncretize aspects of each culture. This is inevitable, and neither undesirable nor preventable. Cultural items tend to get taken on in a new culture if they are useful, convenient, resolve a problem, or appeal to a value that already exists in the host culture. Examples of this would be:

  • the adoption of potatoes into the European diet after contact with the new world (the introduction of potatoes was more or less deliberate, but the spread of potatoes was a natural cultural movement)
  • Christianity becoming a cult (one of many) in ancient Rome, a culture that tolerated multiple gods from many cultural origins, and incorporated them into its pantheon
  • the partial adoption of Japanese corporate organizing practices in the US auto industry in the eighties, when Japanese auto companies began building factories in the States

And of course, small things like words and whole slang idioms, small gestures or sets of gestures, rituals and ceremonies, manners, clothing and accessories, music, visual design elements, etc. can get taken on deliberately or without thought.

This is just how we are. US mainstream culture is a mass of syncretism, from our political culture, to our language ("ketchup" is Chinese, "frankfurter" and "wiener" are German, "chili" is Nahuatl, "onion" is Latin, and "soda" is Arabic, so your standard chili dog and coke is about as syncretic -- and American -- as you can get), our religions, our design, our ... etc.

HOW syncretism happens is not defined under the term. It can be forced (Indian boarding schools, Catholic church incorporation of local gods as saints), it can be friendly, or it can happen unconsciously. Cultural appropriation is actually, therefore, a subset of cultural syncretism -- one way that syncretism happens.

It's a strange, post-colonial way of making syncretism happen, though. Whereas previous to modern decolonization, no one was truly uncomfortable with the idea that the Other was "barbaric" (it was only the argument over who constituted the Other, us or them), it's only since the 20th century that we've consciously moralized this position, and created an understanding of Otherness as having value and even virtue, simply because it is Other. This is the "noble savage" point of view, the exotifying point of view, the model minority point of view, that elevates Otherness rather than denigrating it. It's still a process of Othering, though.

It's also only since the 20th century that groups of people have accepted their identity as Other to the mainstream or dominant group, and turned it into a power position.

Today, in the United States, we have groups, tribes, cultures, of people whose primary identity is that of Other. Although we spend a lot of time saying "we are not Other," people of color ... African Americans, Asian Americans, etc. ... are people and Americans who must define themselves using a modifier. This is an Other identity, not a mainstream one. You can see the difference when you talk to my mom, who immigrated in her twenties and has been a US citizen for half her life: she'll tell you she's Chinese. Not Chinese American, Chinese. She has a mainstream identity from a different country. Here, she's a foreigner or immigrant, but there's a place where she is not an Other. I, on the Other hand, am Chinese American and multiracial. I was born an Other in the world, and have no home ground to go to where I'm not Other.

I make this point because accepting and claiming an Other identity, which has politically empowered a lot of people of color, has been largely misunderstood on the white side as meaning that "it's better to be colored than white." This is an unconscious understanding, but it feeds into the noble-savaging and Othering of POC. This comes about because it's accepted and empowering to be outspokenly proud to be "black," "Asian," "brown," "Latino," what have you, but it's not okay to use the same language to be outspokenly proud to be "white." So this gets translated into the following set of principles:

  1. whites have no 'ethnic' identity because being proud of one's whiteness is just racism
  2. people of color are the only ones with real ethnicity
  3. having an ethnicity is better than not having an ethnicity

Which brings us to cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is a method of cultural syncretism that is specific to our primary-Other-identity, post-colonial, identity-politics era. It arises when a dominant culture, as I said above, raids a subordinate culture for cultural items that it then pulls out of context. The dominant culture -- in our case, white Americans -- doesn't properly acknowledge the borrowing -- or else the dominant culture makes a complete hash of the borrowing and then tries to pass it off as authentic. This happens for three reasons:

  1. Whites want/need ethnicity, so they find or make up a nonwhite ancestor and go acquire aspects of that ancestor's culture (see "1/16th Cherokee" or "we're southern so we must have a black ancestor") which they weren't brought up in and haven't acquired in ways that people generally consider to be "authentic."
  2. Whites want/need ethnicity, so they decide to strongly identify with a nonwhite culture and then acquire aspects of that culture (see "I taught English in China for two years," or "I'm blacker than you are!")
  3. Whites of a particular class or position need to appear worldly and eclectic -- not to mention liberal -- so they spend a great deal of cultural time "broadening their horizons" in ethnic shops and exercise/dance classes. This last one is itself an item of a liberal white American subculture: the need to have a culturally eclectic affect.

The reason I made this distinction between cultural syncretism in general and cultural appropriation specifically is that -- you guessed it -- cultural appropriation is about an exploitive power dynamic, whereas not all forms of cultural sycretism are. We see cultural syncretism everywhere in our mainstream culture because the US is an immigrant country and we really do meld a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. The power dynamic lies in the fact that the genuinely syncretic and layered culture of the mainstream is dominated by whites. That broad river of culture is considered -- consciously by POC and unconsciously by whites -- to be the home ground and domain of whites, even though everyone has contributed to it.

So when a new cultural item is added to that mainstream, it is done by whites deliberately, and in a manner that doesn't acknowledge its debt to any subculture or alternate culture. That mainstream is powerful because it is the mainstream and because it is the homeground of the white power-majority. Likewise, whites are powerful because they are white and because they control the powerful mainstream, both. It's true cultural synergy.

The principle of the mainstream is inherently melting-pot-ish, so once something has joined the mainstream, it becomes very difficult to pick out its origin and path to the mainstream. This is an aspect of the cultural mainstream that shores up its power. Likewise, people of color rarely see their cultural product make it into the mainstream intact because of the melting pot principle; it's easier to not give up power if you dismantle a subculture and incorporate it piecemeal: for every Boyz 'n' the Hood there will be twenty Colors's; for every Better Luck Tomorrow there will be twenty Fast and Furious sequels. Dismantle, then control. This is why the live action Avatar can be cast all white. Avatar already began the process of dismantling the cultures by making them secondary cultures.

Cultural appropriation is also hard for whites to understand because it's hard to distinguish between melding and appropriation when we simply don't know where each individual got it from.

For example: generation after generation, African American slang gets incorporated into mainstream white slang. At one point in this process, it's straight up cultural appropriation. But there does come a moment when enough white people are using the slang, that other white people are picking it up from whites in their own communities, without necessarily knowing its origin. At that point, it's already fused into the mainstream culture and the less "cutting edge" whites really aren't appropriating it ... because it's already thoroughly appropriated.

I'll give you a funny example: I left the US (Tucson) in 1992 and came back (to San Francisco) in 1998. During that time, a new set of "urban" slang hit the mainstream. Not a lot of this reached us in Europe during that time. So when I came back to the States in 98/99, I was working at a number of Asian American arts orgs. A lot of the volunteers had gone to ivy league colleges (model minorities) and I noticed something: all the people I knew who had gone to Yale were using this slang expression "My bad." I'd never heard that before so I pointed it out to a Yalie friend and asked if it was a Yale thing. She found that very amusing. Of course, subsequently, I heard it all over the place and it became clear that it was part of a slang set that -- once again -- came from African America. But by the time it reached me, it was so thoroughly appropriated that I was able to think -- just for a moment -- that it was an ivy league thing.

Because cultural appropriation either succeeds or fails -- that is, items are either thoroughly appropriated or they aren't -- it can be hard to tell with successful appropriations where they've been appropriated from. So a LOT of whites, who get these things from their white communities, hear POC screaming about cultural appropriation and are genuinely confused. Aren't we a melting pot? I didn't steal this from anybody! Even my Mom says it for chrissake!

There's also a lot of unconscious disagreement about a statute of limitations on accusations of cultural appropriation. For example, I still hear some Af Ams complaining about how Elvis jacked Little Richard and others. It's true, but we're so many musical generations down the line from Elvis, and most Af Am musicians wouldn't touch rockabilly with a ten-foot pole now, so can we let go of that? I'd still be willing to talk about Vanilla Ice, but there are folks who think that's over, too. So that's another issue that no one can agree on: when does it stop being cultural appropriation and just become culture?

Sadly, I have no answers for you today. Because, of course, cultural syncretism and its various methods are a spectrum, not a clearly defined taxonomy. And where your own actions fall on that spectrum will depend on your point of view.

One thing I can say, and have said before, is that when it comes to creating fictional worlds and fictional characters, you do have the opportunity to control your cultural appropriation, to step back and err on the side of not appropriating. That is not the same thing as not writing the Other, but I happen to fall down on the side of don't write the Other if you can't do it right. Rather, make sure that enough People of Color are getting published and noticed.

But that's just me.

Life in Oakland Today

I just got my voter registration card from Oakland's voter registration office. Today. January 14th. Well, yesterday now. It told me that I was officially a voter as of November 2, 2008, even though I registered two years ago.

Oakland is broken.

In other news, BART stations in downtown Oakland were closed briefly tonight as I was coming home because of a protest against the new year's day police shooting which turned violent near the end. I don't get behind the violence tonight at all -- it seems clear that a few people went downtown just to start some shit -- but the riot last week is something else.

I heard a lot of people saying things about how the riot didn't solve anything and people shouldn't have done it and they were mostly attacking downtown small businesses that are members of their own community and they're right, of course. But it seems pretty clear that riots happen only after too much shit has gone down and been swept under the rug. Then a really blatant incident happens and people just explode. It's not a good choice, but neither is letting police brutality against young black men go on and on, year after year, without consequences. Last week's riot was a consequence and, sadly, it may be what makes something happen in this case.

Even more sad is the fact that this protest is around an incident caused by the BART police, when the anger is really against the Oakland police. It may turn out that the murder was a terrible mistake caused by an inexperienced officer, whereas the city police commit brutal acts year after year as a matter of policy, and the attention may not be turned on them. The last time the BART police killed someone was in 2001, but the Oakland police had six fatalities last year.

The worst part about this is the misdirected anger, but I have a hard time feeling anything more than sad about it.

December 16, 2008

Writers' Rooms

IMG_3318

I've seen photos of writers' rooms before and didn't care that much about it except to envy them.

But I'm right in the midst of considering how to rearrange my workspace so this (via) was a very good thing for me to see, for on-the-ground ideas.

I don't have a whole room for the writing, just one wall of my "bedroom", which is a bedroom, study, and sitting room in one. (The other large room in my apartment is living room and dining room, and I have a kitchen, bathroom, and walk-in closet.) The way the room is laid out, I have little choice about where to put my bed, which gives me little choice about where to put my desk. So I'm stuck with this one particular wall. (the white crumple in the foreground of the photo above is my bed.)

 It's kind of a weird and uncomfortable place to sit, but it's the longest wall in my apartment, and pretty much the only place I can put my table short of transplanting the two rooms. I solved the problem of storage by raisinIMG_3319g the table up high (it has IKEA screw up and down legs) and getting a draftsman's stool to sit on. Problem is, this isn't comfortable, and I simply stopped using the table. So I've decided to lower it to a normal height again, but now I have to consider a number of things:

  1. What do do with all the crap stored beneath it. Should I install wall shelves over the desk? Put organizers on top of the desk? Invest in storage containers for under the desk?
  2. Should I create some kind of mild barrier between the end of my desk and the doorway right next to it, as a kind of psychological boundary marker? And if so, what?
  3. Which of my current organizers aren't working? What should I keep, what should I build out, and what should I get rid of?

Any detailed responses or principles would be welcome. Sigh.

December 09, 2008

Gendering Blogs

Via Aqueduct blog I came to the Gender Analyzer, an AI-driven online app that tells you whether a man or a woman wrote a particular blog.

Naturally I had to try it out:

  • atlas(t), my mapping, geography, 'n' stuff blog, is 70% certain to be male.
  • atlas(t): The Galleon Trade Edition, my art blog of the Galleon Trade artists exchange project, is 59% certain to be male, "however it's quite gender neutral."
  • SeeLight, this very blog, is 58% male, but is also "quite gender neutral."
  • APAture Live, the live blog I kept for the 10th Annual APAture arts festival, is 52% male, but also ... you know.
  • EnterBrainment, my paid entertainment blog, which I've abandoned now, is 57% FEMALE (but quite gender neutral).

It's interesting, because I use pretty much the same diction and sentence structures in all five blogs, but the vocabulary is different because the topics covered are different. Atlas(t) has a lot of abstract terms, and a very wide variety of terms, because of all the blogs, this one covers the broadest range of topics. Galleon Trade Edition is mostly about art, and SeeLight is mostly about literature. APAture Live was about multidisciplinary arts, but also about relationships and community. And EnterBrainment was about entertainment and celebrities, written for a primarily female audience.

So what I can gather from all of this is that they have simply gendered sets of vocabularies. Sigh.

December 07, 2008

Top Ten

Everybody wants year-end top ten lists!

I pledge to be year-end top ten free on this blog! Argh!

November 30, 2008

I'm Boring

Don't agree with me!

Now that the election is over, I have nothing to saaaaaay! Argh.

But I've reshuffled some blogging dooties: I'm blogging again at Hyphen magazine, if you wanna check me out

November 06, 2008

Historic

"Historic" means it's in the past, people. Yes, the election of Obama is now in the past, technically. But just barely. Also, the mid-term 2006 election is "historic," as was the 2004 election, the 2002 election, the 2000 election, etc. They're all part of history. They all affected the course of our future.

In fact, everything that has happened is "historic." Everything.

I think the adjective you're looking for might be "world-changing." Other options:

  • paradigm-shifting
  • momentous
  • earth-shattering
  • amazing

Okay?

Sigh.

November 02, 2008

As Sarah Failin' Would Say: Readin' Update

So I just finished Obama's Dreams From My Father.

Not sure how to get into this discussion. Obama is, surprisingly, a very good prose writer: assured, smooth, with a good sense of prose rhythm and shape. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised: there are a lot of lawyers who end up writing fiction, so there must be something in the education that trains one's prose style. But the outlines of his career that he lays out in the book tend to indicate little interest in the life of the imagination, or in aesthetics.

But maybe it's what I talked about once, with language issues and writing. I don't know if I ever blogged about this, but when I first lived in Berlin, I was part of an American writers group: five of us, two women and three men, two poets and three fiction writers, all in our twenties, most of us creative writing or English majors, all--except me--white. We didn't do too much workshopping (thank oG), we mostly just sat around talking about books and reading. We'd have poetry face-offs, where one person would bring in a favorite poet and read the favorite poems, and then another would respond with poems on similar topics or using similar tactics. Good--if geeky--times.

So one day I told the group that I had--apparently, I was too young to remember--had a bit of a problem with language acquisition as a toddler. I had started out in Cantonese (I was born in Hong Kong). When I was one and a half, we moved to the States and at about two years, we started speaking mostly English at home. Between two and three, I spoke a personal brand of Chinglish--not one I learned from a community, that is--which mixed vocabulary, grammar, and tones from both languages. Apparently, only my older sister fully understood me. By the age of three, I had separated the two languages and was speaking both correctly, and by four I had pretty much stopped learning Cantonese.

So I told the group  maybe my fascination with language and my desire to master it through writing arose from my early troubles with language acquisition, and suggested that maybe a lot of writers had early troubles with language as well. They all immediately pooh-poohed the idea. Then, over the course of the next hour, it turned out that: the other woman in the group had actually spent her early childhood somewhere in Africa with her linguist father, and apparently (she doesn't remember) spoke the local language fluently; one of the men in the group had had a bad stutter as a child and had to go to speech therapy for years; and another of the men in the group--and this is the best story--had been unable to learn to read or write until he was fourteen years old. He came from a well-off family of all college-educated professionals, and his disability simply stumped everyone until he was fourteen and they sent him to a new program that taught him how to juggle. Something about developmental steps that connect eye-hand coordination and mental processes. In any case, he caught up with thirteen years of school within three, and was able to go off to college "on time".

