Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's good to know that women at *either* extreme can expect shaming...

Well, now... this thread is really interesting. Lauren, over at feministe, posted about a series of photos of female body builders, and how she found them interesting because, in her words:
It’s interesting to me that many female body builders who work on attaining what are considered masculine traits play up their feminine characteristics, perhaps to counteract the kind of physique that is usually culturally marked male, sometimes to an extreme that appears to be a conscious genderfuck. Whatever the case, the human body is so, so cool.

Which, hell yes! The human body is really cool. I'm constantly fascinated by the ways that our bodies move and grow, by the infinite variety of shapes and sizes of our parts and wholes, by the uncountable variations that all of our parts come in. It's really amazing to me.

But, that's not the bit that rocked my brain this morning. The bit that blew my mind was the comments that Lauren's post prompted from a lot of people. The very first comment in response to her post was about how "disgusting" the women look, and how the commenter simply doesn't "find that type of body attractive at all". I'm not going to do a count, but a surprisingly high number out of the 53 responses are echoing that basic sentiment--that each of these women is a "representation of grotesquerie".

There were, thankfully, a number of people who stepped up to point out that criticisms of these women as unattractive misses the point, and that those kinds of comments were, to say the least, not cool. But, that being said, it still seems like one of those times where an awful lot of people engaged in some pretty shitty behavior without really taking the time to analyze it or learn from it.

I don't know why I'm surprised that these sorts of blow-ups still happen. Honestly, I guess I'm not surprised at all. I've written about it too many times and seen it come up too many times for it to really be surprisng.

So, get out your broken records: It doesn't matter if you find those women attractive or not. They're very likely not doing it for you. That you find body building "grotesque" is completely beside, behind, or even miles away from the point. Nobody gives a shit that you find it disgusting. If you find it disgusting? Don't do it. Nobody is trying to make you become or date a body builder--certainly, nobody writing at Feministe is.

When you start talking about women's bodies with terms like "disgusting" "grotesquerie" "disfiguring" or disturbing", you're engaging in exactly the kind of body shaming that a lot of us have been fighting against. So, thanks for that. A woman who can bench 450 lbs without breaking a sweat is no less deserving of respect than a woman who weighs 450 lbs. It's one thing to question the social forces that lead us to view our bodies in various ways. It's quite another to look at pictures of particular women and proclaim them gross.

And the conversation is almost exactly like the typical fat shaming thread. If we remove the specific references, it's practically a MadLib:

"Hey, look at these pictures of women X who break the typical beauty mold. This is interesting."
"Oh my God. Those women are gross. I don't find them attractive."
"Yeah, they're nasty. And also, they're damaging their health because Y."
"You'd have to be dumb to think that these women are attractive or healthy, because Z"

It's the same pattern over and over and over.

And it's completely bunk.

So, here's my advice: If you find yourself on a feminist thread--or, hell, anywhere else, for that matter--about women's bodies, and you're thinking of posting a response that consists of or is related to "Wow, that's gross/ugly/nasty/disgusting", take a moment and
Stop.

Don't do it. Just don't. Because the odds are really good that what you're about to do is make some ignorant, superficial insult about another woman's body. A woman that you probably don't know, will probably never know, and about whom you're probably woefully uneducated about. You're thinking about posting how unhealthy she probably is? And about how your disgust is justified because you're really concerned about the health implications? Yeah, that's bullshit. You're more than likely not her doctor, so you're really not in a position to give her health advice.

Maybe you're actually interested in and concerned about a larger social issue? Maybe you're concerned about ways that the commercial cosmetics market and the entertainment industry push a certain beauty ideal? Maybe you're worried about systemic problems that involve body dismorphic disorders? Maybe you're genuinely concerned about the ways that we view our bodies? That's great! Channel that interest and make a difference. But, remember that slamming and insulting and mocking a particular woman or a group of them is not the way to do that. That's not helping--that's adding to the problem. You want to talk about the larger issues, do that. But don't throw those women under the bus in the process.

If you can't talk about about the ways that our society idealizes unrealistic body types without calling another woman "gross" or "disgusting", then you're doing it wrong, and you should take a minute to figure out why.

Monday, November 10, 2008

So... what is an adult again?

This story is very sad. Details are still coming out, so it's hard to say what to think of everything, but one thing really strikes me as... well... odd. The story: A child, 8, shot and killed his father and his father's friend on Wednesday. The current report is that this was not a spur-of-the-moment thing, either, but that the child planned the attack out. There's speculation that he might have been abused, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of that yet. The part that I'm currently bothered by is the fact that the police want to charge him as an adult.

An eight year old. Charged as an adult.

Now, maybe someone has some insight into this that I'm missing... but if we're at the point where we charge eight-year-olds as adults, what is the point of having a distinction? Why not just make all murder trials "as adult" then?

Because it seems to me that we, as a society, have agreed that there's an important emotional/intellectual difference between adults and children, and we've generally placed the transition at 18. Now, that's sort of arbitrary, and that's why we recognize that there's some leeway, and sometimes we see value in charging, say, a 17-year-old as an adult. But at eight, a child is less than half the age we consider an adult--still a decade away. If that's not firmly in the realm of "child", what is?

And if the argument is that we need to more harshly punish this kid for what he's done? If we don't have a serious enough punishment to fit the crime? The solution isn't to charge him as an adult, but to fix the laws that we think are broken and need to be fixed.

It seems profoundly screwed up to me that someone as young as eight is going to be charged as an adult.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Just a reminder of what is at stake.

I know that a lot of people get it, but there are people who don't.
The passing of Prop 8 is a failure on a many levels. It's a failure from start to finish.

That a modern society should even question the right of same-sex couples to enter into a marriage is a failure.

That a modern society should vote to prohibit same-sex marriages is a failure.

That a modern society would even think that it's legitimate to vote on other people's rights is a failure.

Our rights should not be subject to the whims and passing fancy of other people. Our rights should not be up for popular vote. The rights of a minority should not be subjected to tyranny of the majority.

We should have the reasonable expectation that our rights be honored by those around us, whether they like us or agree with us. I'm profoundly disappointed by the fact that Prop 8 and others like it succeeded, but I'm just as profoundly disappointed and saddened that so many people consider it right to have voted on the issue at all. That we, in 2008, still think that popular vote is a fair and right way to determine whether someone should be allowed access to his/her rights... is disturbing.

Would we accept, in this day and age, a ballot initiative to prohibit women from owning property? Would we accept the notion that it is fair and right to vote on whether Asian people should be allowed to register to vote? Would most people just accept it if someone suggested we should vote on a reinstating slavery?

People should not be denied their rights because the majority takes a vote.

Already, on some of the forums I visit, people are saying "but, gays could have civil unions! What's the problem?"

The problem are the over 1,000 benefits that are associated with marriage, most of which do not come with civil unions. The problem is in pretending that seperate is equal. The problem is in telling one group of citizens that their rights and their relationships are less valuable and less "real" than others.

There are over a thousand laws associated with marriage, many of which provide benefits and privileges to married couples. It's a long list, but worth looking at.

Someday, history will vindicate. The best I can do, sometimes, is take solace in the fact that history will prove us right, and we'll eventually recognize that institutional bigotry is wrong. But, I know that doesn't help people in the here-and-now, and that doesn't help the people who are actually hurt by these sorts of laws. I can only hope that history comes soon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tonight's Town hall meeting in Cambridge, MA...

This is What Women Want is putting on a town hall meeting tonight, as I mentioned last week. There's been a slight change in venue, however. The meeting will be taking place at Lesley University Ampitheater, at 1815 Mass. Ave in Cambridge. Hope to see you there for this very exciting post-election meeting.

If you can't make it, don't fret, you've got another option. Thanks to the wonderful world of web technologies, you can catch the Town Hall right here!



That's the feed, friends. If you've got questions, send them through the chat function there, because I won't be here to pass them along, but people will be taking questions from the feed and asking them at the event.

Hooray!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Support Obama? No candy for you!

Okay, seriously?



