Sunday, December 22, 2013

the Shetterly cut of Costner's Wyatt Earp

Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp is one of our favorite examples of trying to put too much into a story. When we watched it in the theater, a fascinating thing happened: after each sequence, I thought, "That wasn't bad, but it should've been cut." The Shetterly cut starts with Wyatt meeting Doc in Fort Griffin and ends when the last of the Tombstone cowboys are killed. Running time: One hour and 41 minutes.

Tombstone: the Shetterly cut of the director's cut, aka the Doc cut

Tombstone is one of my favorite movies, despite its many flaws. As a Christmas present for two people who love it as much as I do, I'm doing a simple edit of the director's cut. For anyone who wants to do something similar, here's what I advise:

1. Cut the opening scenes, the newsreel, the cowboys in Mexico, and the Earps getting off the train in Tucson, so the movie starts with the camera panning up to Doc. (Time deleted: a little over ten minutes.)

2. In the scene where Wyatt meets Josie in the woods, cut just after the shot in which Wyatt says, "Yeah, I'm an oak, all right" to the scene that opens with Mattie drinking laudanum. I'm especially proud of this cut. It eliminates bits where Dana Delany really needed a director who would've helped her sound less like a conventional woman of the 1990s and more like an unconventional woman of the 1880s, and it heightens the Wyatt-Josie-Mattie storyline. (Time deleted: four minutes, but for some of us, it feels like hours.)

3. Cut from Doc's death to the credits. Amusingly to me, this cut deletes George P. Cosmatos's director's credit, which, given the troubled history of the movie, may be appropriate. (Time deleted: not quite three minutes of saccharine romance and boring voiceover about what happened to some of the characters after the story was over. Really, when you get to the end of a story, stop.)

I used the director's cut because it has a couple of useful scenes that were cut from the theatrical version, including Doc's farewell to Kate. So the Shetterly cut gives you more plot, more Doc, less Josie, and less dawdling. It loses one action scene, the opening scene that's gratuitous, unoriginal, not true to history, and arguably racist in that it makes the Mexican police look incompetent. Since the Shetterly cut gets rid of more time without action, I'd like to think the most avid action fan would be comfortable with the trade.

Length of director's cut: 134 minutes
Length of theatrical cut: 130 minutes
Length of Shetterly cut: 116 minutes

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ishmael Reed on Black Peter, Krampus and the Real Roots of St. Nick and Santa Claus

Black Peter, Krampus and the Real Roots of St. Nick and Santa Claus - Speakeasy - WSJ: "Black Peter is controversial because the Dutch smear themselves with black face when performing that role. Still, Black Peter is one of the handful of positive traditional images of blacks in Europe. In the popular media in the United States, blacks are sometime portrayed as takers. Black Peter is a giver."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

about feminists who like men and their sexuality

In It’s a Man’s World, and It Always Will Be, Camille Paglia says, "A peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism."

She must be speaking of prominent writers rather than all feminists, because I've known a great many feminists who like men. But what strikes me when I think of them is that liking men has nothing to do with their sexuality. Some feminists who like men, including several of my favorite people in the universe, are lesbians. Some feminists who don't like men are straight—liking cock has nothing to do with liking men.

Which should be obvious to anyone who notices that most misogynists are straight, but I never thought about the number of straight misandrists until today.

G.K. Chesterton on rich people and bribes

"You will hear everlastingly, in all discussion about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is rich." —G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 13, 2013

class quote of the day: Orestes Bronson

"The middle class is always a firm champion of equality when it concerns humbling a class above it, but it is its inveterate foe when it concerns elevating a class below it." —Orestes Brownson

Socialism must reclaim the language of individualism

 I tweeted a link to Sara Salem's excellent Marxist feminism as a critique of intersectionality. In a following conversation, Jeremiah Aviles suggested individualism and neoliberal capitalism are essentially the same thing, and Ms. Salem agreed with him, and I think, for twitter purposes, they're right.

But.

They're right because right-libertarianism and neoliberalism both cast the conflict between socialism and capitalism as a conflict between the group and the individual. To capitalists, people under socialism are cogs, robots, disposable parts, interchangeable elements of a system designed to benefit only a few....

Which is to say, what they are under capitalism.