So, out of five writers, four had had some sort of issue or circumstance in their lives that had made language acquisition either "thorny" (in the words of the one writer of the group with no thorniness) or something of particular import and weight. Something to think about.

All that just to suggest that Barack Obama, who lived in Indonesia from six to ten and spoke Indonesian fluently, might have something similar going on here. With the language issue, the writing issue. With the wanting to be the most powerful man in the world issue? Not sure what's up with that.

Although it's well-written in the prose-style sense, it's poorly written in the emotional sense. Obama sticks too closely to the expected emotional/dramatic arc of search and redemption. Along the way, he writes remarkably little--and that very ineffectively--about his own feelings or responses. When he does write about his feelings, it's in a detached way, and he eliminates feelings from the narrative frequently. In what is supposed to be the book's emotional climax (I had not thought, until that moment, that there was going to be one) I didn't even know that he was experiencing any emotion until he described the tears running down his face. Very strange.

All this might have something to do with the fact that, throughout this book, which is an autobiography, not a memoir, there's an 800 pound gorilla in the room: Barack Obama Sr. had three wives and a girlfriend, usually simultaneously, two of them white Americans, and couldn't--didn't--take care of them or the six-odd children he fathered with them. The situation is made clear in the book, but no one addresses it directly. The book is full of resentments toward fathers, full of passive aggressive moments of almost-accusation made toward Obama the father or the grandfather. But no one, not even the narrator, ever sits down and says: we have a problem with fathers and fatherhood here; let's state some facts baldly before we attempt to interpret them.

Maybe Obama felt he would be betraying the complexity of his father's story if he laid out the facts that way ... although I have to say, he had no problems betraying the complexity of his grandmother's feelings about race in his much-praised race speech earlier this year. This is one of my ongoing problems with Obama: the half-assedness of his gender awareness compared with his race awareness. Maybe he felt he would be underlining a stereotype of black men if he characterized his father as being an irresponsible Johnny Appleseed with six or more kids from four women whom he left to the rest of his family to support ... but then that would be the truth. Maybe it would be a betrayal of complexity to point out that his father left his first--African--wife, twice, for white women. Maybe it's too much to ask Obama to speculate on the meaning of this. But I don't think it's too much, given that he wrote the damn book--subtitled "A Story of Race and Inheritance"--in the first place. And while he was ducking this issue, writing a book about a father who hadn't cared enough about him to include him in his life, his mother was dying of cancer.

Yes, I'm supporting Obama. And I read the book with a great deal of excitement, because I felt convinced that maybe I had misread what I perceived earlier as Obama's lack of enthusiasm when it came to women's issues and gender equality. I was reading the book to increase my knowledge of, and excitement about, Obama's candidacy. But there it all was, in his book. Let me clarify: you don't have to be an outright sexist to just not give a shit about women's rights. You can love and respect the women in your life and like women in general, and still feel that gender equity really isn't your problem. And this is the feeling I get from Obama.

I just got an email this summer from a man who was one of my best friends in college. He had contacted me again about a year and a half ago and we've been emailing back and forth. In response to a complaint from me about the lack of confidence I see in men I'm dating online, he wrote, "All the men our age grew up being beaten down by the Feminist Revolution." I have been unable to write back to him since receiving that email, because I simply don't know how to express my outrage and betrayal at such a simple-minded and viciously wrong statement, that faults the liberation and uplift of HALF OF HUMANITY for the loss of a few privileges of a few members of the other half.

It is this same betrayal I'm feeling from Obama and his campaign and too many of the men of my age cohort who support him. I thought this was over, but it's not over and it's not gonna be over. He cares about the big issues, but not about a little tiny issue like the difficult climb to equality for half the world. Fuck him.

November 01, 2008

Reading Update

I'm a little behind in updating, as usual.

I listened to the first half of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood while driving to Mono Lake, and the read the rest when I got home. Got nothing to say about it. Literally. That's no judgment, it's a great book, I just got nothing to say.

Then I read The Insufficiency of Maps, by Nora Pierce, which should be called "The Insufficiency of This Book." Oh, it's fine. It's one of those pebbles that makes no impression on the pond, sinks to the bottom, and is never heard from again. It probably would have been a better book if Pierce had been more concerned with telling the damn story, rather than being all poetic and distanced, and creating a lyrical, melancholy sense of unreality that made it impossible for me to give a shit about anything in the book ... but then maybe it wouldn't have been a better book, either.

I think I read something else in there, too, but it clearly made so little impression on me that I can't even remember, so who cares.

September 22, 2008

Vote on Sarah Palin Poll!

I just got an email saying that PBS has a poll on Sarah Palin's qualifications that the Repugs have organized a yes vote for.

So be sure to vote yourself!

August 11, 2008

Scrappy Doo Syndrome

I think it's usually called "Cousin Oliver Syndrome," after the kid they tried to bring in to save The Brady Bunch. But I'm talking about a very slightly different syndrome here: not the cute kid they bring in to young-up the aging cast, but rather the subgroup of Cousin Olivers who intrude annoyingly into every plot by being stupid and aggressive, and putting themselves and everyone else into danger.

Like Scrappy Doo.

I just identified this one recently in the third installment of "The Mummy" movie franchise (with Brendan Fraser) in which they introduce a now-adult son, Alex, who looks about five years younger than his dad, and is bratty and aggressive without intelligence, charm, or any other sort of stature a fictional character requires to become sympathetic. Because he's now an adult, he gets to share all the ass-kicking with his parents, plus acquires all of the romance part. But he's an annoying Scrappy Doo who distracts and detracts from the characters we're really interested in and adds nothing.

Another recent Scrappy Doo is the Iskierka character in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, a fire-breathing young dragon utterly without charm who puts everyone in danger because of her thoughtless bloodthirstiness and greed. She was introduced at the end of the third book and has been a drag on the series ever since. (Naturally, she comes in at a point when Temeraire begins to lose the sweetness of innocence and is ready to assert himself as an equal partner in his relationship with Laurence. She's there to make sure we still have our young-dragon hit.)  Novik manages to balance her personality among a number of others, but there's no pleasure in reading about her for me.

This is the same problem with Dawn Summers in the Buffy series. No teenager is really that annoying. She was an adult's idea of a teenager in a show that was about the teenager's idea of a teenager: she was a whiny, stupid teenager incapable of learning lessons, and affecting everyone adversely with her years-long acting out, in a show in which all the other characters had started out as kickass, mature, responsible, knowledgeable, sophisticated, and witty teenagers. Dawn was a box of rocks who, despite being raised by an older sister who fought demons for a living, could never learn not to go wandering off by herself at night. I guess that's supposed to be humorous. You know: irony.

The thing is, the pleasure of young characters--children or teenagers--in a book, or film, or TV show for adult audiences, lies in watching them learn and grow and make choices. The milestones for youth are very clear to adults, and there's a great satisfaction in watching youthful characters pass these. But part of the satisfaction is in watching them pay for their mistakes, or exchange some of the innocence of youth for the sadder wisdom of experience.

Youthful characters who never grow or grow up are inserted into series and franchises as permanent cute vendors. Somehow they are expected to bring the youth-freshness ingredient to the bake-off over and over again because Hollywood seems to think that a character merely embodying the most obvious characteristics of youth (cuteness and whininess) will automatically charm us or call forth our tenderness. They also seem to think that a permanent state of youthful idiocy is funny. But Hollywood thinks a lot of things that aren't so. Hollywood never seems to learn that the youth-freshness ingredient is a combo of a cute face and a satisfying bildungs-arc.

(At least with Novik we can be sure that Iskierka will grow up. I hope it happens soon, though.)

What are your most hated Scrappy Doo characters? (Plus, check out this article on TV's most hated characters, and this one on seven signs your TV show has jumped it.)

Cross-posted on EnterBrainment.

August 08, 2008

Paris Hilton Is Still Full Of It

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

I don't know why everybody thinks this is so great. Probably because they're meant to think it's great.

Let's keep in mind that Paris did not write this herself. I have no proof of this, but come on. She probably didn't think it up, either. She's a brand, people. She has clothes, "music," and other stuff to sell, not to mention a chain of hotels whose image has undoubtedly benefited by her fame. Making herself seem cool and/or desirable is her job, and she has an army of people to help her do it.

She's been out of the headlines for a while now, which threatens her brand. So McCain, intentionally or not, did her a favor by giving her a--and I use this word advisedly--platform. She's a professional egomaniac. What did you expect?

So it depresses me that even the feminist blogosphere fell into line so quickly on this one. I don't think it's so much about Paris reading cue cards with four-syllable words on them, as it is about her successfully calling out John McCain. We're so ridiculously partisan at this point that we'll jump on any idiot's bandwagon who manages to get egg on McCain's face.

Come on, people, it's not that hard to get egg on McCain's face. He's the incompetent who put his wife up for a topless beauty contest.

You also gotta love how everyone is saying that she sounds intelligent. But her "energy policy" is a crock of shit. The problem with offshore drilling is that it won't hit our markets for years, and that it will never reach a volume that will fill even a fraction of our needs. Plus, it can't be done in an environmentally sound way, no matter how much Paris's daddy's business friends say it can.

I point this out because what she's doing here is taking no political position at all. She's promoting her brand which is, at bottom, a brand that thrives on people wondering just how stupid Paris is. She has to sound "intelligent" for the duration of the two-seconds' thought most people tend to give to public policy, but farther she does not need to go. So her handlers selected a position that will offend no one and please everyone, because it sounds neat and reasonable, for two seconds.

Characterizing this as "Paris fighting back" (as many bloggers have done) is absurd. What does she have to fight back against except loss of media attention? Her image as the most shallow and worthless human being on the planet is one she created for herself. And given the fact that this image is the essence of her brand, I suspect she created this image knowingly and willingly.

Crossposted at EnterBrainment.

July 07, 2008

Still Waiting

Unity sounds refreshing in a political culture battered and wearied by vicious partisanship. But bipartisanship means that sometimes the other side -- those people you've come to regard as the devil incarnate over the past 30 years -- will get what they want and you won't. Anyone who assumes that self-interest is what really motivates political groups isn't going to expect them to be moved by high-flown appeals to conscience and guilt; there will be wheeling, there will be dealing, and there will be half-measures. If he is elected, and if Obama asks his most idealistic champions to countenance some sacrifices, they will hardly be able to say that they weren't warned. Their disillusionment is most likely to come soon. Whether in the long run we'll regard him as a president who got things done or one who sold out will take a lot longer to decide.

That's all well and good--yes, yes, Obama's our whore--but to get people to the table so that they can compromise, you have to bid them come to the table.

Where's my invite?

July 03, 2008

A Truly Feminist Obama Campaign

Make a Point at Current.com

While I like the point that Rebecca Traister makes in this video---that a feminist campaign wouldn't look that different, only women would be addressed directly as adults---I don't think she goes far enough.

This isn't just any potentially feminist campaign. This is a potentially feminist campaign that needs to win over heartbroken and angry Hillary Clinton supporters who have not only, as is usual, not been dealt with as adults themselves, but have also gotten to watch their candidate of choice being dealt with like a recalcitrant child, or a monstrous creature, rather than an adult human being.

I want to address one particular issue which is essential to the Obama campaign: that of the emotional involvement Clinton's supporters felt and feel for her. The emotion with which Clinton's campaign was greeted by her female supporters should be instructive, and not--as it has been--an item of mockery and contempt. Instructive because when was the last time you saw women voters get that emotionally invested in a campaign, rather than just rationally involved? Women are not, as has been hinted over and over again this year, emotional voters. We have never seen such a public spectacle of respected women leaders getting upset (and often saying stupid things about race) around an election. Women public figures have always behaved with rationality around elections heretofore ... elections of white men.

And the fact that everyone feels so comfortable dismissing the emotion of Clinton supporters (because women always come back to the party fold even when their candidate loses) is a testament to how reliable, valuable, and non-emotional women voters are. So the rage seen in the aftermath of the Clinton campaign must be respected because this is the time when women Clinton supporters' emotions have genuinely been tapped, and the party really could lose supporters if they don't reach out.

And how is the Obama campaign to respect that emotion? Let me point out that the Obama campaign is hands down the most deliberately emotionally engaging campaign I've ever seen. The "Yes We Can" speech? Was there anything rational or wonky in that speech at all? And the sight of will.i.am and his Hollywood buddies getting literally ecstatic while singing along to Obama's words is far and away the most mockable, vulnerable, emotional political spectacle I've ever seen. And that includes Howard Dean's campaign-ending screech and Eminem's "Mosh."

From start to finish, Obama's campaign has been an appeal to emotions: hope, power to the powerless, triumph, unity, healing, peace, justice, renewal, passing of the torch. And he's proven to be a knockout at managing this process of appealing to emotions ... to people's better emotions, instead of the fear, anger, and selfishness that Republican campaigns always appeal to. In fact, this is why he beat Hillary. Because Hillary's advantage, which was also largely emotional (nostalgia for the nineties, attachment to the Clintons, desire for a woman president, etc.) was squandered in her campaign's attempt to sell her as serious, rational, and wonky.

So why isn't the Obama campaign drowning Clinton supporters in emotion the way they've been drowning men, young people, and people of color in hope, etc? Why doesn't Obama get his ass out there and give a rousing "Yes She Can" speech? Why do the particularities of over half the population as a group get short, or no, shrift with Obama? The longer his passion goes on being silent on women's issues, the more sexist, uncaring, and disrespectful of Clinton supporters he looks. And there will be a point at which he can't come back from this.

To be more specific: The "issues" page on Obama's website  doesn't have a "women" section. You have to go into the issues menu to find the page on women. And the page that deals with women's issues is the driest, wonkiest page on his whole website. It's thorough, sure, but completely uninspiring. We've been hearing progressive candidates mentioning all this stuff within our hearing, for our benefit, for decades now, and seen no movement on these issues. Spouting the standard issues is the prerequisite. What we really need is for the candidate who most benefited from the misogyny directed at Hillary to show passion about women's issues specifically, and to engage our passions.

And this is pretty fuckin' weak stuff. What, you couldn't spare more than two sentences, one of them run-on, to woo 18 million voters?

I'm still insulted, and the longer this crap goes on, the more insulted by Obama's campaign I'll be. If you can't be bothered to treat with me and 18 million others when it matters this much, why should I trust that you'll represent my interests when the campaign is over? I'm waiting.

I'm still fucking waiting.

June 26, 2008

Having a Bad Week

Just finished watching the John Adams miniseries, which is terrific.

A lot is going on this week. Aside from all that, I'm realizing how wearing it is to participate emotionally in this election.

The Carl Brandon Society did a panel at Wiscon about identity intersectionality in an election year. It was called "Some of Us Are Brave" and focused on African American women.

That's how I've been thinking of intersectionality, too, and not really applying it to myself. At the same time, though, I've seen Asian Americans as a group called out for supporting Clinton, called racist. I've seen white feminists as a group called racist for supporting Clinton. I've seen my male friends, Asian Am and otherwise, supporting Obama and giving Clinton's Iraq War vote--and nothing else--as a reason. At the "Some of Us Are Brave" panel I've had a middle-aged male Asian American Obama supporter try to school me on how to manage Asian American activism--something I've been doing for ten years. And this week I got called out by an older feminist for disagreeing on a minor matter, and again schooled on issues I've been discussing and acting on for twenty years.