What is wrong with people? It's Halloween. You're going to turn kids away from your door because their parents support the other guy? Really? That's some kind of ass-hattery. Little kids are little kids, and there's no way of knowing whether they'll swing towards or away from their parents politics as they grow. And I think it's pretty low to campaign through children, anyway--if you're giving out candy on Halloween, give it out. Don't try to push your politics on kids coming to your door. Disgusting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Day After: A Feminist Town Forum

Just taking a moment to pass along some info from CNW

The Day After
A Feminist Town Forum
Wednesday, November 5 @ 7:00PM

PARTICIPATE IN PERSON: Cambridge Family YMCA, 820 Mass. Ave., Cambridge

PARTICIPATE ONLINE IN REAL TIME: Participate by logging on 11/5 at 7PM EST to any of our participating blogs, including Feministe, Feministing, Girl with Pen, WIMN's Voices, No Cookies for Me (hey! That's me!), Writes Like She Talks, Heartfeldt Politics, TakePart, or at our mogulus channel.


It's been a long election season, and now it's time to come together to figure out what it all means and what's next.

At this culmination of our This Is What Women Want election project, please join us, our panel of national leaders and the feminist community nationwide to discuss what happened on Election Day, and what we should be thinking about and doing now to fight for equality and justice for all.

This is a first of its kind event convening feminists from around the country live via the blogosphere! Watch live, converse with other audience members around the country and submit your comments and questions in real time.


Panelists will include:

BYLLYE AVERY
Founder of the National Black Women's Health Project and MacArthur Genius Award Recipient

MICHELLE GOLDBERG
Journalist and author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism

ANNE ELIZABETH MOORE
Critic, activist, artist, journalist and author

PAULA RAYMAN
Founding Director of the Radcliffe Public Policy Center

LORETTA ROSS
National Coordinator, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective

ANDREA BATISTA SCHLESINGER
Executive Director, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Come optimistic, disgruntled, angry, or just exhausted. Come in person or online. But come. We need to hear every voice and idea!

(Facebook users: Click here to RSVP and invite your friends!)


_______________________
Center for New Words
Where Women's Words Matter

This is What Women Want

Check it, people: an online station showcasing highlights from the This is What Women Want speakout tour. Very cool. Remember, it ain't over til it's over--the election is still coming up, and it's important to keep interested and make sure the vote gets out.
**edited**applet removed since it's reposted above

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Suddenly, it all begins to make sense...

Ever since she was added to the ticket, people have been wondering why Palin was picked. What did she add to the ticket? Now, I know that some of the more cynical amongst us thought that it was a shallow attempt by McCain to try to pick up the woman vote--that he believed that having a woman veep would sway women voters to his side. I can't say I blame that train of thought--it's not like McCain has done much to give the impression that he thinks particularly highly of women, so it wouldn't be a stretch to think that he was trying to pull one over.

But! But!

I'm here to announce that I've finally figured it out. In order to understand the genius of the McCain Election Plan, we need to go back a bit. I'm not the only one, I think, who thinks that McCain has changed in recent years. It wasn't that long ago that many on the left were thinking "You know, a split ticket with McCain on board wouldn't necessarily be terrible." But, in recent years, McCain has made a strong push to get back in line with the values and goals of the conservative right. This change was very disappointing to some of us who saw McCain as being an example of someone from the right that we could respect, even if we didn't agree. Now, some of that might be attributed to the greater attention he's getting now, so we're seeing more about him than we had in the past, but I think there's a deeper plot involved here.

I'm going to come out and say it:
John McCain is secretly a liberal plant, trying to move the nation in the right direction by intentionally sabotaging his run for the presidency and doing everything in his power to make the right look like maniacs and crazies.

A bold claim? Perhaps, but let's consider the evidence.

First of all, he picks a running mate who nobody has ever even heard of. A running mate who disagrees with him on some pretty significant issues. A running mate who can't give a straight interview, who can't answer even the most simple of questions... and we've all seen the SNL skits by now.


Second of all, look at the way he composes himself- he wanders around the stage aimlessly during debates. He gets lost on stage after questions. He goes bug-eyed during interviews. He refuses to apologize when it comes out that he told rape jokes. The angry stares and the bittterness that's practically oozing off of him at all times... He does his best to act like a man on the verge of breaking at every moment--he couldn't act more like a man on the brink if he took LSD before stepping into the bright lights to take questions.



And now this!

A subtle message to voters that the left is right and the right is wrong? An attempt to subliminally influence the vote in favor of the Dems?
...

Or just a really funny--and expensive--fashion faux pas on the part of one of the most ridiculous presidential tickets in modern history?

You be the judge!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sitting in my seat of judgment, judging people.

Sarah Palin recently gave an interview to CBN's David Brodey, and was asked about gay marriage.

Brody: On Constitutional marriage amendment, are, are you for something like that?

Palin: I am, in my own, state, I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage. I'm not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can't do, should and should not do, but I certainly can express my own opinion here and take actions that I believe would be best for traditional marriage and that's casting my votes and speaking up for traditional marriage that, that instrument that it's the foundation of our society is that strong family and that's based on that traditional definition of marriage, so I do support that.


So... um... when you say "I'm not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting a seat of judgment telling what they can and can't do" you actually mean "I am going to be".

Got it.

This is serious, though. A McCain/Palin ticket is another four years of oppressive policies: of faith based legislation aimed at denying citizens equal rights based on sexuality, of attempting to control women's bodies through increasingly restrictive abortion law, and of doing everything possible to ensure that we, as citizens, live our lives in compliance with Conservative Christian values. Whether we're conservative Christians or not.

But, this interview just keeps making you wonder... why, exactly, was she picked as his running mate? They disagree on so many issues, and she sure seems like she's been nothing but a liability since he announced her. They've got so little faith in her ability to carry on a debate or a real conversation that they've been keeping her protected from interviews as much as possible.

Who wouldn't like to have been a fly on the wall when he picked her?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Minor update...

Obviously, posting contiues to be sparse. It's weird what grad school will do to your free time isn't it?

In other news: I hear there's a debate of some kind happening soon, yeah? I'm very interested to see how it goes. Will Palin continue to respond with non-answers, doubletalk, and scripted soundbites as devoid of content as they are full of shit? Let me consult my magic 8 Ball... "It is decidedly so." Well, there you have it.

The other question... will Biden be able to resist putting his foot in his mouth?
8 Ball? "Better not tell you now."

That's what I was afraid of.

Someone needs to have a conversation with the man, and put some kind of muzzle on him. Don't tell stories if you don't know the facts, man. Don't suggest that a FDR was president when he wasn't, or that he was on tv before they'd even been invented. I get the point you were making. Make the point, but don't pull out assfacts to do it. Don't keep referring to the driver of the truck that killed your wife as a drunk when there's not a shred of evidence that he was, and when he was cleared of all wrong doing. I can understand grieving, and maybe you really think the guy was. That's not what people see, though. What they see is a Veep candidate slandering a dead man and trying to milk sympahty at the expense of a man whose family says that he lived with the grief of having accidentally killed someone until the day he died. Don't ask a man in a wheelchair to stand up. Just... don't. You're a smart man. Stop doing things that make people think you might be an idiot. Do not blow this.

*sigh*

In other debate related news: don't forget to check out This Is What Women Want.
They've got up some great videos of the Mississippi event. A list of the videos is up, so check 'em out!

There's another event in St. Louis, MO tonight at 7PM, over at the Phyllis Wheatley Heritage Center, 2711 Locust, doing more speakouts. So, if you're in that area, head over- it's a free event, and you can speak your mind about what you actually want from the presidential candidates.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get some more work done (reading about the free software movement, and about information access and the digital divide and assorted other such things).

I'm glad *someone* in the government gets it.

Bailout, bailout, bailout.
Why aren't more politicians asking these questions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Straight talker?

Indeed.

It'd be funny if this wasn't such an incredibly important election.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Huh. Who *is* a rat?

So, as part of a class, I was directed to take a look at Who's a Rat?

Essentially, we were asked to contemplate the site and what it does, and be prepared to finish the sentence "This site makes me feel..."

Unsurprisingly, the site has been the source of controversy ever since it was unveiled. It's received numerous requests from the law enforcement community to shut down or remove information, which it has declined. It's been the subject of lawsuits, which it won.

I'm not going to lie, the site makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I don't doubt that what the site does is legal- the information contained on it is apparently information that is available to the public via public records, and it's my understanding that you're required to provide substantiation for reports about informants that you're adding to the site. So, probably legal. Fine and good.