The first socialists and most socialists today are individualists in the casual sense of the word. The goal of socialism is to free individuals from economic desperation so everyone may enjoy the promise of the US Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness. Oscar Wilde wrote in The Soul of Man under Socialism:
Socialism itself will be of value simply because it will lead to Individualism.
(Irrelevant factoid: "Individualism" appears 50 times in that short essay.)

The capitalist philosophy called individualism would be better called robberbaronism, slaverism, or oppressorism, because the individual's power it celebrates is the power to exploit.

Socialist individualism takes a different form. In The Soul of Man, Wilde said:
Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.
Wilde could not have known that he sensed what Marx and Engels wrote in The German Ideology, a then-unpublished book:
...as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.
Wilde's individualism is the individualism I love. Marx's society in which we all may pursue happiness is the society I want for everyone.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I (sort of) have a character in Milestones, an art show about African American Comics!

A few years ago, Vince Stone and I created Life Force - a short comic for a good cause to encourage people to sign up as bone marrow donors. In honor of Heal Emru / Aide Emru, we updated some public domain superheroes and made the majority black.

Kristopher M. Mosby liked what we did with our main character and did his own version:


That piece will be in Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond:
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum President Melissa Geppi-Bowersox announced the Museum’s collaboration with Inkpot Award recipient Michael Davis of Milestone Media on a historical exhibit featuring numerous artistic examples of African-Americans’ contribution to pop culture throughout America’s cultural revolution.
This makes me ridiculously pleased. If you'll be in Baltimore while the show's running, check it out!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Engels saw what would go wrong in Cuba, China, and the USSR

From Tyrannies ruling in the name of socialism | SocialistWorker.org:
Engels, in his criticism of August Blanqui, a French socialist who believed that revolution would be brought to the masses by a minority, wrote: "From Blanqui's assumption, that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Identitarian unity photo: American Nazis at a Nation of Islam rally


In "Bigotry and the English Language", Ta-Nehisi Coates notes that Nazi George Rockwell praised the Nation of Islam for having...
gathered millions of the dirty, immoral, drunken, filthy-mouthed, lazy and repulsive people sneeringly called ‘niggers’ and inspired them to the point where they are clean, sober, honest, hard working, dignified, dedicated and admirable human beings in spite of their color.
Historically, segregationists approve of segregationists. I wish I could find a picture of Marcus Garvey's meeting with a head of the Ku Klux Klan. Garvey said, "I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman, as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying."

If you're a Critical Race Theorist, you may be inclined to agree with him. But if you do, you'll be at odds with W.E.B. DuBois, who said, "Marcus Garvey is the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world."

And this is probably a good time to repeat what Malcolm X realized after he left the Nation of Islam:
I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being–neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Socialist Bible Verse: Luke 12:15

"And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." —Luke 12:15

Brother Will notes that bit about covetousness should be considered by all self-proclaimed Christians who complain about taxes that help poor folks.

today's news for identitarians

I stumbled on two stories that made me think about the identitarian belief that race matters more than class in the US.

The first, for people who think the Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride cases must be racist: Alzheimer's sufferer Ronald Westbrook killed in 'stand your ground' shooting.

The second, for people who think only black people get railroaded: 25 years gone: Texas inmate Michael Morton cleared in wife's murder. If Morton had the resources of O. J. Simpson, he would've been found not guilty. Instead, he had to wait 25 years for DNA evidence to clear him.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Honey, I bubble-wrapped the windows!

I did a little googling about bubble-wrapping windows as cheap insulation, then took a roll that had been in the basement and started in. People are right: it's easy and effective, so long as you don't mind the effect. I used a foot-wide roll of the small bubbles. I didn't do the windows with my favorite views, and in a couple of cases, I only did the bottom three-fourths. The house seems much cozier now.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Doris Lessing on political correctness

From Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer:
The phrase “political correctness” was born as Communism was collapsing. I do not think this was chance. I am not suggesting that the torch of Communism has been handed on to the political correctors. I am suggesting that habits of mind have been absorbed, often without knowing it. 
There is obviously something very attractive about telling other people what to do: I am putting it in this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I see it as nursery behavior. Art — the arts generally — are always unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be, at their best, uncomfortable. Literature, in particular, has always inspired the House committees, the Zhdanovs, the fits of moralizing, but, at worst, persecution. It troubles me that political correctness does not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it troubles me more that it may know and does not care. 
Does political correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful. The trouble is that, with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe; the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to examine our assumptions, there are 20 rabble-rousers whose real motive is desire for power over others, no less rabble-rousers because they see themselves as anti-racists or feminists or whatever.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Brother Will vs. Vox Day: The requirements of Christianity

At Vox Popoli: Mailvox: Are Christians "required to be dicks"?, Vox Day cites four verses to defend Christian dickishness. Two are offered to support expelling self-professed Christians who "willfully and proudly" disobey Christian teaching:
2 Thessalonians 3:6: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us." 
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 "I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”"
Two are offered to support silencing or expelling false teachers:
James 3:1: "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
2 Peter 2:1: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves."
I agree that the Bible supports the internet advice, "Don't feed the trolls." But I'm fascinated by the context for those verses that Vox Day doesn't dwell on because they don't support a conservative's concept of Christianity:
  1. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2, what is "the teaching you received from us"?
  2. In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, who are the "greedy"?
  3. In James 3:1, why is it that "we who teach will be judged more strictly"?
  4. In 2 Peter 2:1, who are the false teachers who will "secretly introduce destructive heresies"?
In Matthew 22, Jesus taught,
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Since these are the greatest part of Jesus's teaching, two questions arise: What does it mean to love God, and how do you love your neighbor as yourself?

The Corinthians' quote tells what people who love God and their neighbors are not: "anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler". Breaking that down:

1. People who love God and their neighbors have sexual relationships that are moral—to use the King James Version, they are not fornicators, or to use Wycliffe, which may be clearer here, they are not lechers. The teaching is simple: People who love God and their neighbors have honest and responsible sexual relationships.

2. People who love God and their neighbors are not greedy. Jesus said if you want to be perfect, give your wealth to the poor. But he didn't demand perfection—he praised Zacchaeus, who only gave half of his possessions to the poor, which Zacchaeus may have learned from John the Baptist, who said those with two coats should give one to someone who has none, and those who have food should give half to those who have none. Jesus taught that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven, then added that with God, all things are possible. In the context of his teachings, that means God can help the rich share at least as much as Zacchaeus did.

3. People who love God and their neighbors are not idolators. Idolators both worship idols and own them—they spend time and money on things that don't help them or anyone else. In Matthew 9, Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" He was referring to Hosea 6.6: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Idolators turn God into an idol when they focus on ritual rather than improving the lives of others.

4. People who love God and their neighbors are not slanderers. Honesty is one of Jesus's recurring themes, as shown by his harshest epithet, hypocrite, the person whose words and deeds don't match.

5. People who love God and their neighbors are not drunkards. In the context of Jesus's teachings, one of the first reasons would have to be that drunkards often hurt themselves and those around them, and rarely help anyone.

6. People who love God and their neighbors are not swindlers—or to use the KJV, extortionists. Which is to say, you must not exploit anyone. The Greek word that's being translated is harpax, "a extortioner, a robber". Perhaps the simplest way to say this would be that people who love God and their neighbors don't take advantage of others. Which, Brother Will has to point out, doesn't leave room to profit from the work of others.

I'll stop now, with this advice: Don't use Jesus to defend dickery. Here's 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from the 1599 Geneva Bible for lovers of God and their neighbors to ponder:
Love suffereth long: it is bountiful: love envieth not: love doth not boast itself: it is not puffed up:
It doth no uncomely thing: it seeketh not her own thing: it is not provoked to anger: it thinketh no evil:
It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth:
It suffereth all things: it believeth all things: it hopeth all things: it endureth all things.
Love doth never fall away, though that prophesyings be abolished, or the tongues cease, or knowledge vanish away.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

on Jorge Luis Borges and Victor Jara, or art and evil

Sydney Padua, whose Lovelace and Babbage delights me, tweeted:
'Arguments convince nobody. But a hint, a suggestion, receives a kind of hospitality of the mind.' Borges on poetry http://www.openculture.com/2012/05/jorge_luis_borges_1967-8_norton_lectures_on_poetry_and_everything_else_literary.html
 I want to agree. I've advanced that idea in the past.