And another thing: I've gotten no second of public space to enjoy the ascendence of our first biracial presidential nominee because absolutely everyone, from white Republican to black Democrat and back again, is deeply invested in reading Obama as just black (except when it suits their agendas not to), despite the extremely nuanced reading of his own identity that he's offered the whole world for years now. I don't get to feel a kinship with him based on that.

I am extremely dissatisfied with every party, every Democratic campaign, and the behavior of every group of supporters in this election. There is no group, no campaign, and no candidate who has not been treated unfairly in public, and who has not also treated someone else unfairly. And because of the multiplicity of my own identity, group belonging, and loyalty, I have been able to come down nowhere.

My loyalty to Clinton has been treated as racist and suspect, because of hatred of Clinton herself, because of the stupidity of Clinton's supporters, and because of my own identities: my Asianness, my whiteness, my non-blackness, my gender, and my age. If Clinton had lost fair and square, i.e. not because she's a woman, I would be now recovering my joy at Obama's candidacy. But I feel no joy whatsoever, because I feel that every part of my public, political self has been attacked from one angle or another.

And it goes on even now. It's as if there's no joy anywhere at Obama's win, because we've already built up too much bitterness. The racial and gender watchdog machines are on red alert, the racial and gender offense-taking machines are white hot from cranking out product, but where are the liberal joy machines?

This is not all that's going on and stinking up my week. But it's a big chunk. I think I'm going to try ... try ... and take a break from politics for a week or two. Maybe that'll lighten things up a bit.

June 17, 2008

Conversational Rhythms

I'm working in a cafe, as I often do, and my biggest peeve of working in a cafe, especially this one, where the inner room of the cafe is pretty much always colonized by people working, is when people take cell phone calls inside.

Folks, it's obnoxious to force everyone else to experience your phone call with you. Don't do it!

Anyway, I was thinking about it and wondering why cell phone calls are so much more obnoxious than face to face conversations, which are also common in cafes and usually don't bother me. It's partly because f2f convos are almost always carried on at half the volume of a cell phone call. But that's not the only reason.

I think the other reason is that hearing one half of a cell phone call means that you miss out on the back and forth rhythm of the call. And that's very disturbing and distracting.

Conversations, as anyone who has studied dialogue writing can tell you, have rhythms. I haven't done much reading on this, but I'm sure there are studies out there that show that people can only communicate when they set up an effective rhythm. Probably your brain can only take in information conveyed verbally if it's lulled by a rhythm into a receptive mode. Don't take that as given. I haven't read that anywhere, I'm just guessing. But I think that's why rhythm is so important in writing as well.

By rhythm I mean that you and your conversational partner literally set up a da da duh, da da duh back and forth rhythm with your speaking, only it's a little more complex than a poem. You can hear it best at the beginning and end of a conversation when the greetings and leave-takings are more ritualized.

Hello?

Hi, John, it's Marsha.

Marsha! Hi! How are you?

I'm well, thank you, how are you?

Great! I've been great, thanks. What's up?

Well, I'm calling because I was thinking of having a dinner party ...

OR

da duh?

da da, da da duh.

da duh! da! da da duh?

da duh, da duh, da da duh?

etc.

If I did the whole conversation in "da duhs" but with the proper voice inflection, you'd know exactly what was being said. Same with sign-offs:

Well, I've got a lot of work to do. (da, da da da da duh da duh duh)

Me too. I have  a deadline tomorrow. (da duh. da da da da duh da duh duh‚

Well, it was great talking to you! (da, da da da da duh da da)

You too! Thanks so much for calling! (da da! da da da duh da da)

Let's check in at the end of the week. (da da da da da duh duh da da)

Yes, let's do that. (da, da da duh)

Okay, take care. (da duh, da da)

You too. (da da)

Bye. (da)

Bye. (da)

Notice how the length and rhythm of each side of the conversation mirrors that of the partner? Notice how they spiral down, each piece getting shorter until they're down to one beat each, in the same way that the greeting spirals up from "hello" into complex sentences?

Interestingly, when the cell phone user gets into the long spiral down, I start to relax. They're no longer conveying information, but rather entering the get-rid-of-you ritual and I know exactly how the other side of the conversation is playing out.

The difficult part is the middle, where the speakers must, not mirror each other, but rather find a way to foster a mutual rhythm that is first of all, capable of keeping the conversation flowing without a hitch, and secondly, satisfying to both speakers. Usually, with most conversations, the second one isn't possible. The first one is essential, however, to the continuation of the conversation.

This can be done by one speaker dominating the conversation and delivering a monologue in discrete packages, each one of the same shape and length. The speaker will have to pause at the end of each package to allow the partner to respond, at least briefly. If the speaker doesn't pause, the partner is shut out and it's not a conversation. If it's not a conversation, the non-speaker will mentally disengage (no matter how good a listener he/she is) and then get bored because s/he isn't engaged.

Some really good conversations consist of two speakers taking turns dominating the conversation.

Another tactic is to exchange packages of information in similarly shaped pieces; equal on both sides. This is rare, however. I don't think most people operate this way. What I see most often is two people exchanging similar information in different shapes and pieces. One person will be more voluable and the other more terse. So the voluable person will speak for a longer time than the terse person, and they'll take turns. This works well if they can set up a rhythm of more, less, more, less, that feels rhythmic.

As the person who is usually more voluable, I can tell you that I know when it's time for the other person to speak when I get a sudden feeling that I've been talking too long. That feeling is not a scientific thing: two minutes of solid monologue is all that is allowed, for example. It has to do with the rhythm we've set up and my warning signals that if I exceed my limits, the rhythm of the conversation will be broken and we won't be able to communicate anymore.

It's a delicate thing. I've often been in conversations with really great people that just felt terrible because we couldn't set up a satisfactory rhythm. Once they got started talking, I really enjoyed hearing them. But they'd stop talking, it seemed to me, at a weird place, and I'd have nothing to respond with. Then there'd be a long pause while I scrambled for something to say and they waited. This awkwardness has to do with having incompatable rhythms.

I think the rhythms have to do with the speed and pulse of how your mind works. In a conversation, your mind is delivering up thoughts to you, turning them into packages of speech, processing the response, and then delivering up another thought. Often your mind will deliver two thoughts or more during the time you're listening and processing. If you have a jumpy, quick mind, you produce more thoughts than you can utter during a conversation. What happens to me during awkward conversations is that my partner will stop while I'm in the middle of a second or third thought, whereas in a good conversation, my partner will stop when I've just finished a thought.

I guess this means that you have the best conversations with people whose minds work at the same rate, or a half the rate or double the rate of yours, so that your mental rhythms can sync. I might be talking out my ass, though.

Back to work.

June 04, 2008

I'm SOOOO Tired of This

First, Geraldine Ferraro says reverse racism, and Harriet Christian says "inadequate black male."

They get reamed, as is proper and right, with a thoroughness that you can google yourself.

Then, Joan Walsh says,

Beyond Christian's deplorable reference to Obama as an "inadequate black male" was a wail worth hearing. She also said, "I'm proud to be an older American woman!" I can feel her pain. Reading the sexist attacks on Clinton and her white female supporters, as well as on female journalists and bloggers who've occasionally tried to defend her or critique Obama, has been, well, consciousness-raising. Prejudice against older women, apparently, is one of the last non-taboo biases. I've been stunned by the extent to which trashing Clinton supporters as washed up old white women is acceptable. A writer whose work I respect submitted a piece addressed to "old white feminists," telling them to get out of Obama's way. I've found my own writing often dismissed not on its merits (or lack thereof) but because as a woman who will turn 50 in September, I'm supposed to be Clinton's demographic. Salon's letters pages, as well as the comments sections around the blogosphere, are studded with dismissive, derisive references to bitter old white women.

Then, Ta-Nehisi Coates says:

Once I heard Walsh invoking the words of two bigots to make her point, I checked out. Physician heal-thy-mutherfucking-self. Ferraro is the same woman who argued that "racial resentment" was OK. Walsh apparently thinks Harriet's description of Obama as an inadequate black male, "was a wail worth healing." I'm physically sick reading that. I never much agreed with Walsh's take on the Clinton's, but for my money, she just fell into Pat Buchanan territory. Anyone who thinks there's something to take from someone who says it's fine to resent black people racially, who claims that there's something worth hearing in describing the first black man to ever win a major party's nomination as "an inadequate black male" is the moral equivalent of a racist to me.

Oh, HELL NO. Walsh specifically said beyond the deplorable "inadequate black male" comment was a wail worth hearing. It is NOT OKAY to twist that into her saying that "inadequate black male" is a wail worth hearing. That's just plain stupid. Walsh was VERY CLEARLY saying that these women had a message about sexism that was obscured by their racism, and NOT that their racism was okay.

And pointing out that a woman who is a forty-year democratic party stalwart, as well as a woman who is the nation's first female vice presidential candidate, might have something apropos to say about sexism in elections despite their manifest racism, does NOT put Walsh into the lunatic fringe. There are few women out there being loud and passionate about the sexism in this campaign who aren't outright Clinton supporters and, racist or not, all white women Clinton supporters have been accused of implicit racism in this election at one time or another. To say that a woman who approves the gender message of a racist commenter is herself beyond the pale is tantamount to an attempt to silence the debate on sexism in this election.

I'm sooooo sick of hearing people say that racism puts people completely beyond the pale ... that the moment somebody says something racist, you simply don't have to listen to them anymore. People can be--and usually are--vastly ignorant about everybody else's oppression, but very clear and articulate about their own. The poor whites who blame undocumented immigrants for their own bad education and healthcare and underemployment are obnoxious not because their situation isn't truly bad, but because they're blaming it on the wrong people. And ignoring the whole complaint because of its racism is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

This is EXACTLY the attitude that led to Obama's stupid and arrogant bitter white people comment. This is exactly the attitude that puts educated, powerful blacks like Obama beyond the sympathy of poor and working class, less-educated whites. If Obama is going to win, not only does he have to stop making bitter white people comments, but his supporters have to stop ignoring the desires of people tainted with the racism brush, since they make up the majority of voters.

If a misogynistic black man can be both held to account for his misogyny, and also listened to for his experience of racism, then racist white women who have just been treated to the year-long public spectacle of a wealthy, powerful, and respected white politician publicly pilloried by men of all races because she is a woman can be both held to account for their racism, and MUTHERFUCKING LISTENED TO for their experience of sexism.

And just like non-blacks don't get to tell blacks when they've crossed the line in their frustration with racism, MEN DO NOT GET TO TELL WOMEN when they've crossed the line in their frustration with sexism. If Coates wants to analyze, instruct, or ream Ferraro and Christian for their racism, more power to him. And yes, it's time for them to shut up. But to dismiss the just protest against manifest and obvious sexism made by these women is not okay. And it's not okay to dismiss Walsh's argument because she jumps off of Ferraro's and Christian's comments.

Coates says further:

I want to see Barack Obama out there courting the vote of all women. I want to see him talking specifically about what his plans are. But I've got no interest in seeing him court those who would use feminism, as a cover for their own blackaphoic views. Later for them. Let them vote McCain, and go join the party where bigotry is part of the platform. The rest of us have a country to save.

HUNH? Does Coates really think that Ferraro's and Christian's public brainfarts were about how afraid they are of black men? Their feminism isn't anything but a cover for their racism? Wow, that's gotta be the most sexist thing I've heard all year.

DUDE, IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. I know it's shocking, but sometimes, even in a world Obama inhabits, even in an election that includes your wannapund ass, race isn't the thing people are focused on. These women are angry about a woman NOT getting elected, they're not really angry about a black man GETTING elected. They're blaming it on a black man getting elected, because they need something to strike out at, and this is something new that they don't understand. But their passion is all about the wimminz. Shockingly enough, they're passionate about THEMSELVES, NOT YOU.

Of course it's not okay for them to be striking out in this racist manner. And yes, they need to be called out for it. And yes, Ferraro and Christian need to shut up, now. They've lost their right to the talking stick because they can't seem to hold it without being racist. But let's be clear: if the race had been between Clinton and Edwards and the same thing had happened, the same campaigns had been run minus the racial element, Ferraro and Christian, not to mention Gloria Steinem, would be making just as loud public statements about the sexism of the campaign, and would be just as angry. And rightfully so.

At the end of the day, a woman's racism will not buffer her from misogyny. DO NOT tell me or anyone else that racism somehow makes a woman's testimony about sexism worthless. And Walsh does get to point this out because SHE'S got the talking stick.

May 29, 2008

Rachel Moss' SASS Friends' IP Addresses

I said I wasn't going to post about this anymore, but cretins are starting to shit in my comments. So I'm going to post any SASS cretins' IP addresses in this post, with ongoing updates. If anyone has any bright ideas about what to do with the IP addresses, please post about it and link to my post and I'll find it. I'm closing comments for obvious reasons.

75.31.117.182
81.169.167.206

probably a SASS commenter:
219.90.248.179

possibly a SASS commenter:
75.142.61.74

probably directed to my site via encyclopedia dramatica:
72.130.16.97

More On Rachel Moss and Her Legion of Losers

I was admiring badgerbag and moondancerdrake for their ability to laugh at/brush off the idiocy at SASS (the place where people reposted Rachel Moss' disgusting fatphobic WisCon report and then outdid her in racism, fat-hating, ablism and all around misogyny.)

But, as I knew would happen, those mama's boys picked up on my post from yesterday and went looking for pictures of me on the internet. When they called me "halfchink" and said that "tall women should die" and posted an actually pretty attractive picture of me on their forum, I have to say, all I could do was laugh. Is that the best they got? Seriously? Like Cyrano, I could insult myself ten times better than they can, and ten times over, without repeating. Plus, how much of my blog did they have to read to figure out I'm a "halfchink?" Hint: a lot more than I would ever read of theirs.

Some dumbshit actually reposted MOST of my post but, not at all surprisingly, left out the stuff about why so many physically ill and abused women are fat. Wonder why that is. Also, that loser had to rearrange my post to try to make it look bad, and failing. What said loser doesn't realize is that the kind of idiots who inhabit SASS really can't edit anything I write because I exist in a completely different idiom ... most of the world does. Oh, also they raised my hit count by posting my "catblogging" archive, all three posts of it. Wow. I don't have to do anything to disarm these guys; they're arm-free already.

I'm still inclined to be angry on behalf of my friends, who don't need to hear this shit anymore, but seriously? What these losers don't seem to get is that we've ALL HEARD IT BEFORE AND WE'VE ALL STOPPED LISTENING TO IT. Which is why my wonderful friends are able to shake it off with a laugh or a shrug and move on. I wouldn't have posted in public about my own "issues" if anyone still had the power to make me feel badly about them. This has actually been instructive to me: hearing that bullshit about me specifically didn't hurt at all, although two days ago I would have suspected that it would have still hurt a little bit.

No one's all that furious about what these cowards are saying about THEM. We're all furious about what they're saying about our FRIENDS. So, my friends and allies, no need to be furious on my behalf. And I'm even going to stop being furious on badgerbag, moondancerdrake, and tempest's behalf. It's not worth my fury because these losers aren't really hurting them.

This is the last time I'm going to post about this idiocy. It's fangless, ultimately, and I have better things to think about.