Legal doesn't necessarily equate to ethical, though. And I've got some real reservations there. Despite the site's disclaimer that it doesn't endorse violence, it doesn't take a brain trust to figure out that violence is a reasonable expectation when you're dealing with something like this. We're talking about criminal informants and undercover agents who deal with, you know... criminals. One of the site's spokespeople said of the risk of violent retaliation against informants and undercover officers:

I think it’s pretty safe to say that informants and cops know that there is danger involved in that line of work, and it would be unfair to burden whosarat.com with one’s career choice. In our opinion, the only potential danger that exists due to the site, is the danger of the government losing at trial, due to defendants using the website to gather information to prove that the informants and agents that are testifying against them are not credible.


Now, the site claims that it's only for non-violent crimes. The site was created when the site's creator was charged with drug-related offenses, and was upset about the use of informants in the charges that were brought against him. So, one can assume that he's okay with outing drug informants.

Because, clearly, retaliation against drug informants isn't an obvious consequence of being outed. Unless you were Rachel Hoffman, who was murdered back in May. Or Kenneth Smith, murdered in January. Or Chad MacDonald.

Is corruption a violent offense? I wouldn't have thought so, but informants Christine and Terrence Hodson would probably disagree.

But, the site's owners wash their hands of all this. After all, they don't endorse violence, and they're not calling for retaliation against informants. They just offer things like a $500 award for posting the most interesting or best informant to the site (this was back in Jan). And call them "rats".

There seems to be a pretty clear conflict here between the right to free speech and the expectation of privacy on the part of informants. Informants rely on secrecy and privacy to ensure their safety. Many informants are just like Hoffman- young people busted for possession for their personal use who get the book thrown at them in order to increase the odds that they'll turn over their source. Faced with the prospect of the years in jail and a destroyed future, it's not surprising that people would take a deal, even if it means becoming an informant.

And if the point of the site is just to give defendants a chance to learn about the person who informed on them, to test that person's credibility (the stated purpose of the site), then why are they also outing undercover agents? I can sort of understand the idea that a criminal informant might have some credibility issues by virtue of being a criminal and an informant. Now, maybe I'm overly optimistic, but isn't the idea of an undercover police officer supposed to be that they are so credible that the police are willing to put them undercover in a criminal situation in order to capture someone? I know that the police aren't always trustworthy, but the fact that they're undercover doesn't make them less credible than any other cop is. And while being a cop is already a dangerous job in many places, outing an undercover officer most certainly raises the danger level.

So, there you go. We didn't really get a chance to talk about it in class, but I really wanted to, so those are my thoughts at the moment.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shorter Sremchevich: "It's not discrimination or bigotry, I just don't like them because of who they are."

Out of the land down under comes this story.

In short: Emil Sremchevich, president of the Camden/Macarthur Residents' Group, opposed the Quranic Society's application to build a 1,200 student school in the Camden community, but is giving a Catholic school expansion the go-ahead without even having read their proposal.

In an interview, Sremchevich said:

Why is that racist? Why is it discriminatory? It's very simple: people like some things but don't like other things. Some of us like blondes, some of us like brunettes. Some of us like Fords, some of us like Holdens. Why is it xenophobic just because I want to make a choice? If I want to like some people and not like other people, that's the nature of the beast.


I think someone should get Mr. Sremchevich a nice dictionary. If you're making a choice not to like Muslim people, that is disriminatory.

Discriminatory: applying or favoring discrimination in treatment.
Discrimination: a: the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually b: prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment (racial discrimination)

So, yeah, Mr Sremchevich. It is discriminatory to decide that you just don't like Muslims but you're fine with Christians.

It only gets better, too. See, back when the Quranic Society made their original proposal, there were protests, and some of the people of Camden stuck pig's heads on sticks and hung the Australian flag between them, and displayed them at the proposed school site. Classy. In response to the proposal, Kate McCulloch (a Camden resident) said that Muslims wouldn't fit into the Camden community because "the ones that come here oppress our society, they take our welfare and they don't want to accept our way of life."

I can't imagine why. I mean, I know I'd feel really welcome and want to accept a people's way of life if they welcomed me by sticking pig's heads on stakes and accusing me of taking their welfare and of not fitting in.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's about freakin' time! Bye Bye Kilpatrick!

The soon to be former mayor of Detroit has finally admitted to lying under oath and obstructing justice. He'll resign, serve four months jail, pay up to a million in restitution, and be on probation for five years.

This has been a long time coming.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday notes...

1. RIP Del Martin, founder of the Daughters of Bilitis, gay rights advocate, and one half of the first same-sex couple to legally exchange vows in San Francisco.

2. It's that time again! No, no, not the return to classes and being stuck behind yellow buses on your way to work (well, okay, yes, potentially that too), but time to answer the WAM! call for proposals! Sadly, with my starting my first year of grad school, I probably won't be making my own submission (although, you know, if anyone is looking for a someone to present about video games or comics, it wouldn't take a lot to convince me), but you should be thinking about it. On this, the sixth year of the conference, they're bringing in a theme. If you've got something to say- and I think most of us do- you should definitely consider answering the call.

3. For the love of Gromit, can someone tell The Media to stop making asses of themselves? First it was "One Legged Hooker Slain", and now a story about an obese woman accused of murdering a child that ends with the line "So, currently, the lady remains at large."

Now, I get it, apparently any story about a fat person must include some kind of jokes at their expense. Because, HAHA! Fat! But... no, wait. I don't understand that. I actually don't understand why a journalist thinks that it's okay or professional to make fat jokes in an article.

If nothing else, can we show an ounce of journalistic professionalism in the face of the fact that a child is dead, killed by having his head crushed?

Maybe I'm weird, but I don't think that's an appropriate place for jokes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

English as a necessary skill for golf...

I admit to not knowing all the ins and outs of golf, by virtue of not playing the game myself, but the LPGA's new rule that all players must pass an English proficiency test is bugging me. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but this was my understanding of how golf is played:

Whack the hell out of a small ball with a club.
Avoid smacking the ball into sand, water, trees, tall grass, or spectators.
Try to smack the ball into a tiny hole marked by a flag that's kind of far away.

Oversimplified? Perhaps. But, I'm not seeing where "speak English" is particularly important to the game.

But, of course, it's not actually about the game. It's about the sponsors.

Because, gods forbid that the best player on the green not speak English very well or at all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not a credible threat?

So, this is news.

I'm curious about several things.

First of all:
However, federal sources have said that the incident may have had more to do with drugs than with a plot to assassinate Mr Obama, despite local police claims.

The federal officials said that the verbal threats against Mr Obama were made during one of the arrests, but were not considered credible. "It could turn out that these were nothing but a bunch of knuckleheads, meth heads," a US government source has claimed.


They're caught with a spotting scope, two high-powered rifles with scopes, walkie talkies, and a bulletproof vest. What, exactly, does it take to be considered a credible threat?

Second of all: Who in the hell jumps out of a sixth story window and thinks that they're getting away from the police that way? For gods' sakes, I don't like to jump from six feet. Six stories? That's just stupid.

Craziness.

At this point, I guess I'm just glad that they're bad drivers and got their dumb asses pulled over before they could put the plan into action.

And that one of them jumped from a sixth floor window to try to get away.

Because it makes me happy when bad people do really really dumb things in the process of getting captured.

Sneak Preview of "Traitor"

Last night I got a chance to check out the new Don Cheadle flick "Traitor" at a limited sneak preview thing. I'm not a professional film reviewer, so let's just get this out of the way right now- I'm very likely going to spoil the hell out of this movie. If you have an interest in seeing it in the theaters and not knowing what is going to happen... stop reading.

Last chance.

Alright, I've been trying to get out of the habit of giving reviews "grades" and such (although I failed miserably last night in describing the movie to Jaclyn). Grades are really arbitrary- if I hated something that you don't care about, what's my grade mean to you? Nothing, that's what. So, instead, let's just talk about the movie.

So, I've glanced at a couple of other reviews of the film, and part of me is thinking "Did we watch the same film?" Because, really, there's nothing remotely unexpected about the plot. I swear to gods, every step of the way, I felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen. The problem here is partly the fault of the advertising. The film wants us to think that our man Don is a terrorist. But... well... he's the lead protagonist, and it's pretty damned clear from the trailers that he's not a terrorist. The first half of the film is set up with the expectation that we not know whether Don is or is not a terrorist. But we already know. He's not.