But it's Borges.

Who I loved as a teenager.

And then learned that he reviled the elected government of Juan Peron and praised Pinochet's coup. Clive James has a damning statement in Borges' bad politics:
There was a torture center within walking distance of his house, and he had always been a great walker. He could still hear, even if he couldn't see. There was a lot of private talk that must have been hard to miss; a cocked ear would have heard the screams.
Pinochet's people tortured and killed a great poet-musician, Victor Jara, a man who sang of peace, justice, and love.

And so I'm skeptical of people who call for hints and suggestions rather than revolution.









Also: Arlo Guthrie/Victor Jara - YouTube

Monday, November 11, 2013

Where Augustine goes wrong

In "What Does it Mean to be Pro-Life?" Elizabeth Stoker quotes Augustine:
And if any member of the family interrupts the domestic peace by disobedience, he is corrected either by word or blow, or some kind of just and legitimate punishment, such as society permits, that he may himself be the better for it, and be re-adjusted to the family harmony from which he had dislocated himself…To be innocent, we must not only do harm to no man, but also restrain him from sin or punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit from his experience, or others be warned by his example. Since, then, the house ought to be the beginning or element of the city, and every beginning bears some reference to some end of its own kind, and every element to the integrity of the whole of which it is an element, it follows plainly enough that the domestic peace has a relation to the civic peace — in other words, that the well-ordered concord of domestic obedience and domestic rule has a relation to well-ordered concord of civic obedience and civic rule.
This struck me:
but also restrain him from sin or punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit from his experience, or others be warned by his example
That's the belief of bullies and cultists. Punishment only teaches punishment, and the example of punishment does not show that what was done was wrong, but only that those who are found guilty will be punished. That's not morality. That's just might.

Augustine has his virtues. Brother Will says this ain't one.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Has the Ender's Game boycott been staged to increase sales?

I was just reading about a wacky conspiracy theory (our government's run by reptilians), so now I'm ready to propose one. The Ender's Game moviemakers have known for decades that Orson Scott Card's homophobia would be a public relations nightmare. Card has admitted that his side lost, but that doesn't make his haters hate him any less. So what do you do?

Until a few days ago, I had no interest in seeing the movie, partly because of Card's politics, but mostly because Hollywood scifi tends to disappoint me. If the movie had simply appeared, I would be ignoring it.

But there's a boycott. So instead of skipping articles about a movie which hadn't interested me, I'm reading about the boycott and finding smart pieces like The Director Of "Ender's Game" On Controversy, Creative Dissonance.

And now I'm tempted to see the movie.

Thanks to the boycott.

One way to deal with controversy is to take control of it. I dunno whether any of the boycotters are actually trying to increase sales, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are.

My take: There are many good reasons to boycott countries and corporations, but people who believe in free speech don't boycott art. If you do, you're on the side of the people who try to ban The Color Purple and Huckleberry Finn. Whenever you're tempted to adopt the tactics of the enemy, you haven't looked hard enough for a third choice.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We are all slaves of defunct ideologues

I may be becoming a binarian in my old age: I'm more accepting of simple divisions now. One is between purists and pragmatists. I try to stay in the latter camp, but I fail, of course. I stumbled on this John Maynard Keyes' quote a few minutes ago:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.
And I thought of another old observation that applies to all of us: generals are always ready to fight the last war.

I fear being the unwitting subjects of beautiful theories is part of the human condition. But it explains the fury of internet outrage, when people angrily promote vaguely-understand ideas that are no longer relevant, and may have never been as useful as their first promoters believed.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

starting a conversation about catcalling and class

Hannah Price's photos of men who catcalled her are fascinating, partly because she's a fine photographer, partly because the conversation keeps being framed in ways she rejects. It first appeared under the headline My Harassers, but she rejected that simplicity in A Photographer Turns Her Lens On Men Who Catcall. She understands that those men are coming from a culture she doesn't know, and she understands the importance of treating different cultures, even those that seem threatening, with respect.

I'm fascinating by catcalling because the people offended by it seem to conflate at least three different things:

1. Attempts to make someone smile.
2. Attempts to get a date.
3. Attempts to insult someone.

Being the class guy, it's the third that most interests me: are the insulting catcallers trying to hurt women, or are they trying to hurt someone who appears to be of a higher class than theirs, someone who has opportunities that they feel have been denied to them?