May 28, 2008

PoC Are "Scary"

Why does rivals.com list only players of color on its ten scariest players in college football list? Hint: it's not 'cause only PoC play on college football teams.

Here's their definition of "scary":

Some hit with teeth-rattling impact. Some swoop down on quarterbacks like buzzards on road kill. Others have so much big-play ability that quarterbacks only throw in their direction as a last resort – that is, if they throw that way at all.

Putting together a list of college football's scariest defensive players isn't easy because scary has different definitions. Some may be physically imposing. Some are just athletically intimidating.

Scary doesn't necessarily translate to best, either, because all coaches want players that are efficient and consistent.

Still, there are players who can wreck a play, wreck a running back and make a quarterback a nervous wreck. Here's the list.

In other words, they're all African American--half of them wearing dreds or braids--except for number one:

Rey Maualuga, USC, LB: The 6-3, 250-pound Maualuga is physically imposing – and just plain looks mean. His play measures up to his stature. A two-time All-Pac-10 selection, Maualuga is a punishing hitter who led the Trojans in tackles last season despite being limited at times by a painful hip pointer. He posted 10.5 tackles for losses and six sacks while accumulating 79 tackles last season. This season will mark his third as USC's starting middle linebacker.

Looks mean? You be the judge:

MaualugareyReymaualuga250_0108_2

Item: brown skin

Item: nonwhite features

Item: is of Samoan descent, which is scary

Item: large size (because no other football players are large or aggressive)

Item: tribal tattoos

Item: "ethnic" looking hair

Conclusion: "scary"

There it is again, folks, a stereotype bound up in a pretend compliment. Because in the realm of football it's a good (ish) thing to be "scary," it's okay to call anyone scary, even if the only people you're calling scary are scary because of their race.

And remember Scary Spice? The black Spice Girl? The one who, according to wikipedia, "was given the nickname 'Scary Spice' by the British media because of her outrageous, 'in-your-face' attitude, 'loud' Leeds accent, throaty laugh, manner of dress (which often consisted of leopard-print outfits), and her voluminously curly hair"? As if Posh weren't ten times as scary. (Although, I gotta admit, fucking Eddie Murphy qualifies you as scary.)

Hmmm ... I smell a pattern.

 

May 14, 2008

Stuff Non-white People Don't Like

A lot of people sent me links to Stuff White People Like when it first hit the wind, and, not having anything productive to say and not wanting to be a killjoy, I just plain didn't say anything about it.

But it made me uncomfortable.

I was too busy to tease out why, but Double Consciousness has done the job for me here.

The problem with StuffWhitePeoleLike.com (or SWPL) is that there is actually nothing that offensive (all though some white people have thought it that) or thought provoking within the site. The reason for this is obvious, as whites are the majority in the country that have never experienced racial discrimination, institutionalized or socially. Because of this a site such as SWPL, which purports to "make fun of" white culture, can become profitable and can garner a large book deal from a major publisher.

Whiteness is essentially an invisible and often overlooked (in mainstream culture) factor within the United States and because of this most whites are blind to their own privilege as it is never talked about all that much.

In fact, even when people of color want to bring up certain offensive characteristics of white culture, such as naming mascots after Native Americans, and try to show them how offensive certain aspects are; white people can actually shrug all of that aside and laugh it off. After all, white folks are the dominant ones in society and have all of the advantages that have been built up over hundreds of years of racial preference toward whites; so when a group of Native American students name their intermural basketball team "The Fightin' Whites" in order to point out the stupidity of naming a team "The Fighin' Reds" white people find it funny and laugh it off because it is not a real threat to whiteness.

In other words, if you're already on top, and all the media already talks about your strengths and foibles, a site that DIRECTLY addresses your strengths and foibles by racializing them is just more ego-stroke. Also, this site really addresses white, upper-middle class people.

I'm pretty sure if there was a Stuff Asians Like site for upper-middle class Asians, created by an Asian American, or the same for African Americans, or Latinos,  nobody would have a problem with it. And the fact that there isn't such a site is telling.

April 29, 2008

Reading Update

At A Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Place by Kate T. Williamson

Yes, it's a memoir. An upper-middle white girl who went to Japan for a year after college comes home for three months to write a book about an upper middle white girl who goes to Japan for a year. She ends up staying at her parents' house for two years, getting depressed and confused about herself. The "story" is told in minimally captioned illustrations, which means that the book is at least a very quick zzzzzzz ... ulp--huh? ... uh ... I mean, at least it's a very quick read.

American white upper middle class memoir seems to have come to a head. We've read so godfuckingdamn many of these navel-gazers that, apparently, we don't even need to get the whole story anymore. The memoirists can just gesture in the direction of a scene (Williamson draws one or two panels and includes a one-line caption for each) and call it a day. The rest of us will know what they're trying to say without benefit of description, characterization, internal monologue, action, commentary, subtext, metaphor, or any of those difficult and time-consuming things lit teachers are always on about.

The illustrations are mostly good, if uninspired. Why the thing was published by the Princeton Architectural Press (which sent this review copy to me along with two books on urbanism and borders that I'm actually excited about) is immediately apparent in the gouache drawings themselves, which depict interiors and exteriors ... well ... architecturally. The movement or placement of dynamic figures among fixed geometric shapes is the book's main visual inquiry.

The panels are not sequential for the most part and therefore militate against narrative flow. Many of the best ones contain a great deal of dynamism within the panel, but because they don't link sequentially to the next panel, the energy is "trapped"--or maybe (to be nice) "contained"--within that particular panel, and doesn't contribute to a general flow throughout the book. Because the text serves the images, the text is therefore even more fragmented and ungenerous with narrative or commentary than the images are.

Nevertheless, the images are satisfyingly well-composed. The colors and the play with modular shapes are also good ... especially in a two-page spread of a dustpan filled with flower debris against a hardwood floor, and a near-cubist rendering of fields seen from an airplane window.

But the figure-drawing leaves much to be desired, and I think that's in line with what is left to be desired about the "writing": that the background is thoughtfully recreated but the figures and the action are pretty much ignored or made to look childishly cartoonish.

I swore to myself that I wouldn't be mean about books anymore and I'm already breaking that oath, but I gotta say ... how long, dear lord, must we sing this song? The author/artist has chops enough to make something really interesting of either some kind of actual narrative (for a preference something that doesn't have to do with her or people exactly like her), or a nonfiction book about ANYTHING but her own, predictably depressed and self-questioning self. Why was she encouraged to make--or once made, publish--ANOTHER memoir, and that merely one about writing her last memoir? Auuggghhh!

From what I can gather online, the first book, of a similar tactic, was probably much the better buy, offering her artistic take on both expected and unexpected images of a foreign culture. But I haven't read it so who knows.

Let me just put in here that I, as recently as two years ago, returned to the parental nest after completing grad school, and spent six months there, looking at squirrels and interrupting my mom's bridge games, trying to get my book done. And I have no sympathy or fellow feeling for this writer ... not because my experience was different from hers but because my experience was exactly the same. She offered me no insight into this particular condition, much less the human condition. Although, scene-for-scene, I experienced something similar to everything she depicted in her book, I felt not a single thrill of recognition. In fact, it's only as I've been writing this review that it's occurred to me that I've had the same experience. I wasn't even reminded of it while I was reading the frakkin book.

I think probably most readers will find this inoffensive, and some even delightful. But that's exactly the problem. There's not only no greatness here, no artistic virtue, but there's not even any attempt at a small kind of greatness or artistic virtue. It's just an inoffensive little book with no stretch and no ambition, that asks not a single question, challenges not a single circumstance, and won't make anyone uncomfortable in the slightest. And trees died for this.

April 27, 2008

Blogging Beats, Amanda Marcotte, and Seal Press

Even a personal blog like this one has a beat. Although I'm a feminist and have been known to blog about women's issues on occasion, I don't consider myself in any way knowledgeable about feminism as a field. I read what I need to get on with my life and try to listen to more smarter and reader feminists than I. So I don't usually engage in discussions in the feminist blogosphere and the women of color blogosphere on my blog since there are tons of women out there saying the things I would have said if I knew enough, and saying it better.

I'm also allergic to appearing to be jumping on bandwagons, so when a discussion that doesn't fall within my specific beat is raging, I tend not to post about it myself. But on the other hand, I think meme-ing information is essential for its spread; that's the whole point of using the internet for political discussion. So it's puzzling to me to figure out how to pass news on in a way that feels natural to the functioning of my particular blog.

I've been following the flap about Pandagon blogger Amanda Marcotte and Woman of Color blogger brownfemipower. I've also been following the flap about Seal Press and its ill-judged response to women of color wanting more representation in the press. And I hadn't found a way to blog about it when the two flaps intensified exponentially by meeting in the middle. At this point, this is a story that needs to be passed on, whether I have anything of substance to say about it myself or not. And I suspect that some of my friends who read this blog may not have heard about this so I'm by way of performing a service ... or something.

So this post is just a pass-along. I'll list the relevant links to the sources of information at the bottom. To avoid link stack-up, if you intend to blog about this you might want to just link directly to the secondary sources below. (They're secondary since the original sources of the first two flaps are inaccessible.)

THE STORY SO FAR ...

Feminist independent publisher Seal Press came under fire this month for a discussion on a closed blog that I can't access. Apparently, in the post a woman of color expressed frustration that Seal Press didn't publish more books by women of color. The Seal Press editors responded in the comments defensively, saying they didn't get enough submissions by women of color, that it wasn't really their job to do outreach, and they didn't have the bandwidth anyway. They also said books by woc don't sell and accused the blogger of "hating," also stating that they knew the "you all engage best through negative discourse."

They eventually issued an explanation on their blog which ended up being edited without strikethroughs.

Independently of this flap, Pandagon blogger Amanda Marcotte ... well her wikipedia page puts it succinctly:

In April, 2008, Marcotte posted an essay entitled "Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusive Immigration Language" on Alternet. In it, she discussed the intersections of racism and sexism as experienced by female illegal immigrants to the United States "without one attribute to any blogger of color, male or female." This led to allegations of appropriation on Marcotte's part ...

Numerous feminist bloggers pointed to Marcotte's actions as symbolic of a wider process of cultural and racial appropriation, in which the words and work of feminists of color are both given less value than those of white feminists, and co-opted by them. Several bloggers accused Marcotte of directly plagiarizing the work of another well-known blogger, Brownfemipower, as much of Marcotte's article appeared to be derived from Brownfemipower's work. These bloggers pointed to Brownfemipower's extensive history of highlighting immigration as a feminist issue and Marcotte's lack of history dealing with immigration on her blog, as well as Marcotte's previous admissions that she read Brownfemipower's blog regularly. Marcotte denied these allegations, claiming instead that she was inspired by a speech on a related subject delivered by Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Blogger Problem Chylde did a smoking gun on her in a post that linked every line of Marcotte's article to a post on Brownfemipower's Woman of Color blog where the wording was similar.

As a direct result of this flap, Brownfemipower stopped blogging and took her blog down. Now even back posts are inaccessible.

Women of color bloggers were linking these two incidents already when a new scandal arose, involving both Amanda Marcotte and Seal Press. Again from Marcotte's wikipedia page:

In 2008, Marcotte published her first book, entitled It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments. In August of 2007, Marcotte [had] posted an image of the chosen book cover on her blog; the image "was a retro-Hollywood pulp cover of a gorilla carrying a scantily clad woman." The image immmediately came under fire for perpetuating racist tropes, and, consequently, Marcotte and Seal Press changed the cover image.

When the book was finally released, it again set off controversy in the feminist blogosphere for use of images that many saw as racist. To illustrate the volume, the publishers used images taken from the 1950s Joe Maneely comic, Lorna, the Jungle Girl, which was chosen for its retro comic art look. The illustrations used included stereotypical images of "savage" black Africans being beaten up by a white, blond, superhero. Marcotte immediately issued an apology, adding that a second printing of It's A Jungle Out There will not contain illustrations.

The latest news is that blogger Blackamazon, who was directly involved in the original Seal Press flap, has taken down her blog as well.

My only comments to this are as follows:

Although it's shocking that all three of these happened at once, I'm glad they did. If they had happened separately, at a distance of months or years from each other, it would have been easier to gloss them over, as many are trying to do now. But, unfortunately for Marcotte and Seal Press, each incident--which in itself is relatively easy for the ignorant to explain away--bolsters and amplifies the women of color bloggers' interpretation of the other events, until it becomes difficult for any reasonable person to not say, "wait a minute ..."

And I also wish that Brownfemipower and Blackamazon hadn't taken down their blogs. I understand them needing a break, or perhaps even deciding not to blog anymore. And I also understand them not wanting their work to be raided nor to hear the awful comments people were leaving.

But their blogs were important public resources, and although the blogcott is a strong statement, it's one that's felt most powerfully by those bloggers' allies and readers, and NOT by the bloggers' opponents. In making a statement of relatively small impact to Marcotte and Seal Press, the rest of us are being more powerfully deprived.

Perhaps more to the point, this flap has drawn a lot of more mainstream attention to Brownfemipower and Blackamazon and I wish all the new readers who are going online looking for their blogs could actually be met with the wealth of information and intelligent commentary that was there to be seen.

Here are the links:

A description of the Amanda Marcotte/Brownfemipower flap at Feministe.

A description of the Seal Press not publishing enough women of color flap on WOC PhD.

The offensive images from It's a Jungle Out There on Dear White Feminists.

Black Amazon's sign off on Problem Chylde blog.

 

*****Update

Seal Press announced on their blog a few days ago their publication of a book entitled Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey.

When commenters objected to the use of the word "harem," the editors responded:

The Turkish harem comes from the Arabic word Ḥarām, meaning "forbidden." It's a word that originally referred to the "women's quarters" and literally means "something forbidden or kept safe."

Tales from the Expat Harem is neither a sexist nor a racist title. Please, let's not look for the racially embedded wrong in every one of our books.

I left my opinion in the comments if you want to see it. I have only this to add: being criticized so heavily in public must be very hard, and the editors of  Seal Press must be smarting bad right now. I appreciate that.

But as another commenter pointed out, common sense would/should militate at this point against shooting back defensively. Probably the best thing for them to do is ride all this out with an occasional "thanks, we'll think about what you said." At least until the smarting goes away and they can breathe again.

April 23, 2008

Views From Distances

The internet doesn't have everything.

I'm working on da nobble right now and trying to figure out how much detail of someone else's actions a character with 20/20 eyesight could see at the distance of a quarter mile.

So I went online to see if any random genius had posted photographs of what things look like at various distances: 100 feet, 100 yards, a mile, etc.

Couldn't find anything like that.

Does anyone know of such a resource ... or would anyone like to create such a resource? ;) Seems like a good project for a student studying landscape, land use or surveying.

Just a suggestions.

Cross-posted at atlas(t).

April 22, 2008

First National Bank of Omaha Sucks

I'll be the first to admit that I never pay my credit card bill on time. But that's not really a problem for banks. As long as you pay it, they benefit from the late fees and extra interest.

Nevertheless, I add this as a caveat before I go ahead and ream my credit card bank.

I'm with an Omaha bank through no fault of my own. My mom co-signed for a credit card for me way back in college with my parents' Michigan mom 'n' pop bank, which then got bought up by a bank in Florida, which then got bought up by First National Bank of Omaha.