But, really, the plot is so completely conventional that even if it weren't for the advertising, there'd still be no real question about him. The setup is just too obvious. Once it's finally reveiled that he's not, in fact, a terrorist, but is actually in deeeeeep cover, the tension shifts from "is he/isn't he" to "will he get caught". This is more interesting, but, again, utterly predictable.

I don't even have to tell you what the "twist" is, here, and I bet you can guess. When it's reveiled that Don is in deep cover, we're given three pieces of information. From those three pieces of information, I'd bet a cookie you can tell what is going to happen.
1. He's in deep cover.
2. He has only one contact on the outside.
3. His contact hasn't told anyone about him.

Go ahead. Guess. You won't be wrong.

This kind of utterly predictable plot just keeps pressing through. And the thing is, it's not a bad plot, exactly. It's just... well... it's been done a million times. It's not bad, but it's pretty much completely forgetable.

The good news, however, is that the film treats the problem of terrorism as being a little more nuanced than the typical "Muslims hate us because Islam is full of evil!" that we're usually given. I'm not an expert, though, so I can't say how accurate the presentation is. And saying that it's more nuanced should be taken with a grain of salt. It's like pointing out that a pizza is better than Domino's pizza. It may be better, but that doesn't necessarily make it good, either. Almost anything that treats Muslim characters with more than paper-thin motivations and personalities is going to be better.

There are a number of Muslim characters in the film, of varying levels of devotion. One of the more interesting aspects of the film is that it presents the heads of the terrorist cells as being, essentially, war opportunists. They profit off of the death and destruction while leaving those of faith to accept the consequences and to suffer the casualties.

Don Cheadle and Said Taghmaoui turn in very good performances, but mostly left me wishing that this were a completely different film- maybe one that actually delved more deeply into their lives instead of trying to be all espionage/thriller. The rest of the cast aren't forgetable exactly. They're too cliche and ridiculous to be forgetable. Guy Pearce, in particular, is completely wasted here. His idiotic accent and hackneyed dialogue just completely overpowered every scene he's in. When he started on in his faux Texas accent about his "daddy" being a minister, I just wanted to tape his mouth shut.

Speaking of dialogue: it's bad. It's not just Pearce, either. The rule here is this- if you're a member of the US government, you will talk almost completely in trite jingoistic cliches.

Ultimately, Traitor isn't at all what I went in expecting. That it even attempts to treat terrorism as a complex issue and that it goes to any length to suggest that, you know, maybe not all Muslims fit neatly into a box both go above and beyond what I've come to expect from a film like this. Despite that, the film still feels like it could have been a lot more interesting if they'd focused on those issues more instead. It was more than I expected, but a lot less than it could have been.

I basically agree with this review.

This is a more generous review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Okay, but I don't want to pay for the war, either...

So, apparently, I lost or never created a new login for the updated Feministing site. Which means no leaving comments there for me for the time being.

Anyway, in the comments of their shout-out to This Is What Women Want, cheezwizard responds:

Universal childcare

This is one area where feel like I can sympathize with those “childfree” folks. Raise your own children, please, and I will raise mine (assuming I decide to have any, that is).


I'm going to sort of vent for a minute. To put it bluntly, I think that's a shortsighted and selfish perspective to have on something like childcare. We're a society. The key point to society is that it's social in nature. There are major benefits to being social creatures, and we reap those benefits all the time. This attitude of "Well, I don't have children so I shouldn't be responsible for contributing to your children's welfare" is almost offensive to me.

First of all, we all contribute to things that we don't gain immediate or direct benefit from. For that matter, we contribute to things that we don't even want to. People who don't drive contribute to roads they'll never even see. People who don't enjoy nature contribute to maintaining parks and rec areas. People who aren't sick contribute to the healthcare of those who are. People who've never had a fire in their house or who've never been the victim of a crime contribute to the expense of keeping a functioning fire and police department. The list goes on and on.

Second of all, we all benefit from these things, whether we directly use the service or not. You may not have a child in school, but you benefit from other people's children being in school. An educated population is important for progress and growth. As people get older and retire or die, you want the younger generations to be able to fill in the empty positions, and it's important that they be properly educated to do so. Ideally, you also want to see social and technological advancements- new and better treatments for sickness, cleaner energy sources, etc. Those things take an educated population.

As far as childcare goes, it's, again, in all of our interests to have accessible childcare. In an age of single parent or two working parent homes, childcare is a big deal. As it stands, childcare can quickly eat up a family's budget, particular with more than one child. At which point the family is forced to chose between job or childcare. Neither one is good for society at large- pushing people down into poverty because they can't afford to pay for childcare puts a drain on society and removes potentially good workers from positions where they contributed. Having children being poorly cared for or free to roam around and get into trouble because their parents can't afford proper childcare contributes to youth crime rates.

Nothing about the "I don't have kids so I shouldn't have to help with yours" is convincing, to me, and I think that it absolutely reeks of selfish entitlement most of the time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On violence and the media...

From an interview with Michael Henek:

Cineaste: Funny Games seems to be a contribution to the self-reflexive films about media and violence along the lines of Natural Born Killers or Man Bites Dog.

Haneke: My goal there was a kind of counterprogram to Natural Born Killers. In my view, Oliver Stone's film, and I use it only as example, is the attempt to use a fascist esthetic to achieve an antifascist goal, and this doesn't work. What is accomplished is something the opposite, since what is produced is something like a cult film where the montage style complements the violence represented and presents it largely in a positive light. It might be argued that Natural Born Killers makes the violent image alluring while allowing no space for the viewer. I feel this would be very difficult to argue about Funny Games. Benny's Video and Funny Games are different kinds of obscenity, in the sense that I intended a slap in the face and a provocation.


Full disclosure: I have not watched Funny Games (either version), but I have seen both Natural Born Killers and Man Bites Dog. In fact, when I was invited to present at symposium my last year of undergrad, it was for a paper I wrote about Man Bites Dog. Anyway...

I think that there's something to that criticism of NBK, and it was one of the same criticisms I had of MBD, too- for a film that seems to be suggesting that the media has at least some burden of the blame for excessive violence, these films glorify and entertain through the use of violence, too. Having not seen Funny Games yet, I can't say whether it falls into the same trap, but it's a problem I'm certainly interested in. I can't say how good the rest of that interview is- I stopped reading it because they go on to talk about a number of other films that I'm interested in seeing but haven't yet, and I didn't want them spoiled, so to speak.

I'm a big film fan, and I recognize that a lot of the films I like contain some pretty violent stuff. I'm a big horror fan (with the exception of slasher films- I hate most slasher flicks), which tends to involve some violence. But, one thing that I think is interesting is that I'm really fond of films that push me to places I don't usually go, or that create extremely strong reactions, or that force me to confront uncomfortable feelings or truths.

Take the film Hard Candy, for example. I'm a big BIG fan of Hard Candy. It's not a fun film, though. It's not the sort of thing that I think I'd sit down with a beer, a bowl of popcorn, and some friends and say "Hey, guys, let's throw in Hard Candy and get tipsy!" It's an extremely intense and horrifying film full of extremes. After watching it, I couldn't stop talking about it and discussing the premise of the film with the people around me. It was a film that was essentially a piece of wish fulfillment, but where, I think, many viewers found themselves placed in an uncomfortable position of almost feeling sorry for the antagonist of the film- while we might wish terrible things on people, when we're forced to see those terrible things taking place, the reality can make us profoundly uncomfortable.

Now, of course, this is manufactured. The film is designed in such a way on purpose. Would we feel as uncomfortable if the protagonist were someone else? Would we feel more comfortable if the action were presented in a different way? The ways that violence is used in a film can completely alter our perception of the film.

For me, violence in film can be many things. It can be entertaining, it can be gratuitous and exploitative, it can be interesting and informative, it can be educational, it can be an important tool for forcing the viewer to question something, etc. It all depends on the context.

I could (and still might) write at great length about this, but I'm interested to know how other people perceive violence in film- do you avoid violent films? Only certain types of violence? Do you think that films can use violence to teach a point or a raise important questions? Is it possible for a film to use violence to implicate the viewer (as Funny Games supposedly does), and if it does so, does it also implicate itself (as, I think, Man Bites Dog does)?

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Women Want...

Just a little shout-out to This Is What Women Want (not, thank gods, to be confused with this).

To kick off the project, they're hosting an event in Boston. Check out the CNW site for more details.

