when the status quo frustrates.

and we didn’t invent apple pies, either

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Of course, it really reveals nothing of substance about Obama other than his religious faith in America Uber Alles, which is unfortunately a prerequisite for anybody wishing to be prez, but I still found this pretty hilarious.

Sometimes You Just Have To Let Other People Speak For You

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

It isn’t plagiarism when the source is credited, dammit! Honestly, it’s just that PZ managed to sum up the meat of what aggravated me the most about this little “poll” with a succinct little comparison. Why reinvent the perfect wheel?

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As PZ says:

Incredible.

I believe that next week they’ll have a question about Barack Obama’s, Colin Powell’s, Al Sharpton’s, and Jesse Jackson’s hypothetical fried chicken stands.

God how I hate things that other people like

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

When I first saw Shakespeare in Love, god how I adored it. I went to see it two times in one day. And then I’m pretty sure I saw it a third time after that. The premise was just so clever! The dialogue so witty! Everything fit together so perfectly! It was utterly and completely impossible to duplicate. It was a feel-good movie that catered to smart people.

I basked in its glow for a couple of weeks. Then it started to pick up steam in the press, and with the public. By the time it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, I was so done with it. The premise was just too clever. The dialogue too witty. Everything fit together too perfectly. It was utterly and completely superficial. It was a feel-good movie that flattered people who wanted to feel like they were better than the groundlings in the pit because they actually “get” Shakespeare.

And so I find myself reliving the same pattern with Slumdog Millionaire. I absolutely loved it when I first saw it. The premise was so clever! The setting so gritty! Everything fit together so perfectly, etc, etc, etc.  In the theater where I saw it, when the movie ended, there was a moment of silence. So I started clapping… and soon, the whole audience was clapping too. 

Funny thing is, whenever I told people about it, I would point out its flaws even as I gushed. “It was WONDERFUL! I mean, it kind of bothered me how the romantic leads grew up from dark-skinned kids into light-skinned model types! And how it reinforced the fate narrative that’s fucked up India through the caste system for thousands of years! But it’s just so clever, the way the game show fits in with the story!”

Needless to say, now that it’s won Best Picture… Well. Did I say I ever liked it? I deny your slander uncategorically. It’s cotton candy. It’s the same old crappy story about people who succeed because the sky fairies want them to. And it uses the beautifully trashy slum setting to get in under the defenses of people (like me) who would normally know better. Damn. I led the clapping. Man, I feel lame now.

I really dug Mitu Sengupta’s criticisms:

It is no secret that Slumdog is meant to reflect life in Dharavi, the vast sprawl of slums at the heart of Mumbai.  The film depicts Dharavi as a feral wasteland, with little evidence of order, community or compassion.  Other than the children, the no-one is even remotely well-intentioned…

But nothing is further from the truth.  Dharavi teems with dynamism, and is a hub of small-scale industries, whose estimated annual turnover is between US$50 to $100 million.  Nor is Dharavi bereft of governing structures and productive social relations.  Residents have built strong collaborative networks, often across potentially volatile lines of caste and religion….

In the end, Slumdog presents a profoundly dehumanizing view of the poor, with all its troubling political implications.  Since there are no internal resources, and none capable of constructive voice or action, all “solutions” must arrive externally.  After a harrowing life in an anarchic wilderness, salvation finally comes to Jamal in the form of an imported quiz-show, which he succeeds in thanks only to “destiny.”  Must other unfortunates, like the stoic Jamal, patiently await their own destinies of rescue by a foreign hand? While this self-billed “feel good movie of the year” may help us “feel good” that we are among the lucky ones on earth, it delivers a patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice for those who are not.

Yeah. What she said.

And also that I’m a shallow wannabe hipster who can’t handle liking things that other people like.

Thought for the Day

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

(Via.)

A billion dollars isn’t what it used to be…

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Red Queen has been thinking about parity:

If you or I were to rob a bank (no guns, no violence, just a scary note and the threat of violence) we’d be facing some serious jail time. But if you are a banker and you rob the treasury department with threats of violently collapsing the entire world economy, you don’t get jail time. You get TARP money. And you still get to hand out annual bonuses and bitch about salary caps.

Now if you or I had to apply for government assistance, there would be some serious investigation into our finances. If you own a car worth more than a couple thousand bucks ($5000 I think), you have to sell it and use up that money first. If you have stocks or bonds or a 401k even a prepaid funeral plan, you have to use that up first. Then maybe you can get some kind of government help. Maybe.

But if you’re a banker, and you’ve run your company into the ground, your own assets are safe. The government will not require you to sell off your vacation house and pump the proceeds back into the bank before writing a check. They won’t even require salary cuts or end bonuses (who the fuck gives out annual bonuses at failing companies anyways?)