I've had problems with them not communicating with me before (they like to do everything by mail, even though I've told them I don' t have a secure mailbox. When my old card expired and a new card arrived, it didn't, and I had to yell over the phone over the course of two weeks to get a new card) and they should, by now, be calling me if I have a problem, but I guess they don't care enough about credit card fraud.

So I go to reserve a car with citycarshare last night and they tell me my account has been disabled for nonpayment. So  I go to the Omaha website and see that my payments, for once, are up to date. WTF? So I call them and THAT'S how I find out that SOMEONE called in "a problem" with my credit card, prompting them to send me a new card--with the same number but a new expiration date and security code--without calling me first.

This was well over a week ago and I got neither the notice, nor the new card. Clearly, they've been stolen.

Let's just take a step back, shall we? I realize that credit card banks have to take all such calls seriously, and I realize that they must know about the kinds of frauds perpetrated in this manner (the most common of which is somebody calling in a lost or stolen card, whose number they conveniently can't remember, on someone with an unsecured mailbox; then waiting until the replacement card is sent and grabbing it).

But you can take such a call seriously AND STILL CALL YOUR CUSTOMER ON THE PHONE TO INFORM THEM OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES. Unless, of course, you're trying to save money and don't care if you screw your customers doing so.

After your customer has had problems receiving her new credit card because of an unsecured mailbox, don't you make a note of that on your customer's record and treat her case differently the next time there's an issue? After all, any money they might lose to a fraudster is money THEY have to swallow themselves. They can't blame me for it.

I guess they must have done a cost-benefit ANALysis and decided that it would cost them less to lose a certain amount to fraud than to keep enough phone operators on board to call customers in these circumstances. I guess that's why credit card commercials make such a big deal about platinum card members getting a call when something bad happens ... because nobody else does.

In any case, it's high time I started looking for a new credit card company. Any suggestions?

April 18, 2008

Challenge: Mystery Science Election 2008

What I want:

Can someone out there who is funny, and knows how to do these things, put together a YouTube series of her/himself mystery-science-theatering all election debates from now on?

Please?

It's not just something I want to watch; it also might save democracy 'n' shit.

April 16, 2008

Can I Just Reiterate My Hate?

... for the following, popular (and in most cases, incorrect) terms and usages?

  • garner: as in her novel garnered praise. Yuck. This is only used to talk about pop culture reviews. Why would you use a word that only refers to pop culture reviews? Pop culture reviews are disgusting and pointless. I should know, I write a lot of them. But I never garner. I NEVER garner. Nor should you.
  • (noun or pronoun) and I: used accusatively or datively. I'm fine with You and I went to the store, since that is, in fact, correct. But Do you want Keanu and I to bring anything to your luau? is right out, because it's wrong. Whenever you're about to do this, stop, and remove the "______ and" part and just leave the "I" part. Then, if it sounds right, go ahead. If it sounds wrong, fix it. I went to the store is clearly right. Do you want I to bring anything to your luau? is clearly wrong, unless you're from the Caribbean.
  • beg the question: used to mean raise the question. Raising the question is exactly what it sounds like. Begging the question is a silly, hoity-toity philosophy thing that nobody understands. It has something to do with circular arguments, and doesn't have an object. That is to say, you can't "beg the question that _______," you can only "beg the question."
  • ... is, is that ...: as in The reason is, is that I don't ever think before I speak. People, people, there's only ever one "is" in a sentence. Yes there are exceptions but YOU will never need them. The reason is COMMA that I actually do know what I am talking about. God, that drives me nuts! Where did the second "is" come from?
  • peak: instead of "peek" or "pique." People, a "peak" is a high, pointy thing, like at the top of a mountain or a hairdo. "To peek" is to take quick, stealthy glance. "To pique" is a French word meaning to anger or to excite or arouse a feeling in someone. So when you're writing your personals ad, you should write, Your post about your pink, patent-leather dungeon piqued my interest. A movie preview is a "sneak peek."
  • cut and dry: arrrggghh! It's cut and dried, people! Past Tense! The past tense of "cut" is "cut." It means something is set, determined, will not grow or change. As in flowers that have been cut and dried. If you say "cut and dry," that's present tense, it's a command. Basically you're TELLING someone to go cut and dry whatever it is that you're talking about. That makes no sense! Arrrggghhh!

April 10, 2008

Martian Territory Law Updated

Of course it would be in the National Review, in Bush's early years, that some idiot would write an article calling on the US to opt out of the 1967 international treaty agreeing to no national sovereignity claims in space.

The post argues that article II of the treaty does American interests "harm," although it never specifies what that harm is. Apparently, because article II was intended to restrict funding to NASA (and succeeded), that means we should repudiate it now.

Now we find ourselves in an entirely different world. The Soviet Union is no more. Mars, it         turns out, has far more water than we previously suspected: enough to support colonies, and even programs aimed at giving it a climate more hospitable to humans. The reward for going to Mars has increased dramatically.

Um, okay ... and what was that reward again? I mean, aside from learning how to keep people who leave Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field for extended periods from dying of radiation sickness? Or maybe giving science fiction writers more jazz? Or maybe sheer excitement?

People, people, we're not looking at a viable alternative living space here. To terraform Mars would require more Earth resources than it would produce or maintain ... probably ever. The potential mineral resources might be attractive ... assuming the iron and nickel are even there in a useful form ... if we needed iron and nickel that badly ... which we don't. But we don't know how to power spaceships without fossil fuels--something that we may well run out of in the next century--and transportation of any resources from Mars would far outcost the resources themselves.

How can conservatives NOT understand the liberal tendency to see them as crazy, greedy, and pathologically nationalistic, when a typical conservative response to a renewal of funding in space exploration is a call to claim sovereignity over unviable and as-yet unreachable territories in contravention of law, common sense, and even imagination?

I want to hit my head against a wall repeatedly, but this attitude is exactly what I need to understand for da nobble, which of course takes place on a Mars already claimed as a territory by the US.

***** UPDATE

oo. Missed this is in the first sweep. Here's an actual PIRG guy (albeit from Texas) advocating the creation of an International Agency for the Development of Mars to enable the selling of Martian territory to private individuals to spur the development and settling of human colonies on Mars.

Again, why? I dunno, but this guy gives more of an answer than the previous dudes:

The IADM should be structured so as to allow ordinary citizens to purchase land shares and prevent all of the shares from being gobbled up by governments and corporations. If this is successfully done, I think it’s possible that we will see a rebirth of a social drive which has been largely extinct for the last century: the push for the frontier. In an increasingly bland, stratified, and commercialized world, the desire to strike out on one’s own, to build a new home even in a harsh and unforgiving environment, will again come to the fore. By mid-century, I wouldn’t be surprised to see restless and adventurous people, the spiritual descendents of the American pioneers, buying Martian land with the full intention of settling it themselves.

Why now? Well, because our world is  "increasingly bland, stratified, and commercialized," and the best solution to this is to create a new frontier and get our manifest destiny flowing again, not, you know, to use our imaginations or to fix our problems or anything.

I say "Mars!" You say "Dumbass!"

Mars!

Dumbass!

Mars!

Dumbass!

April 07, 2008

The Perfect Cafe

And it begins again, my unremitting search for the perfect working cafe.

It's like looking for the perfect bag or the perfect coat. There are too many variables--many of them invisible even to you, so that when you go to have the bag or coat made, finally, you screw it up.

I don't work well in the quiet of my own home, alone. I only do intensive line editing well in the quiet. I need some noise, activity, and other people to help me concentrate, strangely enough ... but not TOO MUCH noise and activity.

During my MFA studies, when I had to write several hours a day, I went on a three-year search for the perfect cafe in San Francisco--where the choice is wider--and narrowed it down to about three that I cycled among. None was perfect but the three served my purposes. (Morning Due, Petra, and Revolution. Petra is now too packed all the time and Revolution--which has been renamed--ditto. But fortunately, this all happened after my MFA was done.)

And now that I'm in the East Bay, and the SF Mission is more crowded than ever anyway, it begins again. I just spent the last half an hour going from cafe to cafe in Oakland's Piedmont district (I hit three) before giving up and returning to my home turf on the north side of the lake. One cafe, which is pretty good, was packed. Another was a tea house with NO OUTLETS! A third was fine but had none of the drinks I wanted and enforced a two-hour parking limit on the tables near the outlets. No Thanks.

My criteria are:

  1. Convenient opening hours, especially in the evenings
  2. Free, reliable wireless internet
  3. Sufficient tables within reach of an electrical outlet and tables mostly near the wall
  4. Real food, i.e. sandwiches and salads and (preferably) omelettes, not just bad pastries
  5. Comfortable tables and chairs, i.e. not shaky or made of wrought iron
  6. Bright and sunny
  7. Music but not too loud
  8. Not too crowded but also not completely empty
  9. Atmosphere friendly to people like me who hang out all day and mildly discouraging to the mentally ill

Obviously, some of these criteria depend on others. for example, a place that has only one outlet and two tables near it is fine as long as those tables are always empty. The otherwise perfect cafe will become intolerable if it turns out to be the sort of place that crazies hang out in. This may sound intolerant--and it is--but I don't go to a cafe to get stared at for two hours solid, or to have to block out somebody sitting next to me and muttering about their socks and occasionally glaring at me for no reason.

Basically what I'm looking for are the conditions that conduce to enough mental stability (in me) to allow me to write. This is difficult, but not as difficult as it may seem at first glance, because that's the basic purpose of cafes: to create conditions conducive to mental stability so that people can read, study, converse, and otherwise relax productively.

So any Oaktowners out there have any suggestions?

March 30, 2008

"Clinton has gone too far"

I've just about given up on the left-side Clinton/Obama debate being anything approximating rational.

Obama has impressed me recently with his whorish ability to please opposing types of Democrats simultaneously, and I'm hopeful that this could translate into effective executive skills, although with Obama we just won't know until we know.

But I've almost stopped caring in any case because Obama-supporting online wannapunds have utterly failed to notice how brilliantly whorish--rather than brilliant--his race speech was, and continue to accuse the Clinton camp of the same kind of whorishness, broadly accusing them of racism while refusing to use the word.

Lately people have been saying that "Clinton has gone too far."  Interestingly enough, everybody who expresses this sentiment uses the exact same words. Also interestingly, many of the "gone too far" purporters have identified wildly different incidents as the straw that broke the camel's back. (Some otherwise smart commentatoresses have actually taken issue with Hillary questioning Obama's experience and credentials, as if a presidential candidate's experience and credentials are somehow not fair game. Seriously?)

And many of them have simply not bothered to identify where and how, exactly, Hillary went too far. So where, actually, did Hillary go too far? Or was it Bill who went too far? Is there a difference in people's minds? (And, btw, do I still need to explain why it's a problem to take issue with Bill and blame it on Hillary?)

And most importantly, do you really think they arrived at this opinion independently?

I'm remembering a time I try hard to remind people of (but no one seems to remember it) about 20-12 months ago, when the word on every Dem-voter's lips was "I like Hillary but she's not electable." It was such a pervasive sentence, and was said over and over again by different people in exactly the same word order and tone, that it was impossible not to conclude that the whole thing was a stealth campaign.

Of course, it became so pervasive that the press had to pick up on it, and the moment it broke the surface, Clinton's campaign dispatched it, ruthlessly and effectively. I tend to think the Clinton campaign did a stealth campaign of their own to make the story break cover so they could squash it. No one says that Clinton is "not electable" now. They just say she's "gone too far." How curious.

What I'm also hearing, particularly from black online wannapunds, is that, while before they would have voted for Clinton if she got the nomination, now they won't. WTF? So you, lefty liberation atheologist, with a hard-on for social justice, will vote for fucking John McCain because clueless Clinton hath offended thee? Or, almost worse, avoid the polling place entirely?

Seriously?

That's the point, isn't it? If those of you undecideds out there don't choose Obama, the rest of us Dem-voters will take our ball and go home, and you can just sit there with your President McCain for eight years, kicking yourself for not choosing the Unity Candidate with the Sexy Voice. After all, if you don't choose Unity, then the lack of Unity is your fault.

It's blackmail, of course, but who am I to object to political blackmail? If it's effective, that is.

It's frustrating because I'd like rational debate, but this is an election, and elections are not about rational debate and probably shouldn't be. Because, as I've said before, we should be electing not the person with the best program, but rather the most effective political whore whose program approximates the one we want. So the person who best manipulates the election is clearly the best whore. That may well turn out to be Obama.

Two more points, no three:

Firstly, on the rational debate about the issues tip--which everyone says they want, but nobody really wants--Clinton constantly surprised everyone by how great she was on debates about the isshooz. Every time, in fact. Her only missteps were when she was confronted (read: blamed) for Bill Clinton's policies, when she was confronted with her pro-Iraq-War-whore vote, and when the debate veered away from the issues into the gender/race/electability thing. So here we are in the loooong post-important-primaries wasteland, where the isshooz have pretty much been exhausted and there is nothing new to say. So what are we focusing on? The candidates' identity issues ... where Clinton doesn't do well and Obama, because of his whorishness, does.

Second point: remember folks (why do you keep forgetting?) Obama is only 46. He's a top-end Gen Xer, or else in the crack between generations. Culturally, he belongs more to the later generation. As the brief debate over his supposed drug use suggested, rather than having to assert his non-inhaliness like a Baby Boomer candidate I could mention, he in fact may have exaggerated his drug use in a savvy ploy to speak to his natural constituency. He grew up after the heaviest part of the civil rights movement and during the heaviest part of the feminist movement. His understanding of race and gender politics, purely from a generational standpoint, would have to be different from Clinton's; given his family and personal history, his understanding of both is necessarily more sophisticated.

Is this a bad thing? Of course not. But it's not necessarily a good thing when you're trying to appeal to older voters who do not have the same sensibility as you.

By the same token, Clinton is firmly a Baby Boomer and second wave feminist. Her language and understanding of race and gender are Baby-Boom-Generation-determined. Does that mean she's behind the times? Well, she's no more behind the times than most of the rest of her generational cohort. (I won't break that down. I'm not satisfied with her language or concept of these issues, but then I'm a third wave feminist and a Gen Xer.) Does this means she's off-putting to Obama's GenX supporters? Yes. Does this mean that the awkward language and concepts she uses will lead her to support the wrong policies? Well ... not necessarily.

Does it mean that she may not prioritize social justice for racial minorities? Maybe. And does Obama's greater sophistication on these issues mean that he will prioritize social justice for racial minorities? Hmmm ... I somehow doubt it, especially in the light of his race speech which said, pretty clearly, "It's understandable that blacks are so angry, but their anger isn't right. And by the way, whites' anger about affirmative action is just as legitimate so we should all just get along."

And finally, keep in  mind that we're all getting bored with this and want to move on to the main event. This is why we're starting to unravel and shoot ourselves in our collective feets by saying stupid things like "I'd rather vote for McCain than Clinton because she's gone too far!"  It's like a playground where the nerd who doesn't know how to stand around and be cool gets hopelessly ragged on. Or maybe, the adult who doesn't know what "hella" means gets hopelessly ragged on. Earnest Hillary, who is no better than she should be anyway, can't hang out and be cool with the cool kids and Obama can. So, in our after school before dinner boredom, we're beating up on Hillary.

I still don't know who would be the better president, but I'm starting to suspect that all of this adds up to Obama being the better candidate.

March 16, 2008

Super slammed

And having power problems with my 'puter. Will be taking the little sucker in to get it fixed (finally) this week, so I'll be partly incommunicado. So don't freak if I seem to have been suddenly struck with a case of nonverbalness. The sky is not falling in, nor have I had a stroke. And you can still (sort of) reach me by phone.