Or, read the press release below:



This Is What Women WantBoston kickoff!
Thursday, August 21 @ 7:00PM
Cambridge YMCA Theater, 820 Mass. Ave, Cambridge

For more info, call 617-876-5310 or visit our website

Tired of being talked about this election season? Done with being represented by skewed polls and stereotypes?

This Is What Women Want is your chance to cut through the spin and tell the media, the candidates and the world exactly what you want this election season.

We're embarking on a This Is What Women Want Tour of speakouts across the country, starting in Boston on Thursday, 8/21 and then taking place in each debate city the night before the debate. At each location, local and national media will sit up and listen to women - from the very famous to the not-yet-known. It could be your voice at that mic!

The Boston event will feature speakouts from Cynthia Enloe, Kety Esquivel, and numerous other national and community leaders, plus a wide-open mic and… you! Come tell us exactly what you want from the candidates, the media and the next President.

However you participate, we’ll be sending the best speakouts to the media and the candidates every week.

From sexism, racism, and other bias in the media’s coverage of the campaign, to immigration, war, poverty, health care, reproductive justice, sexual freedom, worker’s rights, violence, education, environmental concerns and more, this is an unprecedented chance to set the agenda for the country. Whether you’ve got a criticism of the status quo or a visionary idea that no one has yet considered, we want to hear from you.

Our goal is simple: to ensure that the real and varied concerns of women are a force to be reckoned with this election season.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Because I love nothing more than to argue during my lunch hour...

Over in a feministing thread about China and the little girl who sang versus the little girl who "looked cute" on tv, Jackal1994 (I know, it's a jackal! Is it a jackal?) threw up a comment that sie apparently tried to put up on a post that was eight pages back already. While I'm not sure why you'd bother responding to a post that's eight pages back, I ended up reading the comment. And now I'm going to talk about it. It's pretty long, but I've definitely seen some of the arugments pop up before, and I feel like responding. I do wish I had a "below the fold" option, though.

Oh well. Onward!

...A) Puckalish, I will accept that there is work-place discrimination against women. You had a possible(?) move to shift and meet somewhere in the middle, retreating from the 26% figure (albeit with outright attacks upon me for having the nerve to disagree and being able to articulately state my opinion). Is it wide-spread, systematic, and around 26%?
I highly doubt it. And I will tell you why. The business mantra is: money. Morality and ethics go out the window as we saw in the 70’s when Lee Iaccoca (then in ford top brass) along with others decided to NOT recall the pinto (prone to exploding when struck in the rear even at low speeds) because some pencil pushers figured out that the lawsuits from the dead and injured would cost less than a recall.

How does this apply to women’s pay discrimination? Well, didn’t Merril Lynch just pay $2million dollars for a discrimination lawsuit? Going by the business mantra (money) it’s plain lunacy to presume that all companies everywhere are discriminating against women.

This would open these companies up to such a huge liability that businesses would be going under left and right.


Annnd, time out!
Sie goes on some more about this. At length. But, I want to interject for a moment. See, the argument is essentially "Businesses want to make money. Discrimination opens them up to lawsuits. Lawsuits are expensive when you lose. They'd lose more money in a lawsuit than they gain by discriminating. Therefore, they don't discriminate." Which sort of seems like it makes sense if you just think about it casually. But, if we look at reality, we know that's not how it really works.

First of all, this argument assumes that the discrimination is both intentional and planned out. That is, that the people who are doing the hiring and determining pay are sitting there thinking "Oh, this is a man, therefore, we will pay him more. This is a woman, we will pay her less." Maybe I'm being dumb, but I just don't think that's what most people believe is happening, nor do I think it's how most wage discrimination is occuring. I think it happens, but I think that a more subtle discrimination is at work a lot of times. I think that men are given preference because they're seen as being go-getters, etc. The person doing the hiring or determining raises isn't thinking "that's a guy, so he deserves more" he's thinking "Oh, this guy has x, y, and z qualities, so he deserves more". It's just as bad, but it's not as simple as Jackal is describing, either.

Second of all, there's a cost benefit that you have to take into account. Discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to prove, so there's actually no reason to believe that businesses would be folding left and right if there was discrimination happening. Particularly when a lot of discrimination is happening under the guise of other factors- a woman doesn't get a position because there are concerns that she might take too much time off, for example. It's not as simple as "She's a woman, so we're not going to hire her.

Okay, Jackal, sorry about the interuption, please continue.

Now are there some industries companies that are still discriminating? I would presume so, but these industries would have to be A) dominated by jackasses, and B) have enough clout/money to figure they can do this and get away with it, or don’t care about a (potential) out-of-court settlement of thousands. There aren’t many companies with both of these things. Grocers are out (they make pennies on the dollar in profit), as are department stores, and a lot of other companies except maybe things like IT, Pharmacueticals, stock brokerage houses MAY have a culture conducive to discrimination and the means to pay lawsuits without blinking.


As you can, we're still functioning under the misapprehension that discrimination is always very blatant and easily proven. Given that only the most blatant and offensive examples of discrimination ever make it to trial, I just don't think we can assume that only the most jackassed and wealthy of businesses can "afford" to discriminate.

While some women may have pay disparity (even after variables) of 20% or 30% I would be surprised if even companies in this group with possible discrimination cultures routinely discriminate (as an aggregate total to all female employees) more than 8%. Why? The business mantra: money. The liability is just too great. Each discriminated-against woman may be saving the company $800 per year. That’s worth a potential liability of hundreds of thousands? No. Businesses may be unethical and cruel, but they love money.


Okay, now I'm not a math major, but I'm pretty sure that math is flawed. Let's take a mid-level analyst at my last job. You're looking at a position that's worth about 60k a year. Now, let's assume that a woman in the same position is making 8% less than her male colleage. 8% of 60k is 4,800. So, she's making 55,200 to his 60k. That's a savings of 4,800, not 800. Over time, that can add up, but that's not the point, anyway. Again, I just don't think that discrimination is about saving money. I don't think that a manager is thinking "if I pay her less than a guy, I can save some scratch!"

While businesses are primarily concerned with making money, they're also run by people, and people have biases. The business is about making money, but all it takes is one manager who is doing hiring or determining pay who is sexist, and you've now introduced bias into the equation. And it may be subtle- honestly, 55,200 to 60k? Not a huge difference. Is it enough to raise eyebrows or stand up in court? Or is it possibly something that might be chaulked up to differences in negotiation skills or different quality reviews?

I'm going to pass over the B point because: 1. I'm not familiar enough with the conversation to respond yet. 2. I think that some of the premises of the B section are really suspect.

C) Petpluto (I believe) mentioned that feminists are fighting against the types of oppression that men face in the “provider” role model. I will give a couple of examples of why I (anyway) don’t believe this to be true.

Let’s look at divorce.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s divorce was unheard of. I think this is because marriage was more an act for survival instead of fulfillment.
By the 1960’s technology in leisure devices and increased standard of living (thanks in large part to Unions—I believe) meant men and women sought fulfillment instead of survival. During the 70’s no-fault divorce swept the land and was passed as law in 49 states. The leading argument was that women shouldn’t have to be in stagnant unfulfilling marriages, or violent ones either.


As I wasn't particularly aware of politics when no-fault divorce laws were being drafted, I can't say whether the "leading argument" he's claiming was actually such, but even if it was, I think it's worth noting that men shouldn't and don't have to stay in bad relationships, either. Carry on...

The argument also was that this enabled women to break from the accepted and safe “housewife” role.
Now, here is my point. A huge tsunami of divorce enabled women to “shatter” their gender roles. But what did divorce do to men? Why were so many women unfulfilled with their husbands in the first place?


In what way did divorce allow women to shatter gender roles? What does that even mean in the context of the conversation?

I put forward this supposition (and try not to think about men, but how YOU WOULD FEEL working 8-10hrs a day with a newborn or toddler at home). When a man (or anybody) has to work long hours and miss his/her baby’s first crawl, first words, first steps, first day at school that person has to accept that he/she is doing something necessary for the family (providing an income) but must disconnect himself/herself from their emotions or be swept up in sadness.


To which I want to point out that someone working as a stay-at-home parent is making just as many sacrifices as someone who goes to work. How would you feel, Jackal, if you busted your ass keeping up a home and caring for a child for 12-18 hours a day? If you had to work long hours taking care of a family and home missing out on getting out of the house, of being involved in a carreer you love, of being intellectually challanged at school or work, etc. How would you feel if you lived your life depending on someone else to bring home all of the money so that you didn't lose your house and so you could put food in the belly of your baby?