What is absolutely fascinating to me are the cases in between– like Kazutsugi Nami, a Japanese businessman/swindler who invented a “quasi-currency” called “Enten” (円天=”money from heaven”), and after eight years of this, recently got arrested on accusations of defrauding thousands of investors of at least $1 billion (and possibly as much as $2 billion).

You can only stand slackjawed at the awesome chutzpah of sharks like this:

Moments before his arrest in front of the TV cameras, Nami was unrepentant as he held court over breakfast in a restaurant near his Tokyo office.

“Please shoot the face of the biggest conman in history,” he said, sipping from a glass of beer at 5.30am. “Time will tell if I’m a conman or a swindler. I’m leading 50,000 people. Can they charge a company this big with fraud?”

Shortly before being led away by police, he was asked if he felt sorry for his cheated investors. “No. I have put my life at stake,” he said. “Why do I have to apologise? I’m the poorest victim. Nobody lost more than I did. You should be aware that high returns come with a high risk.”

So Red Queen is right, people get locked up for stealing chewing gum but get a private island nation if they get some buddies together to steal seven or eight hundred billion dollars at a time. What’s interesting to me is that, in this new age of economic crapitude, evidently even stealing a mere billion dollars isn’t enough to save you from the slammer.

(In truth, I think that Nami’s problem wasn’t that he wasn’t scamming enough money. Even as paltry a sum as a billion dollars is surely enough to protect you, if you do it right. It’s just that that he tried to go it on his own. Gotta go through the family. If he’d funneled just 5% of that money into lobbyists, he’d still be a free man.)

Oh, good God

Friday, February 20th, 2009

When I wrote this post, I wasn’t actually predicting that those two ladies would ever be juxtapositioned anywhere outside the confines of my own head. However, apparently, somebody in the journalistic world thought it would be piquant to get the feelings of that societally-approved chronic uterus self-abuser (aka, Michelle Duggar) about the recent activities of the societally-reviled version of heself, Nadya Suleman.

Joy Behar, guest host Thursday night on “Larry King Live: …at least you guys enjoyed having the babies, you went through the sex then the giving birth. This woman didn’t have any of that, except the giving birth, which must have been rough, don’t you think?

Michelle Duggar: Oh, my, I can’t imagine. I had twins, but I have — I just can’t imagine having eight at once and the responsibility that that brings.

Behar: Why do you suppose this woman has provoked such negativity? They have a “USA Today” Gallup poll saying 70 percent of those surveyed are unsympathetic to this woman. What is going on?

Michelle Duggar: Well, you know, I feel like probably more than anything it’s just the fact of the responsibility issues from their perspective, and I, you know, I imagine that’s probably more of the animosity that’s out there. And so — but I do — I just can’t imagine, you know, her — how she’s going to handle that many little ones under the age of 8. That’s a lot of little ones all at once.

Yes, having them serially gives you the invaluable option of built-in babysitters at each developmental stage by the time the sheer kid-volume starts to get unwieldy! You’re one smart broad, Michelle!

The Duggars are surprisingly restrained on the subject of Nadya, in spite of the blatant attempts by the interviewer to suss out a negative opinion from them towards her, given how loudly they generally wax on about the glories of having a traditional, Christian-American family…which clearly and unequivocably requires a man and woman united in unholy matrimony. I suspect they’re a little nervous about saying anything that might possibly, possibly ever be taken as casting even the slightest negative connotation on the idea of reproducing as massively as possible, given the fragility of their own glass house on that subject.

We are the eggmen

Friday, February 20th, 2009

…and Humpty Dumpty built the wall.

Over some very valid objections, Haruki Murakami decided to travel to Israel and accept the Jerusalem Prize. His speech really resonated with some thoughts I’ve been having lately. If you’re a fan of his work, the whole thing is well worth reading. Here is a short excerpt.

This is not to say that I am here to deliver a political message. To make judgments about right and wrong is one of the novelist’s most important duties, of course. …

Please do, however, allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: Rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this: 

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.” 

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be? 

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Gets You Through the Day

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I am suicidal. With that one little sentence, sent out onto the internet, I’ve already probably altered the opinion of (I’ll say) dozens of people who consistently read this blog. Many who agree with me will probably start to feel pity; people who disagree with me will take that phrase as carte blanche to twist anything I ever have to say about anything, probably especially my commitment to human life. I can already hear the clicks on the keyboards of people about to send me phone numbers and web pages about the “help” I should get. Others will feel themselves disgusted, or angry at me, perhaps looking to censure me for feeling like this. Others will be of the “I don’t care, stop whining” category. Most of all, people will probably not trust me, because as (the only redeeming line of Gothika says) “No one will believe you when you’re crazy”.