The only book I've finished since my last reading update is The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, which I thought was fun and archetypally Children's Lit, but was also disturbingly classist.

Read substantial portions of two other books which were intolerable for different reasons. I will say no more.

Am currently reading The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust, which is fab. Will probably write about it when I'm done.

March 07, 2008

Hello World!

I am blissfully without commentary today.

How are YOU?

February 23, 2008

Birthday

Sigh. My birthday today and it's RAINING and GREY.

Nothing to do but be naughty.

My present to myself today will be to get some writing done, even if it's crappy.

February 12, 2008

BSG: Razor

Sigh.

I know I'm being heavily critical of things right now. I'm acting out. But still, BSG: Razor just wasn't that great, and my hope for season 4 is starting to fade.

I just watched it on DVD, and it made a lot of the mistakes I hated so much on season 3--the exact opposite of the things I loved in the first two seasons.

First of all, I loved the storytelling in the first two seasons which was basically a show OR tell tactic. Show the consequences of earlier decisions, or how a character behaves in a situation. This is fairly common in good filmmaking/tv drama. But less common is the tactic used if you need to give backstory without a flashback: have a character tell the story in a way that gives you maximum subtextual impact. A great example of this is how they tell the story of the Pegasus in season 2: the ship's XO gets drunk with Tigh and tells him about how Cain shot the original XO for insubordination ... then plays it off as a joke. The mechanics gossip with Pegasus mechanics, and then report the story of the civilian ships being stripped and civilian families shot to punish/prevent resistance.

This tactic is really effective because the characters aren't just as-you-know-bob-ing, but also reacting to the storytelling. The manner of the storytelling itself tells a story. And no scene showing what happened could possibly be as horrific as the varieties we've imagined in our heads.

What they did to fuck it up in season 3 was to go back and fill in scenes they'd already told us about or hinted at, by giving us unnecessary flashbacks. In season 2, when Kara has been captured by Cylons and is being fooled by them into thinking she's in a human hospital, the "doctor" tells her that he's seen how all the fingers on one of her hands were broken in the same place. That detail is all we need to know that Kara was abused as a child ... and our overactive imaginations can fill in the rest. That's really all we need. But in season 3 we get shown--in flashback--the scene where the finger-breaking happens. Her mother slams her hand in a door. Naturally the scene is high drama, but somehow not as bad as the things I had half-imagined. And we get showed it four or five times so we're desensitized to it anyway.

Razor did this as well, by taking us back to those two horrible scenes where the XO is shot and where civilians are shot, and showing it to us. And guess what? It's not that bad. I grew up on made-for-tv movies about the holocaust and 80s Vietnam flicks. These cheap-ass BSG scenes where we see a bad dramatization of a story we've already heard are nothing. Nothing. You'd have to go pretty damn bad to top the horror of the head-shaving scene in Playing For Time, or the basic training suicide scene or the teenage girl sniper scene in Full Metal Jacket.

BSG doesn't have the leeway to go truly horrific. It's achieved its darkness by expertly playing on our sick imaginations. The moment it stops giving our imagination enough rope, it stops being a good show.

What's also horrible about this is that Starbuck's entire wonderful, brave, destructive personality is reduced to that of an abuse victim. We could have been left a little breathing room to imagine that she is simply like that. But instead, she's nailed down to a stereotype. She's explained, and excused from any real responsibility for the shit she pulls, and in the process, also divested of much of her power.

They do this to Admiral Cain, too. She's evil and scary, but also really powerful and attractive, because she believes so completely that her brutality is right. And then in Razor her brutality is "explained" through a childhood trauma in which she is forced to choose between saving her own life and trying to save that of her little sister ... from Cylons, natch, during the first Cylon war. Also, her brutality towards Number Six is "explained" by making that Six her lover, and her nastiness come from her feelings of betrayal. Basically, all of Cain's agency is stripped away and we're left with a character that's just a pychological machine: input trauma and output monstrosity.

And finally they did their stupid morality play thing that they started doing in earnest in season 3. Here, we see a new character, Shaw, a young woman bullied and mentored by Cain into her daughter and protege. Like Starbuck. And like Starbuck, she was raised by a military mother who recently died. The terrific suggestion of an attraction between Starbuck and Cain that never got fulfilled in season 2 is drawn off here in the service of Shaw's story. Shaw basically stands by while Cain shoots her XO, laps up Cain's justification, and then commits an atrocity of her own. At the end of the episode SPOILER she sacrifices herself and gets a Cylon god to redeem her. Yak.

They were such insanely good storytellers the first two seasons, and it was exactly because they didn't use cheap narrative devices like all of the above.

god, I hope they remembered this for season 4. And yes, I still do hope there IS a season 4.

February 10, 2008

Why Juno Is Loathsome

I mentioned yesterday that I loathed the movie Juno and that was all I was gonna say about it. But now Lauren, who is normally smart as a whip, says she liked it, publicly defending it against the wannabe macho dismissal of a critic who thought No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood were the best moobies of the year. I share her argh about the latter, but argh back at her about the former so much that I must write this blog post.

David Edelstein of New York Magazine, goes to bizarre extremes to attack Juno by criticizing both director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody (whose name he snarks on) for having successfully “engineered every response” from the audience, as if that’s not what filmmaking is at its heart.

... I think it’s also important and darn fascinating to pay attention when a bona fide cultural phenomenon is prancing tweely across your radar. Juno is that dancer. Among the many wonderful things about this movie is the fact that it could not have been made at any other time in history. It is positively fresh on the subject of teen sexuality and reproductive choice and it manages to be hilariously funny and gut-wrenchingly poignant at the same time.

Yes, Juno's twee, and that's annoying, and no, twee is not the argument against that stupid flick that I want to push. All teen films are either twee or outright sentimental, so no big deal. Harold and Maude was twee, but I love it anyway.

But Lauren's argument that all films manipulate the audience doesn't hold water. It's true that all art is manipulation in the purest sense of the word. But the art that we treasure as great is that which manipulates the senses to mediate an experience in a particular way. That experience must overwhelm the audience sensually so that their senses (perhaps not all of them, but the ones engaged by that art form) are employed wholly in the service of the piece for its duration. The experience must also short-circuit the audience's sense of the normal and the ordinary, so as to present them with the spectacle of some element of mundane life in a manner that makes that element fresh.

So much for great, or even good, art. There are also films--art--that are successful without overwhelming the senses with new input, or making the familiar intelligible by rendering it strange. These films rather grab hold of our expectations, both sensory and narrative, ... and fulfill them. That simple.

Of course, that's not easy to do because experienced filmgoers have highly developed bullshit detectors and a hunger for novelty that almost--but never quite--overwhelms their demand for fulfilled expectations. So these not-so-good films succeed insofar as they are able to disguise with successful handwaving their ability to give you exactly what you've had before.

Juno is one of the latter sort of films. It belongs in a genre of film whose structure is derived from the gestation period of homo erectus. "Conception--pregnancy--birth" is the  "incentive moment--rising action--climax" of this subgenre, point for point. The purpose of this subgenre is to "celebrate" the "renewal" of "human" life and "hope" in the form of the "next generation" and to "reaffirm" our current family structure or to affirm and confirm (some kind of "firm") a new one. It is a genre that, intentionally or no, cannot accept the presence of abortion ... quite simply because abortion is a narrative party pooper: you can't end a story before the climax.

Subgenre All-Stars include: Nine Months, Parenthood, Father of the Bride II, The Seventh Sign, Fools Rush In, She's Having a Baby, The Snapper, The Object of My Affection, and and and. The only title I can think of belonging to the category of "classic" is Rosemary's Baby, a precursor to the curse of eighties and nineties pregnancy flicks, and a pre-deconstruction of them all. The rest are, at best, B movies. I didn't seed the list. I seriously couldn't think of a single top-ranked or top-critiqued movie in this genre, nor find one on a google search.

And for a very good reason: the genre is crapulous, status-quo-reifying, herd-placating "family fare." It's not about questioning anything, but rather making everyone feel great about the way things are.

In the new millenium this genre has taken on new life. The three 2007 avatars are Waitress, Knocked Up, and Juno. But wait, didn't everybody loooooooove all three films last year? I mean, looooooove them?

Well, of course. After all, Gen X is both in charge of movieland AND making babies now. So we've updated the genre to satisfy our own ideas of what family must be and placate our feelings of having sold out ... whatever our generation was supposed to stand for ... in favor of parenthood, condo purchases, and stay-at-home-somethings.

The major difference in new-millenium-Gen-X pregnancy movies is that they are all about confirming "alternative" families, which is, of course, all the to good, if you consider giving alternative families their own crapulous sub-genre "good." Juno and Waitress are ultimately both affirmations of single motherhood, when necessary, as it clearly is when the father leaves you because he's a child or you leave him because he's abusive. Both are, not coincidentally, written by women.

Knocked Up is a more traditional pregnancy flick. It's written, produced, directed, and from the point of view of men, which is why it posits that ugly losers with no jobs, income, responsibility, charm, or personality can walk into a complete family life with a beautiful, successful woman, just by going into a nightclub one night that the real world wouldn't let them in the door of. It posits the only family that straight guys would want, then "reaffirms" it with a "funny" birth scene involving your buddies and a beautiful, happy ending.

Juno manages to disguise its genrehood slightly by being about both the family for whom the baby is destined, and the birth mother. But, although the dialogue is snappy, nothing is questioned or subverted. We don't want to reify teenage motherhood; teenage mothers are supposed to be confused, so this one is confused. We want to support adoptive families, which we have more and more of as the "me, too!" generation puts off childbearing even longer than the Baby Boomers, so we make Juno not bother considering abortion seriously. We want to affirm single motherhood, so we get rid of the adoptive husband while turning him into a plot-point/red-herring.

Most importantly, we treat motherhood as a reward for virtuous women. Juno is not virtuous: she had sex when too young and undereducated; she had sex without considering herself in love; she had sex without thinking responsibly about it. Clearly she doesn't deserve a baby. Her weeping after the birth is the seep of remorse.

The Jennifer Garner character--played by an actress who, already popular, swept the hearts of America by marrying Ben Affleck and naming their adorable baby something both slightly unusual and not at all rock-star-weird--clearly possesses sufficient adulthood, responsibility, and virtue, and is rewarded with motherhood at the end.

One more point: Juno, as many critics have remarked, is given Gen X hipster dialogue. No kiddie today, not even Frances Bean Cobain, could possibly have all the Gen X indie cultural referents that Juno pretends to. That's the tip-off, folks, that you're being manipulated: your teenie hipster protag, cooler than school and wrestling with things way beyond her maturity level, still has the time to flatter your taste.

It's a flat, empty, manipulative, masturbatory, neck-chaining, nose-to-grindstoning, mainstream-behavior-mold of a piece of shit of a movie. And no, it's not a coincidence that it topped off a year of other such movies in the same year that the US Supreme Court upheld the first federal abortion ban since Roe v. Wade.

'Nuff said.

February 09, 2008

Somebody Kill Me Now

I'm back in the family womb for the weekend for a family ... occasion ... and we're sitting at dinner tonight. My relative is talking about the movie Juno, which I found entertaining but empty when I watched it, and came to loathe while thinking about shortly thereafter. (Some hints as to why here.)

So my relative is describing the movie and gets to the character of Juno herself and describes her as a wiseass and "politically incorrect." What? I dug in about that. What was "politically incorrect" about the character? Both her politics and her indie cred are flawless. He couldn't say or give me examples, just repeated that she's a wiseacre and makes funny comments.

Argh!

I've been picking up on this for a while now but I can't avoid the conclusion anymore. "Politically incorrect" is now a synonym for "smartass" or "irreverent!" Just kill me now!

It wouldn't be so bad if "politically incorrect" would just wholesale replace the word "irreverent," since the latter appears to be hard for some people to pronounce and those same people get so much joy out of declaring themselves the former.

But that's not what's happening here. What's happening is that people are still aware of the term's current denotation--referring to language and ideas that are, from the liberal point of view, politically regressive and potentially discriminatory--but have added strong connotations. Those are, of course, "irreverent," "smartass," and, wandering a little further afield, "cool." "Politically incorrect" is now spoken or written with an almost universal sense of delicious, naughty approval.

Or put another way, social justice activists never use the term at all.

So let's go back to the drawing board, shall we, children? Let's start with Frank Chin:

Political correctness" seems to be a too serious and fascist, demagogic way of saying "civil language". Of course, when civility is not our purpose, there are other languages and vocabularies available to us. With the need for a language of civility and doing business with strangers without betraying our secrets or slashing our wrists or starting a war in mind, I suggest PC stand for "pidgin contest".

Civil language and tolerant behavior can't be imposed from the top without exercising heavy police-state censorship and driving everyone with a discouraging word underground. But in the bustling, competitive, passionate marketplace atmosphere of a port city or corner store, civil language and tolerant behavior are invented, or you go broke, brah.

Yep, that's right, folks, "civil language." That's what people are referring to when they say "political correctness." I'll spell it out, though: if you replace "politically incorrect" with "speaking without civility," it becomes a lot less cool.

  • "Juno was a wonderful character because she was such a wiseass ... she really spoke without civility!"
  • "That Bill O'Reilly He's great! He speaks so uncivilly all the time!"
  • "You're just mad because I spoke to you rudely. But your stupid civility is fascist!"
  • "Don't you just find rude speech refreshing sometimes? I mean, I get so tired of being polite to strangers all the time!"

Yeah, I'm overplaying the point. Because, as we all know, political correctness isn't just about polite language. It's about giving over the power of naming to the people being named; the power of description to the ones being described. And that's a lot more profound than just being polite. What it means is that your public speech, to a certain extent, is buffeted by somebody else's winds of change--without your input or say so--and you're still responsible for keeping up with it. Why, that's ... that's ... undemocratic!

The term "politically incorrect" is the ultimate expression of privilege. I think everyone would find it obnoxious if a stranger, on being introduced to "John," insisted on calling him "Telly." But when a whole group of people prefer to be called "disabled" rather than "handicapped," this is somehow an imposition on the non-disabled speaker.

Considering oneself a victim of fascist political incorrectness because you can't call women "girls" or champion sportswomen "nappy-headed hos" or refer to spoken Chinese as "ching chong ching chong" or call South Asian journalists "Macaca" is nothing but the tantrum of someone whose speech has never been limited by those of lesser socioeconomic status before.

Boo-fuckin'-hoo to you. Grow the fuck up and start treating people with minimum respect. All your childish tantrums aside, it's not gonna stop, so get used to it.

January 27, 2008

Avoiding Sensitive Conversations

There are times that I know I am not as good a person as I could be, but I don't really care. I know that I could exert myself more in this direction or that, but I don't care enough to.

But there are also times when I genuinely wish that I was a better person--more concerned about others and less about protecting myself. That happens around conversations about race with clueless white people. I have a lot of friends of color who really draw my admiration for their boundless patience and kindness for this type of conversation. I have none of that patience and kindness.

What I do, and a lot of others do this too, is as soon as someone says something awkward or insensitive, I either bowl them over with a rapid-fire critique of what they said, or I clamp my mouth shut and look away. In the latter case, I'll refuse to pick up the conversational ball, and just leave them hanging with the stupid thing they said, knowing that they did something wrong, but not knowing what.