Being part of a family is hard, and I have no doubt that if one parent is working full time while the other cares for the child that there's some frustration about missing out on some aspects of the child's growth, but this one-sided representation of what family life is like- that it's all the "breadwinner" giving up and sacrificing and turning off emotions lest sie be "sept up in sadness"? It's bullshit. Both parties are making sacrifices and giving things up, and have reasons to be happy and sad for their respective roles.

...So greater freedom in roles for women meant an INTENSIFYING and STRICTER gender roles for men! So, freeing gender roles for women is NOT “fighting for men too.” In most cases it makes things worse for men. Women are NOT fighting to enter into:
Logging, mining, commercial fishing, roofing, sewage, or construction. How do I know? Because I haven’t heard about one single sex discrimination lawsuit in those fields (and I read the paper & internet news all the time).


And clearly, because Jackal hasn't heard of a single sex discrimination case in those fields, women must not be getting into them. I mean, sure, it only took me ten seconds of online searching to find articles about women having a hard time getting into construction work, or about how more women are trying to get into the field. In 1993 about 600,000 women were in construction. By 1999, that number had grown to almost 900,000. That's still only a fraction of the industry, but it's growth.

And, honestly, most men don't particularly want those jobs, either. Some do, for sure, but they're not the sort of jobs that most men dream about doing.

So women are using their greater gender role freedom to fight to become: doctors, lawyers, pilots, IT professionals, CEO’s, judges, etc… NOT the death professions.


And this is surprising... because?
Is it weird that people tend not to be attracted to jobs that are highly dangerous but, instead, to safe jobs that carry social respect and high wages?

With more men unable to acquire these white collar jobs, and fewer men attaining an education that means more men will turn to the death professions for employment. This means more workers chasing fewer jobs = wage reduction.


*bzzzzzz*
Wrong.
First of all, this pretends that every time a woman gets a white colar job, some guy is forced to turn to a death profession for work. That's just not true. If we're going to pretend that there is exactly a set number of jobs and that every time a woman goes into a job that would have otherwise gone to a man, he necessarily must take some other job, why are we assuming that he's going to turn to highly dangerous "death" work? What, exactly, is stopping him from getting into whatever job that woman would otherwise have had? If she would have been a nurse but is now a doctor, why isn't he going for the nursing position? Why are we tossing him onto a fishing boat?

Second of all, the claim that "fewer men" are attaining an education is patently untrue. In fact, men and women are both going to higher education in higher rates than ever before- women are attending in higher numbers than men, but it's not at a loss to men. That would be like my handing Jackal five dollars and some other person ten dollars only to have Jackal claim that he was somehow losing money. You still gained, you just didn't gain as much as the other person.

So you see when feminists “fight” for ONLY **FEMALE** role expansion it doesn’t help men at all, in fact it puts men from the frying pan into the burner!


Again, to go back to my earlier point, it does this only if men refuse to free ourselves from gendered thinking. If we refuse to see how women breaking out of their traditional gender roles creates opportunities for us to break out of ours, then, yeah, it can mean problems. If you think that your only options are and should be typically "male" fields, you're going to find competition increasing. Feminists are primarily concerned with the jobs that women have because women are currently underrepresented and making less money, but their work is definitely opening doors for men- men can now be a stay-at-home parent without getting as much flack or as many raised eyebrows. Men can work in jobs that have typically been women's jobs but that some men might find fulfilling or interesting- working in fashion, hair, nursing, education, etc.

When is the last time you have seen a feminist leader or webpage moderator talk about the most unconstitutional anti-male law ever made: selective service.

If an 18y/o man doesn’t sign up for selective service he can be imprisoned for up to 7 years.

Why? Because he was too sensitive to kill. This forced (upon pain of prison) societal coercion of men into the male role of killer IS NOT AND NEVER WILL be addressed by feminists.

Why? Because if you’re going to make the argument that men are your class enemy (and oppressor), you can’t admit that women are also oppressing men.


Again, bullshit.
1. Selective Service isn't "women also oppressing men" at all. Women didn't start or create the draft, nor did they decide that women should be excluded. That would be, wait for it... other men who did that. Look at Rostker v. Goldberg for more information, but essentially, the thing that prevents women from being drafted is the fact that the draft's purpose is to get combat troops. Since women aren't allowed to be a part of many combat roles, they can't be drafted. The whole point of a draft is to get combat ready troops quickly. If women aren't allowed in combat positions, what would be the point of drafting them?
2. Feminists do talk about the draft. They have for decades, in fact. The general consensus seems to be "the draft sucks, and nobody should be drafted" from what I've seen. And, as you can see, NOW went to far as to say "If there has to be draft, men and women should face it as equals". Which is to say, if you're going to claim that feminists don't oppose the draft, you should do the ten seconds of research it took to find that information out. Also, if you're a guy, and you feel strongly about the draft being a problem, there's nothing stopping you from trying to get it abolished, and asking for feminists to back you up/give your movement support.
3. A person who is too sensitive to kill won't be thrown in jail- they can register as a Conscientious Objector, and placed in a non-combat position.

Wait... you mean belching *detracts* from your "hot" factor?

Oh, wait, no.
It only matters if you're a woman, I forgot.

I know I shouldn't be surprised about an article like this. I mean, it's on men.style.com. What can you really expect there?

And there's so much obviously wrong with the article. I mean, really?
It would be one thing if these female Shreks were cut from the same cloth as Roseanne Barr or Rosie O'Donnell. But the trouble is they're all smoking hot. It's their job to primp and preen and push stuff up to look sexy—what's the point of putting in all that effort if you're only going to undermine the whole operation with gruesome behavior?


Really?

Weirdly enough, I think that some of us have come to the bizarre conclusion- and bear with me, because I know that this is really advanced thinking here- that women have roles, desires, and purposes that extend beyond and sometimes don't even include "being hot for men".

Woooaah. Hold on, I think I'm getting dizzy. It's such radical thought, my mind might be blown.

I'm just tired of seeing the same old "women's purpose in life is get all hotified for men. Unless you're fat or ugly. Then it's okay for you to be vulgar."

And it's such a blatant double-standard. It's cool for men to be vulgar and obnoxious because it's funny. But women? No, no, no. They've got to be prim and proper and sexed up.

I have to say, I'm also tired of total dolts like this guy being seen as the voice of Manhood. I know that I'm not the only one who feels this way, either. How many times do we need some idiot half-brain telling us what we should and shouldn't find hot? How many times do we need some magazine puppet telling us that we should only find women like Model X attractive, and that women like Model Y? Well, there's clearly something wrong with you if you find that hot.

If you think that you're ever going to find a partner who never burps or farts, I think you're really in for a rude awakening at some point. But thanks, John, for reminding me (as if I needed it) some of the things I really dislike about typical "men's" magazines.

The only really good thing about the page is the comments section. As of right now, there are 17 comments, and it looks like most of them are actually calling the guy on his stupid article. Maybe there's some hope.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm not really a sports fan...

But I was really hoping this match would go the other way.

Because, like... this?

Not so much awesome.

Maybe I'm just weird, but I learned that particular gesture wasn't very nice when I was, like, five.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mirror's Edge...

via: Twenty Sided

My total interest in E3 this year was... well, not very high. I asked my friend who works in the industry about it, so I guess I had some interest, but his "Meh" was enough to make me think that I probably didn't miss much. I mean, really, it's not like that much happens at E3 anymore, anyway. Most of the things they show there have already been making buzz on the magical intertubes for months, at least, by the time E3 arrives.

But, Mirror's Edge almost makes me wish I'd paid more attention to E3 coverage. Almost.



Mirror's Edge sounds pretty interesting, and I've been enjoying the information coming out, for the most part. First person game that looks like it's going to break away from some of the more traditional aspects of the genre and put emphasis on exploration and movement instead of on weapon collection and shooting stuff? Interesting. Level design that requires the player to think vertically as well as horizontally when planning movement? I am intrigued. Sci-fi story that involves a dystopian future disguised beneath a highly polished finish? Fascinating. All those little touches like the head movement while you run, the ability to see your own feet in a first person game, the sounds of your breathing and grunts as you exert yourself, the shouldering open doors as you run into them? *insert synonym for "interesting"*

I could go on and on about how great some aspects look. Okay, maybe I will just a minute longer. I *love* the look of the city as presented in the videos. My impression is that the game takes place at some point in the relatively near future. There's something about the city design that gives the impression of "future" without going full-on Blade Runner or 5th Element on us. No flying cars or anything like that. Just a highly polished cityscape (beneath which, apparently, hides DYSTOPIA! OMGS!). I'm a total sucker for the whole "things are not as clean and orderly as they seem" sorts of sci-fi stories.