My friends and husband are abreast of this knowledge, having it not be a new development by a long shot. Their reactions run the gambit of the “see above”, with a higher push for the “get help” aspect (right now, Hubby and PE are keeping me on an exercise routine). But, for the most part, denial is the major coping strategy of being close to me.
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An eye for an eye.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

An Iranian woman who was blinded in an acid attack is choosing to exercise her right to demand her assailant suffer the same way she has, and the courts agree. In what is called an “eye for an eye” punishment (totally cool under Islamic law, says CNN) her attacker, Majid Movahedi, will be blinded in both eyes using sulphuric acid.

Late last year, an Iranian court gave Bahrami what she asked for. It sentenced Movahedi to be blinded with drops of acid in each eye. This month, the courts rejected Movahedi’s appeal.

Bahrami’s lawyer, Sarrafi, said the sentencing might be carried out in a matter of weeks. He said he doesn’t think Bahrami will change her mind. Neither does Bahrami.

“If I don’t do this and there is another acid attack, I will never forgive myself for as long as I live,” she said.

My first thought, when I saw this on CNN this afternoon, was “holy fuck!” It was also my second, third and fourth thoughts. Bahrami came off as a very sympathetic character in the news segment, which I can imagine is hard to do when you’re demanding a man be blinded by acid. Of course, it’s easy to feel bad for a woman whose face looks like it’s still melting off. Movahedi fucked her up, and doesn’t appear to know that maybe he crossed a line:

He told the court he still loved Ms. Bahrami, but if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said, according to a report in The Washington Post.

“The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

I’m not sure what part of Islamic law lets a criminal who was blinded by sulphuric acid for throwing a whole hell of a lot more acid in a woman’s face allows him to go back and take the rest of her eyes, so let’s assume Movahedi is fucking psycho. (Seriously, because of him we live in a world where a woman can ask for acid to be dripped in a guy’s face and still be taking the high road: “Asked by the judge if she wanted Mohavedi’s face to be splashed with acid, she replied, ‘That is impossible and horrific. Just drip 20 drops of acid in his eyes so he can realize what pain I am undergoing.’ “)

So on the one hand, the part of me that is against cruel and unusual punishment has an automatic gag reflex about this particular punishment. On the other hand, I live in a place where even the creepiest stalkers rarely resort to acid attacks when you decline to marry them, and unfortunately there are many women in other parts of the world who can’t say the same. And the same book that’s used to justify the laws and culture that allow honor killings and acid attacks explicitly gives Bahrami this option, so another part of me wants to say these guys made their bed and can fucking sleep in it. I guess I can’t decide what wins here – the revulsion against an exotic punishment meted out in an area of the world famous for harsh punishments versus the feeling that nothing short of making a few dramatic examples out of men like Movahedi would convince men to think twice before disfiguring women for pissing them off. I don’t like that idea one bit, but I just can’t bring myself to condemn Bahrami. I really don’t know.

Women’s-Only Spaces

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

In my post, Sexist/ Not Sexist (add link) JamesH left the following question:

Purely out of interest, where do you stand on female-only health clubs / gyms?
Or female-only Clubs or schools?
I don’t have a problem with previously male-only Clubs and institutions opening up to admit both sexes, it was long overdue.
However, it seems that the pendulum swung the other way and whereas it isn’t acceptable to have a male-only gym these days, it seems perfectly acceptable that there be female-only facilities. I can’t see the justification for it.
It’s the same with the Scouting movement. In this country, the Cubs and ‘Boy’ Scouts* were forced to accept girls that wanted to join, and had to make the necessary changes to accommodate them. I have no problem with that, but then find it somewhat hypocritical that the Brownies and Girl Guides still exist, and are still run as female-only packs.

Though I have my questions as to whether he’s asking that phrase in good-faith (sorry, JamesH, MRA’s are suspect here) it is an important question to consider.

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Happy Happy Happy Joy Joy Joy!

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

So one of the agents I queried has written back and said she would be “VERY HAPPY!” to review my novel!!!

Later I will sternly remind myself that she may still totally hate the thing in its entirety and the fact that she is expressing interest in it really doesn’t mean that much–the agency has a blog where they say they receive over 150 queries a week and only accept 25 of them at the most, which means I did hit the good end of the odds already! BUT this is still no guarantee that the novel itself will catch fire with them, so to speak. So, no getting overexcited here, folks–calm, cool and collected, that’s me.

Ha! Who am I kidding? I’m E-C-S-T-A-T-I-C!

Really, though, I won’t lose touch with reality. This may all turn out to be nothing much in the long run.

But it’s still pretty neat. :) And it is a step in the right direction!