Later on I'll have to recognize that I missed the opportunity to educate someone ... or at the least, to loosen someone's ignorance. And all arguments that it's not my job to educate people about race sound somewhat tinny. It's exhausting, having to teach people things that it's their own responsibility to learn by themselves, but I'm there, and I'm spending the time with them anyway. So what's my problem?

(For those of you who genuinely don't know what my problem is, this is the nutshell: all poc have to deal with having their ideas and viewpoints invalidated to their face. A good example of this is when people ask me what my ethnicity is, I tell them, and then they dispute what I have told them about myself. Another example is when, say, a black blogger posts about his/her *personal* experience as a black person in a white-dominated world, and a bunch of white trolls tell them that they're  whining or simply dispute their understanding of their own *personal* experience. A major component of racial privilege is that the privileged are always right, and the Others are always wrong, even when the Others are talking about themselves. So getting into a discussion of race with ignorant white people is basically an exercise in asking to be invalidated and patronized about something you know more about than the person invalidating and patronizing you.

Another issue would be, of course, having to batter down someone's defensiveness about their own lack of racism just to have a conversation that you've had fifty thousand times already. You're pushed into a discussion that is tedious and fraught for you, and then you have to fight just to have the conversation in the first place, and just to get basic respect for your viewpoint. No, thanks.
)

I just had such an experience, from the other side, recently when trying to talk about class issues. I work for an organization that serves low-income people. Our clients have to fall below a certain income level to be eligible for our program. Yet all of our office staff positions--which pay well and carry excellent benefits--require a college degree and a high level of skillsets. So we're by definition a bunch of middle/upper middle class people serving a bunch of lower middle/working class people.

Our org culture emphasizes customer service, so our staff tends to get along very well with our clients. But there are inevitably a number of interactions which reveal class differences. Some of the projects that I am responsible for themselves raise interesting questions about class viewpoints and ways of proceeding with various tasks. But we're too busy at work--and probably too wary of engaging in such fraught discussions--to get into more theoretical conversations about class differences. We proceed at a very pragmatic level.

This weekend I met a woman at a party whom I had met before. She wanted to participate in my org's program but didn't qualify, so she had ended up going to another org. We were talking about various interesting things we'd noticed about the people involved in these programs and the programs themselves. I embarked on a thinking-out-loud moment about something I'd been thinking about but had never had the opportunity to talk about with someone who understood the background of this kind of work.

I wanted to say something about the strangeness of middle/upper-middle class workers serving low-income workers and helping them to become financially self-sufficient when the "higher" class workers, employees of a large organization, weren't financially self-sufficient themselves, but did earn more based on their high skill level. This was going to lead to some thinking-out-loud about how a higher socio-economic bracket meant access to a higher-paying state of dependency, and how popular programs promoting self-sufficiency for the poor were popular with many people precisely because they meant that we didn't have to deal with the question of how to give greater access to "dependent" but high-paying jobs to the poor.

I got about halfway through the first thought when the woman froze me out. She did the same thing to me that I do to clueless white people who say something stupid or offensive: clamped her mouth shut, looked away, and jumped into someone else's conversation while I was still talking. I don't know what it was that offended her: if I used the wrong word, or if she mistook where my comment was heading ... or if she didn't mistake where my comment was heading but just didn't want to go there.

And I'm not sure it really matters which it was. I'm pretty sure that this isn't the usual thing that people talk about when they talk about class differences (if they ever do), so what she thought she was protecting herself against was probably not what I was getting at. But if she did know where I was going with it, it may not be such a bad thing that she didn't get into it. Someone who is working her way through a difficult and time-consuming program to increase her own skills and self-sufficiency, doesn't need to waste any energy considering that the people who are helping her might be avoiding difficult discussions about access.

And if I used a offensive word or phrasing, I obviously don't know I did it.

Clearly I wasn't going to get the interesting discussion about class and access out of this woman that I was hoping for in any case. But what bothers me is that I don't know where I can go to get this discussion. I can't talk about these things at work, I'll be much more wary of talking about them with people I don't know well who are involved in these projects, and my friends who are up for such discussions aren't involved in this nonprofit field, so they can only talk about theoretical things. Yet I spend half my working day on this type of work. I don't have access to discussions about class differences.

Discussion is an essential resource; discussion with people who know what they're talking about is an even more important resource. As much as I and other poc resent being treated as a public accommodation in discussions of race, we are sitting on knowledge and experience that are an important--nay, essential--resource for truly informed and intelligent discussions of race. If someone is spouting ignorance, it's because they have not yet availed themselves of their access to such resources (you know, like libraries and the internet.) I wish I could be more of a resource to the people who actually need it. Maybe that would have a higher impact in changing the world the way I profess to want to change it.

And I'm not just saying this because I got smacked down this weekend. This certainly wasn't the first time it's happened to me and won't be the last. But these moments are a reminder of something I feel--perhaps less strongly--when I'm on the other side of the equation and just. can't. take. another. stupid. discussion. about how cool and funny political incorrectness is.

Ya know?

December 15, 2007

No Campaign Comments!

I didn't think this needed to be said, but apparently it does:

Do not post comments on my blog that attack or promote political candidates!

No, I'm not a nonprofit. I can say what I want. I can endorse (or not) any candidate or legislative measure I want to.

But I won't encourage or abet any stupidity on my blog---and those woodenly-written, hysterical mini-rants about this or that candidate that are intended to look enough like blog posts to fool internet cretins (hint: they don't) are damned stupid.

Don't go there. Or you will be deleted, and probably also banned. And if you really piss me off, I might even sell out your email address in some vaguely unethical, but legal way. See comment rules here.

December 05, 2007

Heroes, *sigh*

Dum dum DUM ...

Sylar's back.

*yawn*

We kinda dealt with him last season, though, right? What's there left to do now? I mean, once you've explored near-omnipotent good guys and bad guys, where do you go from there? Just keep bringing them back?

I was liking where the whole thing was going with Parkman's dad, but they decided that anatomy is destiny, and the stocky guys are always gonna be the slobs of the heroes world.

Are Nikki and hubby gonna stay dead? They died so stupidly. And how intensely lame are Monica and Elle? They aren't the slightest bit badass. Are they gonna turn Elle into a good guy? How boring.

*Sigh*

I'm bored with Heroes. I'm actually glad the writers are on strike.

November 04, 2007

Frozen in Mild Terror

Can't write. Trying to Unlock.

October 27, 2007

More on Arts Criticism

The truly lovely John Darnielle tries to make peace between his own more positive nature, and the point of view in this idolator post by Jess Harvell.

Harvell, calling out mindless rah-rah in online music crit, sez:

Bands need someone calling them on their shit to improve past the status of a hobby. Empty boosterism is fine on the level of bands playing house parties, but it feels almost cruel to watch its effects on suddenly "important" young bands in 2007 and depressing to watch its effects on the musical landscape of 2007. And calling it criticism with a straight face is the biggest canard of the blog era.

... If nothing else, people always love to argue about whether or not critics and reviews are useful as a "buyer's guide," and many have also argued that if music is as oversaturated as everyone says at the moment, it follows that the intermediaries should be more important than ever, even if the MP3-and-no-contextual-information evidence seems to say that the converse is true. Taste is subjective, but right now there are a lot of untrustworthy voices out there, voices with little in the way of insight--hell, voices that don't even really want to start arguments--and yet are nonetheless regarded as the New Critics, at least among those old media types with the power to anoint such empty titles.

... It's easy to have a lot of friends when you don't stand for anything--again, having opinions is called "hating" these days--and it's equally easy to look like you're merely out to snarkily puncture hype with no stance of your own when commenting on reviews and trends. But for the bands' sakes--which means for the listeners' sakes, since they can only benefit by a band actually getting, you know, good--a moratorium on slobbering praise, at least when it comes to newborn bands like Black Kids, needs to be imposed by those with the kingmaking abilities.

Darnielle responds:

The ideal would be criticism that aspired neither to praise nor to damn, but to understand and elucidate; the ideal would involve not wanting to help or hinder the object of one's scrutiny, but to fairly describe it. That would be real progress toward something rigorous and difficult and exciting, and...well: does that sound like something our culture, macro or micro, is really equipped to do at this point in our history?

Boy, this is all sounding so familiar.

As much as I--as a massive MG fan--want to kiss Darnielle's ass, I have to agree more with Harvell here (and obviously have in the past, as my own post makes clear.) Darnielle's not really saying anything other than: "That way lies too much negativity. Can we find some middle ground? ... well, probably not."

And he's right. There's no competent or useful middle ground between "criticism exists to knowledgeably and expertly evaluate the arts as a proxy for audiences," and "criticism exists to sell arts," and "criticism exists as an outlet for the feelings of rank amateurs excited about the effect the arts have begun to have on them."

You have to pick one and stick to it. And the real problem that causes all this discussion is that there's plenty of the latter two, but not nearly enough of the first.

October 23, 2007

Over Sea, Under Stone

N17680I just read Over Sea, Under Stone, the first book of the Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and I looked on the copyright pages for the pub dates. Turns out, OSUS was first published in 1965, and the other four books in 1973, '74, '75, and '77.

So it seems that what I suspected might be true: the first book was written, possibly as part of a series or possibly as a standalone, and then Cooper was stuck for a long time until she came up with Will and the concept for the other four books, and was able to write them all together.

This makes sense: the momentum, the urgency, of the books doesn't really appear until the second book. Also, the language that indicates that the books are part of a series and that there are further battles to win doesn't appear until the second book. She doesn't find her feet, or her continuity, until The Dark is Rising.

I read online that Cooper wrote OSUS in response to a contest for a children's adventure story, and that's exactly what it is: slightly more naturalistic Famous Five crapola. In fact, the book is a direct rip-off of the Famous Five formula, three siblings go to a town by the sea on vacation and have mystery adventures with buried treasure and pirates' caves and such. With a dog; Cooper even jacked the dog. The only character she didn't steal was the tomboy George, a cryptofemme genderqueer who might have been cool in Cooper's hands if Cooper had allowed herself to follow the possibilities. But she didn't.

That's why OSUS sucked. Yes, it sucked. You can see some of the later, wonderful Cooper in there, but in a really trying way. Her precise descriptions of ritual pageantry, that made The Dark is Rising so Greenawayesque, shows up here as endless, pointless getting people across the room and out the door, so to speak. The kids actually have to go through a corridor, then through another one, then up some stairs, back to their room, move a wardrobe, go up a ladder, through an attic, and then throw away an apple core and decide to pick it up in a strange little cubby hole in the corner of the attic before they finally find the damn treasure map. I would've just sent them straight to the attic and put the map under a loose plank. ... No, I just wouldn't have written the book at all.

The plot (SPOILAGE AHEAD) hinges on a treasure map the children find on a rainy day in th' Cap'n's house (yawn), which turns out to be less of a map than a step, by step diagram, like that children's party game where you hide progressive clues around the house, each clue leading to the next. Despite dire warnings of a definitive battle between good and evil from their great-uncle Merlin, the process still feels like a party game, and Merlin treats it like one, letting the kids put themselves into real physical danger.

The only The Dark is Risingesque elements are a very brief carnival scene, which isn't given nearly the Cooper treatment that I would have liked, and a distinctly lonely and cold mood about the ancient sites that prefigures the rest of the series. But there's also not nearly enough of this.

Also, ephelba asked a couple of posts ago about my take on a couple of scenes in the book. The first is when the children are exploring the house on the rainy day and find the map. Before they find the map, they're pretending to be explorers in the jungle, and there's some by-play among them about how they're being followed by "rude natives." The second one is when the bad guy kidnaps the youngest brother at the carnival, he's dressed like an Arab.

I think these are two different issues. The first is the origins of the children's adventure story in imperialist expansion, and the second is racial drag.

Without dismissing the children's-adventure-story-as-imperialist-training-camp issue, I'm not going to really address it here. Except to say that the sun has set on the fictional British empire, and the appearance of children pretending to explore a jungle served by rude native porters and fearful of cannibals is--in 1965--pretty much Kipling's death rattle. It's sad, clichéd, and boring, but it's at this point a formulaic jerk of the knee. Meaningless.

I say this because the whole book is so rote and clichéd. She was working out some shit, clearly, and I'll need to see the rest of the series again with an adult eye. But, to give the whole series a political read, she starts out with rote imperialist adventure, and moves, in the succeeding four books, more and more and more into Brit Isles interiority, mirroring the postwar withdrawal of the UK back into itself, and the turning of its political attention towards its domestic ills.

The racial drag of someone dressing as an Arab is not a past problem, though. It's a present one. Not that anyone dresses up as Arabs anymore. I think Abscam put an end to that. But you see people costumed as "geishas" all the time.

Alright, I'll be serious. There's not much commentary in the bad guy dressing up as an Arab except: 1) it's the bad guy and his Arab costume is dwelt upon strangely, making the connection stick. Bad guy = Arab. and 2) it makes racial drag sound okay as a holiday costume choice.

Racial Drag Is Not Okay As A Costume Choice, Kids!

I think both of these are relatively toothless, but, of course, these are not the sort of clichés we want to put into children's heads, and leaving this particular book out of The Dark is Rising sequence you read to your kiddies aloud won't actually hurt anything. I didn't read the first one until long after I'd read the other four, and I didn't feel that I'd missed anything. Honestly, though, I really think it's more of a poor read than a politically bad read.

I'm worried now, though, b/c, as I remember it, the second and fourth books were the best ones, and the first, third, and fifth books include the Famous Three. I'm off to read Greenwitch now and maybe it's gonna suck again, too, although Will is in it.

October 13, 2007

In Other News: Race Activists Now Have Superpowers

I got into it with Angry Black Woman guest blogger Nora a couple of months ago in comments on a post she wrote where I accused her of avoiding the racist issues that exist between African and Asian Americans. I won't get into that whole thing right now, but I write this to offer a caveat: there might be some little bit of unresolved tension motivating me, and you might want to keep your salt shaker handy.

(I intend to write a series of long posts about the tension between Asians and blacks eventually, but it seemed at best graceless, not mention divisive, to post those during the Jena 6 controversy, especially when there has been near-silence from the Asian American community--and me--about it.)

*****

So today I read Nora's post from Friday in which she wonders if racism has suddenly surged:

Because it really does seem like there’s been a significant increase in blatant, obvious racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry these days. Is it just me? I’m not talking about the institutionalized stuff; that never seems to fade. But suddenly we’ve got nooses all over the place, racially-motivated rape/torture, and miscarriages of justice so incontestable that even the national media (eventually) comments on it.

Then she gives us a history lesson:

It’s been almost fifty years now since the start of the Civil Rights Movement. I count that time as the start of real, substantive US national dialogue about racial equality. For a brief few painful moments, the whole country talked about how to get along with each other: what not to say if you don’t want to piss people off, what not to do if you don’t want to get arrested or sued. During that time, blatant racism became societally frowned-upon. There was one immediate good result of this change: blatant racism diminished. There was also one very bad result: namely that a lot of people — not just white people — convinced themselves that racism had gone away.

That’s when things got weird. For one thing, the national dialogue all but stopped. With so many people declaring that racism was dead, it seemed strange to keep talking about it, so a lot of people went silent. For those who kept talking, a strange thing occurred: they became societally frowned-upon too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends, particularly friends of other races, apologize to me for mentioning race. Not for making racist remarks — for mentioning race. I bet it’s happened to you, too. WTF? Somehow, somewhere along the way, talking about race has become conflated with promoting racism.