So, yeah, color me interested. There's a lot there to be intrigued by. Watching the character discard weapons as soon as a fight is over? What kind of first person game does that?! And I don't see any onscreen info about the character, either- no health bar, no inventory, etc.

I even mostly like the main character- Faith. The eye tattoo is a little... whatever. I mean, it just feels like, at this point, creating a character with a tattoo or mark over their eye is ridiculously cliche', but I can overlook that, I guess. Other than the mark on her eye, she seems like a decent design- she seems to be fairly appropriately dressed for what she's doing. She's looks athletic, and is wearing exactly the sort of outfit I see messengers running around in. So, kudos to that? She's doesn't really seem to be hypersexualized that I noticed, which is also good. The only area that bugs a little bit is that she's sort of the Asian martial arts master cliche'. Obviously, we'll know more about that as the release approaches- November, I think?

Anyway, check it out, let me know what you think. Between this, Spore, Rock Band, and Left For Dead, EA is really turning things around. When did EA start caring about making good games again?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wonder Woman, coming soon...

They're releasing an animated Wonder Woman feature in Spring of next year. It looks promising for the most part. The tagline at the end bugs, but the feature was co-written by Gail Simone, who is sort of like Awesome personified.

But, come on... you've spent the whole trailer pointing out how much ass she kicks, and how she's a born hero, but you finish with "Justice Never Looked So Good" and "It's not polite to hit a lady"?
Really?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oh. My. Gods.

Wow.
That is very bad.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Creating better games...

I'm still touch-and-go as far as internet is concerned, and so I've only been loosely following what's been happening on other sites lately. Last week, I think it was, I read a post about a "Fat Princess" game, and the first four or five comments about it, over at Feminist Gamers. Well, it looks like there was sort of the expected reaction- i.e. lots of trolling and ridiculous name-calling- from the HardCoreGamers.

And while I don't have a lot to say that hasn't been said a billion times about these sorts of reactions, I do have a lot to say about game design. Because, quite frankly, there's a lot of room for improvement. So, I'm thinking of a few posts about gameplay and games and how they could be made better. I'm sure that some of this will rehash what other people have already said, for which I apologize, I'm just sort of letting my thoughts flow, here.

So, a month or so back, I finally got around to completely finishing Mario Galaxy- I got all of the stars with both Mario and Luigi, and I got the final bonus star. And yes, that is me pulling a muscle patting myself on the back. And I have to say, I thought it was tons of fun (except the damn "blow all of this garbage up with bombs that have long fuses even though you've got very little time" minigame. That was, in fact, the opposite of fun. Which is to say, stupid. But I digress). But, after I beat it, I started talking to Jaclyn about it. The conversation about Fat Princess reminded me of my conversation with Jaclyn, in that our conversation turned from "the ways that sex/gender are portrayed in Mario" into "ways that Mario could be made better".

Now, I'm hardly the first person to tackle a Nintendo game on this front, but I have to say, Mario doesn't fare that well in the ways it represents women. There are only a few female characters in the game at all:

Obviously, there's the Princess, whom you're out to save from a kidnapping at the hands of, who else? Bowser. She's hardly the most empowerful of characters, as presented. I mean, despite the fact that she's ostensibly the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, her main job seems to be "getting kidnapped. By an angry turtle. Repeatedly." I did, however, notice something interesting at the end of Mario Galaxy. Without giving away the story *coughMarioSavesHercough*, there's a scene where Peach, Mario and Bowser are all in the same place. I don't think it's a coincidence that the scene ends with Peach making with the soft eyes at Bowser. I'm just saying, maybe she's less "kidnapped" and more "run off"... Just something to consider. Or not.

Besides Peach, there's also Rosalina, a sort of mysterious woman who is the caretaker of the lumas, and your guide to the galaxies. The good news is that you're never charged with rescuing her from a kidnapping. The bad news is that she spends the majority of the game asking you to go out and find her missing stars. Which makes her only marginally less helpless than the princess for about 90% of the game. So, not so awesome on that front. There is, however, a really great part where she's responsible for blowing through a dozen or so of Bowser's warships without much effort. Which is pretty cool. She also seems to grow to about twenty feet tall, which suggests that she'd kick some ass in a fight. So, she's kind of a mixed bag, but for the majority of the game? Yeah, not so awesome.

Except that part where she tears through Bowser's fleet. Damn. That part was sweeeeeet.



*ahem*
Anyway.
The only other specifically female characters are secondary. I think that one member of the Toad Brigade might be female, but they're really there for comedy relief, and I paid very little attention to any of them. There's the Queen Bee, but we only really see her a few times, and, like the princess, she ends up asking you for help because she's incapable of doing things on her own. Her entire design is meant to make her look like a giant helpless creature.

The Lumas don't appear to have a gender, and neither do many of the enemies in the games, since most of them are things like plants, angry stone blocks, and walking mushroom creatures, although I suspect that most people probably read them as male. Bowser definitely reads as male, as does Bowser Jr., but the Kamella Koopa is almost certainly female. Still, most of the things characters that have a sex read as male.

Now, I'm sure that none of that comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with the franchise. In a game like Mario, we've come to expect certain things. We expect that the game will focus on Mario. He'll spend a lot of time doing ridiculous and dangerous things involving jumping on floating platforms. He'll be responsible for completely screwing up the local economy by discovering and recovering thousands upon thousands of gold coins. He'll probably put on a costume that gives him some insane and drug-induced powers like flinging fireballs from his nose or turning into a flying raccoon or something. And, he'll probably end up rescuing the princess. Again.

The thing I want to talk about for a moment is how a game could be made that would give us the Mario action we all love, but also do a better job with representations of women. Because it's my belief that we could get a great Mario game that wouldn't have to rely so much on archaic representations of women as helpless victims in need of prince plumber to rescue them.

Now, with that in mind, I actually think that Mario Sunshine was on the right track. Instead of having Mario start off having to rescue the kidnapped princess, Mario was charged with cleaning up graffiti being spread by a lookalike. Of course, it quickly became a case of rescuing the princess, but it didn't need to be. Or consider Super Mario 3, where, for the first seven levels, Mario was charged with saving various kingdoms under siege, with the belief that the princess was safe at home. It wasn't until the end of world 7 that it turned out to be a trick by Bowser to ... kidnap the princess.

At this point, it'd be downright subversive to have a Mario game where the point wasn't to rescue a princess. I'd love to see a Mario game where Mario sets out to prevent some other disaster being perpetrated by Bowser that doesn't involve a princess in captivity. Given that plot is really an afterthought in most Mario games, it's not like it'd need to be something particularly deep. Bowser is a stereotypical mustache twirling Dan Backslide evil villain, so it could be that he's planning to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom with his weather dominator or something like that, and Mario is out to save the kingdom, instead of just Peach. I mean, Bowser is exactly the type of character to do dumb evil things just for the sake of doing dumb evil things, why not capitalize on that?

That alone would go a long way to fixing some of the issues, I think. Getting rid of the helpless women cliche would certainly be a good start. I think that the next step would be to include women as characters that have some strength and agency. This is tougher, because pretty much everyone in the Marioverse is completely inept except for Mario, and even that's questionable. But, it'd be nice to see that there were women doing something active to help the situation. Instead of the princess just mailing letters, it'd be nice to see her doing something. Even if it was just in cut-scenes, it'd be nice.

One of the best ways that Nintendo could give some agency to the princess would be by making her playable again. I don't even think it'd be necessary to go back to Mario 2 style play (although I think that'd be awesome), but I think it'd be swank as hell to beat the game and discover that Peach had become a playable character. Or, perhaps spread some secret bonus levels through the game where you play as various Mario characters like Peach, Toad, Luigi, and even Yoshi.