Fun Times in Racism

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

For whatever reason, my husband and I often times have people say racist things to us, and are shocked/ embarrassed when we respond negatively to them (from looking at them askance, to actually telling them that’s not cool). Maybe it’s because we’re both lily-white Midwesterners, maybe because we dress “white”, or maybe just because people aren’t thinking about the words coming out of their mouth. But for whatever the reason, we end up with a lot of people telling us racist things.

Last Christmas, my Hubby and I were sitting to next to a lady on our flight back from Washington state. We were having a nice conversation with her; talking about our families and what we did over the break. We started to talk about what our families did, and I made mention that my father was in the Border Patrol. That’s when the fun started.

Lady: Oh, I’m so glad we have those agents. Especially after 9-11
Me *non-committal*: Yeah, I guess there’s a good reason to have a Border guard.
Lady: Especially after I went to Canada on this trip.
Me: Really? That long wait is a pain in my nalgas. Irritates the heck out of me.
Lady: Oh, well that’s bad, but it’s better than the alternative. When I went to Canada, I went to a mall, and it was just full of those people. It’s like we weren’t even in the United States anymore.
Hubby: Well, you were in Canada.
Lady *blushing*: I mean, like, North American
Me: What do you mean, those people?
Lady: You know, it was full of people that looked like they should be in Iraq, or India or something.
Hubby: Huh, I happen to think that having diversity’s a good thing.
Lady: Yeah, of course *stumbles, mutters* but I felt weird, like an outsider.
Me: I can understand how that goes; I’ve been the minority before. Makes you have some sympathy for different minority groups, right?
Lady: *blushes harder* yeah, I suppose.
Hubby: So, what did you do in Canada otherwise?

Then, last week, Hubby (in his full pilot’s uniform) ends up sitting next to another person coming to Minneapolis, via Detroit.

Person: I hope that we won’t have too much trouble in Detroit, with the workers and stuff.
Hubby: Oh, we probably will; all the workers are pretty pissed off that they’re getting laid off.
Person: But Detroit’s going to be really bad.
Hubby: Why’s that? (At this point, completely confused)
Person, *leaning in conspiratorially*: I hear there are a lot of…colored people, in Detroit.
Hubby *Bursts out laughing*: I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Person *looks upset*

Finally, this weekend, we went to Minneapolis, to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 50th birthday (wow, isn’t she old?). Now, this one the parties involved should have known better; I’m not a complete stranger that they’re just going to assume I’m going to go along with even “soft” racism. Father-in-law (FIL) and I have already mixed up after he reiterated the Rush Limbaugh quote about Colin Powell’s endorsement. But, the party involved started talking about security, and the really ridiculous standards that TSA decided to pull out of their asses to keep us safe, and FIL had to bring up racial profiling.

FIL: If they’d just start profiling guys, that’d fix the problem and we wouldn’t have to do the stuff.
Me (possibly tipsy at this point): Oh, yeah, brilliant idea! I can just think how wonderful that would be to stop terrorism. Because, you know, that last guy to run an SUV into a women’s clinic, was a white male, so all we’d have to do is stop all white males! What was the name of the Prime Minister of Israel? She had a really great way of stopping rape. Oh, and there was that guy with the gun at the Universalist Unitarian church, he was a white male aged about 50 too!
Party with us: Women pointing at their husbands and laughing, MIL looking pained, FIL looking mad.
FIL: Yeah, because that’s exactly the kind of stuff I’m talking about
Hubby: It wouldn’t work, anyways, those groups aren’t stupid. They’d just get someone else to do stuff.
MIL: Would anyone like any thing else to eat?

It’s amazing to me on some sort of level the number of assumptions people seem to have. They assume that I’m going to just go along with sort of “soft” racism because I’m white. This is a silly assumption in the US today, because really, who doesn’t at this point have a friend, or a colleague, or hell, even an extended family member who’s non-white even if you’re white? Most people at this juncture in history think racism is bad, but suddenly it’s not racism if you’re just saying that “those people” shouldn’t be a majority in a country because it makes you uncomfortable, or “those people” are more dangerous than white people, or “those people” should be the ones getting extra-attention because they’re more likely to commit terrorism. I’d like to think it sounds ridiculous when I phrase it like this to them (and based on their reactions, they probably did too) but then they go ahead and say it without thinking.

This is nothing for Hubby and me. We have plenty of privilege to protect us from this sort of racism: while it’s infuriating for us, it’s still only a sort-of byproduct for wanting equality. For a person of minority, s/he wouldn’t have even had a nice conversation about family members, or it might have been a flinch away. Or it would have to be an “ignore the family members saying stupid things” as my black, Hispanic, and Asian cousins will attest to.

I really wish this stuff didn’t happen.