The illogic between these two statements is boggling. First she says that we're talking about racism, nationally, all the time these days, then she says that we're not allowed to talk about racism. Why all this?:

of course, reports of racism’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. And lately, I’ve felt it getting worse.

I have no empirical evidence to back up this feeling — just my instincts, that sense of “race-dar” that most PoC develop somewhere in adolescence. My Spidey Senses are tingling more than usual.

Oh, I see. It's not because racist incidents are all over the news right now, it's because Nora's POC "race-dar" is going off. Because her "Spidey Senses" are tingling---those senses that only blacks have in full, but Indians and Latinos in part, Arabs and Asians a little bit, and white people not at all---she "knows" that there's more racism goin' on right now.

With this level of historical understanding, with this level of racial discourse, coming from someone who is promoted to us as a thought leader, is it any wonder that the racial discourse Nora engages in goes nowhere?

*****

First of all: Nora's understanding of the history of racial struggle in the United States (as presented here) is laughably simplistic. Since the mid-nineteenth century--and even before--there have been successive waves of liberation ideology, followed by the enlightenment of a few whites, the uplift of a few blacks, and then a serious backlash.

Anyone who has ever read the Emancipation Amendments to the US Constitution (13th, 14th and 15th), could have no doubt that full citizenship rights for African Americans was on the national table as early as 1865. This period, between 1865-1870 (the passage of the three amendments) and 1877 (the Hayes administration's withdrawal of troops from the South), saw unprecendented freedom in both northern and southern states for blacks, with the election of the country's first black politicians, and even interracial marriages.

The US wasn't ready, and our current stereotypical understanding of what "racism" is---Jim Crow laws, KKK, lynchings, voter restrictions, etc.---arose during the backlash that followed in the next quarter century (until the turn of the century.) A campaign of racial terrorism against blacks--not just in the south but in northern states as well--put a lid on black liberation for nearly thirty years.

Not coincidentally, this period also saw the passing of racist laws excluding the immigration, and restricting the citizenship, ownership, and labor opportunities of Asians, particularly in the west. During the latter half of the century, Mexican Americans in western states were lynched at rate of 473 per 100,000 of the population; gender was no protection. And Native Americans were, in this period, also finally defeated in the Indian Wars, restricted to reservations, and saw their children stolen and placed in Indian Boarding Schools, thus largely destroying their traditional cultures.

Of course that eased up again and in the first decade of the 20th century, a group of African American intellectuals, among them W.E.B. DuBois, started the Niagara Movement, which culminated in the foundation of the NAACP in 1909. The following thirty years saw a slow, steady (with many setbacks) development of black institutions in both the south and the north, as the Great Migration of southern rural blacks to northern cities spurred the Harlem Renaissance of the 20's, creating a second, larger generation of black intellectuals who not only articulated the race problem, but set the terms for a debate that still rages along the same lines today.

The 1920s and 30s also saw Asian and Mexican Americans joining the labor movement and gaining for themselves a measure of respect and power through that association. Native Americans won American citizenship. This period also saw many POC leaders first making the connection among the struggles of their various "races." Although no broad-based POC coalitions happened as a result, in the labor movement meaningful alliances were formed, for example in California between Mexican and Filipino field workers.

It's tempting to dismiss this period as a dark one, since the picture for most African Americans, not to mention other races, was one of poverty, limitation, and the constant potential for racial targeting. But racial issues hit the national discourse periodically, and the slow, upward creep of national racial consciousness never ceased between the turn of the century and the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement was a breaking point, a climax in a tension that had been rising pretty much steadily until WWII, and then had been rising much more quickly throughout the fifties. Naturally, as after Reconstruction, this period of rapid acquistion of civil rights was followed by a serious backlash. Only this backlash was different, and much less successful. For one thing, much of the Movement had radicalized, and focused its energy on building up black instituations within the black communities.

For another, a lot of white liberal energy, as well as white conservative energy, was drawn off of Civil Rights into the antiwar movement. And, just as in WWII when black soldiers gained respect for their entire community, during Vietnam, white and black soldiers serving together did a great deal to change working class attitudes toward the black community.

Also, black civil rights inspired Asian Americans, Chicanos, and Native Americans to form their own pan-ethnic, racial liberation movements. The seventies, far from a conservative backlash, saw the success of the antiwar movement, and the establishment of national Asian American, Latino, and American Indian institutions, which solidified that national understanding of these groups as racial blocs, creating the basis for political power bases. A number of institutional battles for entitlements began during this decade that were ultimately won here or in the eighties: fights for affirmative action in the granting of government contracts, hiring practices, college acceptance, busing, nutrition and health entitlements for children, etc.

The eighties was when idiots like Ronald Reagan declared racism over, but that doesn't mean that racial discourse fell off the table: far from it. National identity-based institutions continued fighting for--and winning--entitlements based on race and ethnicity. This was the decade of "identity politics" and the "culture wars," which revolved not merely around whether or not Congress gets to decide what art is, but whether or not our national culture--both high and low--included the "subcultures" of women, queers, people of color, and immigrants. White artists like to say that we lost the culture wars, but POC and women resoundingly won the culture wars, as evidenced by the periodic grumblings of white men that there are too many unworthy women and blacks (and black queer women!) on reading lists, in magazine articles, in our fiction, nonfiction, national discourse, etc. etc.

The nineties was when Generation X, the first generation raised since the Civil Rights Movement, came of age and seized control of the national dialogue. This is part of the reason why racial discourse was driven, to a certain extent, underground. White GenXers both did and didn't believe Reagan when he said racism was over. They wanted to believe, but knew better than to trust politicians and media. Also, all the institutional entitlements won in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, although constantly embattled, had been so bound up with class, rather than race, entitlements, that--as Nora points out--the Clinton Administration was able to make racial entitlements a question of socialism vs. democracy.

(By the way, today, Bushies have taken advantage of this to shame race activists. It's really hard to argue that blacks, for example, should get more entitlements, when poor whites are losing theirs, too. And yet racial institutions are so used to calling the white man the devil--and I'm talking about all the racial institutions--that they're really hard pressed to form pan-racial coalitions of impoverished and working class. This is particularly hard when conservative working class whites insist on believing that the entitlements they're losing are "socialist.")

The nineties, however, particularly the late nineties, saw a coming of age of GenX POC, who have leveraged new media and the culture/media discussion of the eighties to create a media-savvy, national voice for themselves and each of their groups. Much of the discussion of the nineties was around representation in the media. Anyone who says that discussion of race went entirely underground just. wasn't. paying. attention.

The early "aughts" or "00s" of the 21st Century gave us two things: another racist war, and Katrina. Katrina brought race back into the national consciousness, and also consolidated a new way of leveraging opinions, funds, and action: the internet. And let's not forget moveon.org's move from the internet into face to face activism during the 2006 election, which resulted in a Democratic win. We talked a lot without doing much about race in the nineties because we didn't know how to close the gap between virtual and real communities. But we've learned how to do that recently.

Which brings us to today, black bloggers like ABW and Nora, and the thousands of others who made Jena a household word of shame, and to my second point.

*****

Secondly: it's loooong been a question whether the rape and child molestation rates have really risen over the few decades that they've been collected, or whether recent acquisitions of civil rights for women and children have allowed these crimes to be reported at levels more closely approximating their actual occurrence. This same question dogs every societal malaise and malady that becomes a trend: scientists are currently wondering if we're really having an autism epidemic, or if we've become so sensitized to autism spectrum conditions that people who never would have been diagnosed before are now being diagnosed.

Did it ever occur to Nora to wonder if racist incidents are all over the news right now not because suddenly racism is happening everywhere (it boggles my mind that Nora seems to think that this shit hasn't been happening quietly everywhere all along), but because suddenly race is on the national agenda again for a variety of reasons?

But you have to know history to understand--or even to see--these reasons:


  1. The 21st century is seeing an unprecedented "wiring" of American POC to the internet, and an unprecendented ability to leverage new communications to organize.

  2. The POC rehearsal of the nineties, in which internet-savvy POC practiced outrage by quibbling endlessly with media race portrayals has resulted in broad-based, loose national coalitions of opinion-creating POCs who can activate quickly.

  3. The current antiwar movement, the mobilization of funds and volunteers for Katrina through a blog-led racial outrage machine, and the realization, through moveon.org's successful 2006 election campaign, that online mobilization actually works, has finally culminated in racial groups actually using the internet to mobilize

  4. It's time, historically, for race to come back to the table, as it always does, sooner or later.

Far from it being a bad thing that Nora's supersenses are tingling, it's a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing.

Black voices of our and the next (Gen Y? Echo Boomers? Millennials?) generations are being unleashed on questions of socio-economic equity, and not just on media portrayals. This is why everyone is suddenly so angry and suddenly news of racist incidents is hitting us from everywhere. We have a new generation of POC discovering that racism isn't over. And they're, understandably, pissed. But that's when things get better, Nora, not worse, when people who should get angry, do, and start organizing mass demonstrations.

This is good for everybody, and especially for racial bloggers like Nora, who will suddenly become information portals for mobilized POC, exhilarated by their last---and looking for their next---battle. This is good for the bloggers who are prepared to look at both class and race, to sacrifice their egos and cherished points of view for the sake of a vitally important developing dialogue. Maybe not so good for bloggers who aren't capable of difficult change.

It's up to the bloggers themselves to make sure that they keep their audience ... if they can.

October 06, 2007

Oh Dear

TV is so crap right now.

"Heroes" and "Ugly Betty" are just as good, but they feel more of the same, somehow. I can't really watch "Dexter" until they make the episodes available, plus I'm worried it's going to sophmore suck. "Grey's Anatomy" always did suck, and now that all our feisty females have been shackled to "where's my man?" plotlines, I have no more addiction. "Private Practice" is just sad.

"The Bionic Woman" has the best intentions in the world, but is suckily written, directed, acted, and produced. The only good thing about it is Starbuck fucking that hot Asian guy. Hott. But the dialogue is painful, the plot gaps are annoying, and the emotional illogic is bewildering ... and then boring.

"Moonlight" I couldn't even be bothered to watch the second episode. Damn, that's bad! "Journeyman" is promising, but no promises. It also has bad dialogue, but it flows.

Where's the stuff that I need to get excited about? Where's the creative new show, or the old show kicking its second season up a notch, and sliding into new territory? Where's the juice? The best new thing I've seen so far, oG help us, is "Gossip Girl."

I'm ready to take back all I said about the golden age of TV serial drama.

September 21, 2007

Insanely Busy

Not posting. No time for complete sentences. Sorry.

September 12, 2007

Road Rape

Well, I didn't have much to say about McCarthy's The Road at first. It packs such an emotional wallop that it's hard to (hard to want to) analyze or even think about. But as time went by, I was more and more bugged by the tremendous (if par for the course) misogyny of the book.

I mean, it's a father and son, for the whole book. and all they encounter--to speak to, to act with or against--are men. As the book progresses, the absence of the boy's mother grows heavier and heavier until her absence is finally explained: she gives up, and wanders off out of camp to die alone.

And what is her argument? Well, that she fears being raped, of course--and her son being raped, naturally.

Naturally. In Cormac McCarthy's world, rape is still a Fate Worse Than Death. The whole world has died, cannibals are roaming the Earth, there's no hope, and she's worried about being raped.

As if her husband wouldn't be just as raped in such a world.

My ogd, can McCarthy simply not conceive of women strong enough to survive a holocaust the way the men here have? Can he somehow not imagine women banding together, or even together with men, to form less predatory groups?

Arg. That's it. I'm not reading any more McCarthy. I was feeling emotionally devastated by the book at first, but as time goes by it just makes me feel dirtier and dirtier, and more and more tired of it, and less and less inclined to think about it. It's apocalypse porn, looking for the most horrific thrills: keeping people alive to eat them slowly, or bringing a pregnant woman with you so you can eat her baby when its born (and what happened to the pregger woman once her baby was born, anyway? She just disappears.)

Argh! I'm done! McCarthy can go hate women off in his little southerly corner and leave me alone!

August 10, 2007

A Word Lesson On "Miscegenation"

Regarding this brouhaha:

First of all, some terms, since I've found that most people are really, really sloppy about them:

  1. Monoracial refers to individuals or groups that are considered to have only one race. This refers both to the person's self-acknowledged identity, and the identity assigned to them by society.
    My father is monoracial: white.

  2. Interracial means a relationship between two people who identify monoracially and whose races are different. It doesn't just mean sexual or romantic relationships, either. commerce between two racial groups would be interracial as well. There are also interracial friendships, mentorships, etc. The term suggests bilateralness. It does not refer to individuals of more than one ancestry!
    My white father and Chinese mother have an interracial relationship.

  3. Biracial, when referring to a person means that that person is of mixed descent, the mix being two races. Although this term could be used in a number of ways, it is commonly only used to refer to individuals of two racial ancestries.
    I am therefore biracial.

  4. Multiracial has many current uses. When referring to a person, it means that the person is of mixed descent, the mix being two or more races. A biracial person is also multiracial. There is also a slight political preference towards using "multiracial" because "biracial" excludes people of more than two ancestries.

    When referring to a group, it means either that the group is composed of multiracial individuals, or that the group is composed of monoracial individuals of two or more races. Which meaning will only be clear in context. "Multiracial" is often used to refer to groups which contain only two races. Usually, "multiracial" is used to refer to group situations and "interracial" is used to refer to one-on-one situations, but this isn't always the case.
    I am also multiracial. I have many individual friends who are multiracial: Chinese and white, Korean and Mexican, Japanese and black. My group of friends is very multiracial, including Mexicans, Indians, Filipinos, whites, blacks, Japanese, Iranians, etc.

  5. While I'm on the subject: Multicultural does not mean "multiracial". "Multicultural" literally means of more than one culture and can be used that way, but is commonly used to refer to a society or group composed of people of more than one race/ethnicity/culture. Its connotation is of balanced diversity within a group.
    I live in a society that strives to be multicultural.

  6. Mixed Race when referring to an individual means the same thing as "multiracial", a person of more than one racial descent. "Mixed race" can also be used to refer to groups of more than one monoracial identity, groups of multiracial individuals, bi- and multi-racial relations of all sorts. It's most commonly used, however, to refer to multiracial individuals.
    I am mixed race.

  7. Miscegenation is a noun, unlike all of the words above, which are adjectives, adjective phrases or adjective complements. It is a noun that refers to an action: the action of mixing races, either through interracial marriage or through interracial sexual relationships. The literal meaning of the term, which was coined fairly recently is "mixing origins", which can refer to childless relationships, but the strong connotation is that miscegenation is the production of mixed race children. After all, the dilution of monoracial purity only comes through producing multiracial children, and this is the result that causes the hysteria in antimiscegenation laws.

    The term originated in a hoax pamphlet intended to create anti-miscegenation hysteria (it succeeded) and has been used in an exclusively negative manner. To use it to refer to purely recreative interracial sex is to use the term falsely, unless of course, the kink is for unsafe interracial sex that leads to pregnancy.
    Many people would think my family is an example of miscegenation.


My point is this: the term "miscegenation" serves a very specific purpose. It has not been turned into an adjective or verb, or even an adverb. It has remained a noun for nearly 150 years. It describes a process, an action with consequences, not a simple fact or state of being.

Aside from any questions of offensiveness, using "miscegenation" to refer to interracial sex fetishes is simply incorrect.

There are interracial relationships, there is interracial sex, and then there are people who get off on the perceived taboo of crossing races for sex. What you call that is "Interracial Sex Fetish", not "Miscegenation".

Get it right.

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