Since they love to spread bonus worlds throughout the games now, anyway, why not do bonus worlds where you're tasked with playing levels from the perspective of other characters, and build the levels with those characters in mind? It'd be a neat way to get some of the other characters some screentime, and diversify the gameplay a bit. Imagine that you're playing and you come to a bonus level where you have to play as Peach. Peach has her hover ability, and the gameplay is designed around that. You get to the end of the level, and it's a Switch Palace, Princess flips the switch and, like in Mario World, it turns the yellow outlines into yellow blocks, thus making it so that the Princess is playing an active role in helping Mario defeat Bowser.

There's no reason, at this point, why princess Peach has to stay a 2 dimensional cardboard cutout of a character. Or why the Mario world couldn't include some new women. I'd love to see more villains like Kamella, and the supporting cast could use some women who aren't in peril. And I firmly believe that it could absolutely be done in a way that wouldn't require substantial changes to the gameplay we've come to love from the Mario franchise.

Would adding some sections where you play as other characters or bonus levels where you can choose characters ruin the game? Would having Mario set out to save someone other than Peach or even set out to do something that wasn't "rescue a princess" ruin the game? Would having more prominant female characters that aren't helpless victims destroy the franchise? Obviously, I don't think so. Nobody plays Mario for the deep stories or nuanced plots- I play because I like running around ridiculously impossible dreamscapes full of talking mushroom people and wacky, ridiculous costumes. There's no reason that I couldn't do that just as well without the Princess Being Kidnapped Again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This made me cry...

I'm on my way to work this morning, listening to the radio, when the news comes on.
A man in Lancaster, CA stabbed his girlfriend to death with a sword, in front of their four children after an argument. The 911 tape of their daughter pleading with the opperator to get help was played, and it was the most horrible, gut-wrenchingly sad thing I've heard in ages.

Now, it's been about an hour and I'm sitting here thinking about it, and the thing that's pissing me off right now is that I know that the thing that's going to get paraded out as soon as this starts gaining traction is that there was a history of domestic violence, and some people are going to start saying things like "Well, she should have left."

And while the question of why a particular person stays when they're a victim of domestic violence is an important one, it's not actually helpful in this case at this point. We'll never know why stayed, because he murdered her. And the fact that she stayed should not, in any way, excuse, validate, or implicate her in her murder. The question "Why?" is important in that it can allow the people who care to provide assistence and help the victim escape the cycle of violence. In retrospect, the why is less helpful, and if it's used as a weapon to implicate or denigrate the victim, it's in particularly poor taste.

I hope they catch this guy very very soon, and I hope that those poor kids get the care that they'll need. I can only imagine how completely screwed up you'd be after watching your father stab your mother to death with a sword.

..edited 9:06 am...

Apparently, there's already a discussion happening over at Feministe about the question "why don't victims leave?" It's not about this case in particular, but more about the general questions around domestic violence. I'm reading through it right now, and some of the comments are very good- the point about how the question "why" is too big and cumbersome, while questions like "what is preventing the victim from leaving" tend to get more concrete answers (some of which Thomas mentioned in the comments here already). I hadn't thought of that before, but that makes some sense. Anyway, just thought I'd point to it, since it was a weird coincidence, and since some of the points are very good.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I'm still alive...

I promise.
Still getting set up in Bean Town and trying to get all my ducks in a row so that I can start classes in the fall. Also, no internet at home yet. Annoying.

Anyway, nothing screams "triumphant return" like a meme.
The rules: Things I've done are highlighted in bold, and I've added one to the end.

01. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain A small mountain. And I didn't make it all the way to the top. But I was climbing on it.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone.
08. Said “I love you” and meant it.

09. Hugged a tree.
10. Done a striptease
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long and watched the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game.

17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables.
19. Touched an iceberg
20. Slept under the stars
21. Changed a baby’s diaper

22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
23. Watched a meteor shower
24. Gotten drunk on champagne
25. Given more than you can afford to charity
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
28. Had a food fight

29. Bet on a winning horse
30. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
31. Asked out a stranger
32. Had a snowball fight

33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier
34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
35. Held a lamb
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
38. Taken an ice cold bath
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
40. Seen a total eclipse
41. Ridden a roller coaster

42. Hit a home run
43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day
46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
48. Had two hard drives for your computer
(Two? I've got three hard drives, an external hard drive, a thumb drive, and two disc drives right now.)
49. Visited all 50 states
50. Loved your job for all accounts
51. Taken care of someone who was shit faced

52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
53. Had amazing friends (I like to think that I still do.)
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
55. Watched wild whales
56. Stolen a sign
57. Backpacked in Europe
58. Taken a road-trip
59. Rock climbing

60. Lied to foreign government’s official in that country to avoid notice
61. Midnight walk on the beach
62. Sky diving
63. Visited Ireland
64. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
66. Visited Japan
67. Bench pressed your own weight
68. Milked a cow
69. Alphabetized your records (and my books, and my movies, and my video games, and...)
70. Pretended to be a superhero
71. Sung karaoke
72. Lounged around in bed all day

73. Posed nude in front of strangers
74. Scuba diving
75. Got it on to “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
76. Kissed in the rain
77. Played in the mud
78. Played in the rain
79. Gone to a drive-in theatre
80. Done something you should regret, but don’t regret it

81. Visited the Great Wall of China
82. Discovered that someone who’s not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog
83. Dropped Windows in favour of something better
84. Started a business
85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
86. Toured ancient sites
87. Taken a martial arts class
88. Sword fought for the honour of a woman
89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
90. Gotten married
91. Been in a movie
92. Crashed a party
93. Loved someone you shouldn’t have
94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy

95. Gotten divorced
96. Had sex at the office
97. Gone without food for 5 days
98. Made cookies from scratch
99. Won first prize in a costume contest
100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
101. Gotten a tattoo
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
103. Rafted the Snake River
104. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
105. Got flowers for no reason
106. Masturbated in a public place
107. Got so drunk you don’t remember anything
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
109. Performed on stage
110. Been to Las Vegas
111. Recorded music (In high school for a friend's album. It was horrible, but it happened).
112. Eaten shark (and gator, and snake, and boar, and buffalo, and bear, and grasshopper, and eel)
113. Had a one-night stand
114. Gone to Thailand
115. Seen Siouxsie live
116. Bought a house
117. Been in a combat zone
118. Buried one/both of your parents
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off
120. Been on a cruise ship
121. Spoken more than one language fluently
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
123. Bounced a check
124. Performed in Rocky Horror
125. Read - and understood - your credit report
126. Raised children
127. Recently bought and played with a favourite childhood toy
128. Followed your favourite band/singer on tour
129. Created and named your own constellation of stars
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did (helped explore and settle Canada, thank you very muchly)
132. Called or written your Member of Congress
132. Had them write back (Nope, but I did receive a letter from the head of the tourism board of Alaska once).
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
134. … more than once?
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
137. Had an abortion or your female partner did
138. Had plastic surgery
139. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
140. Written articles for a large publication
141. Lost over 100 pounds
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
143. Piloted an airplane
144. Petted a stingray (I petted a tiger shark once, which is waaaay cooler than petting a stingray, if you ask me)
145. Broken someone’s heart
146. Helped an animal give birth
147. Been fired or laid off from a job
148. Won money on a TV game show
149. Broken a bone
150. Killed a human being
151. Gone on an African photo safari
152. Ridden a motorcycle (Ridden? Yes. Driven? No.)
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph
154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol (All three)
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
157. Ridden a horse
158. Had major surgery
159. Had sex on a moving train
160. Had a snake as a pet
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
164. Visited more foreign countries than US states
165. Visited all 7 continents
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
167. Eaten kangaroo meat
168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
169. Been a sperm or egg donor
170. Eaten sushi
171. Had your picture in the newspaper
172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime

173. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
175. Gone back to school

176. Parasailed
177. Changed your name
178. Petted a cockroach (I've squashed more than a few, but who pets them? Why would you want to?)
179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
180. Read The Iliad
181. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them
183. … and gotten 86′ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you
184. Taught yourself art from scratch
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
187. Skipped all your school reunions (all one of them so far)
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
189. Been elected to public office
190. Written your own computer language
191. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
193. Built your own PC from parts
194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
195. Had a booth at a street fair
196. Dyed your hair
197. Been a DJ
198. Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal
199. Written your own role playing game
200. Been arrested
201. Written/filmed/produced your own pornographic material
202. Dated someone with a page on IMDB.