But the second question interests me, too. The women who complain are inevitably middle or upper class. Does the attempt to get a date ever work with women of the same class as the catcaller?

And the first makes me sad. I've walked by street people who suggested I smile, or cheer up, or appreciate the beautiful day. Not everything said to a stranger—regardless of their sex—is sexual. Sometimes people who are feeling good simply want others to feel good, too.

ETA: Just noticed that my previous post about catcalling was written a year ago. Is October National Catcalling Month?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why it's easier to talk about race and sex than class

If you're white or male, no one will expect you to go as far as John Howard Griffin or Christine Jorgensen. Most people will simply expect you to treat everyone as your social equal. Even among privilege theorists, you needn't do more than periodically acknowledge that you're aware of the privileges you have being white or male—you're not expected to give up those privileges because it's assumed you can't give them up without expensive medical aid.

But if your privilege is economic, everyone knows it's possible to give it away. Jesus, Buddha, and Moses did, and Mohammad chose to live very simply.

Talk about race or sex, and some people will feel guilty for things they can't change. But talk about class, and some people will feel guilty for things they could change.

P.S. Because I hate making people feel guilty, I'll note that while I admire saints, I agree with Marx and Engels: what matters is creating a society in which everyone has the resources for what the Declaration of Independence promised, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"On the Depiction of Women in Games" And books, movies, comics....

"On the Depiction of Women in Games" by Amanda Lange:
The fact is that a lot of times when I see a call to “how women should really be depicted,” it worries me because it feels like there’s a big call for “women should be fully covered up” or “only wear reasonable clothes” and essentially take all the fun and fantasy out. That frankly sucks because even as a woman I like seeing sexy women kicking ass and really want to leave some room for this in my fun-times. 
Here’s my two cents on this. Women should be depicted in a way that’s consistent with the way men are depicted in any one given game. So if a game is supposed to have realistic soldiers in a realistic war environment, it’s silly if the women aren’t also wearing realistic solider uniforms, when the men are. On the other hand, if a game is supposed to have fun fantasy characters I think it’s perfectly OK for women to be depicted in fun fantasy ways. And also men.
Which covers how things should be in every art form: do you treat the women with the same respect—or lack of respect—as the men? If so, any problems in the work come from something other than sexism.

ETA: This is why no cosplayer, female or male, in a chainmail bikini should feel embarrassed by fandom's pulchriphobes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

weirdnesses of the day

Our house has an old garage with an old garage door—wooden, with two one windows. The strikethroughs are because someone broke one of the windows in the door last night. Nothing was taken, maybe because that wasn't the point, maybe because the motion sensor light came on and scared them away, maybe because they saw there was nothing worth the hassle.

Other weirdness is that inside the yard—meaning someone threw it over the fence—was a black power hair pick, the cheap plastic sort that has a fist on the end of the handle.

People connect dots, but not always correctly. These things might not be related.

Why a vandal or a thief would throw away a hair pick is an idea for a story that I doubt I could write.

It'll be a handyman day. I already made the trip to Home Depot for plywood.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reclaiming Civility

My momma taught me me some manners. So did my daddy. I’ll always be sorry that when disagreeing with people who reject civility, I sometimes followed their lead. I rationalized it by saying that going by the house rules is just being polite, but I knew that wasn’t so. The Golden Rule has nothing to do with how people treat you. The Golden Rule is only about being true to yourself.

Manners are about more than philosophy; they’re about tactics, too. Every diplomat knows that—in a better world, we would forget the people who won wars and remember the ones who prevented them. 

In 2009, a CBS poll found that only 24% of women and 14% of men in the USA consider themselves feminist in the absence of a definition, even though most Americans want men and women to have equal rights—in 2010, a Paycheck Fairness Act Coalition poll found that 84% of Americans would support "a new law that would provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace". In 2013, University of Toronto psychologist Nadia Bashir led a team that studied public perceptions of feminists and environmentalists and found they’re unpopular because they have a reputation for rudeness. Bashir suggested listeners “may be more receptive to advocates who defy stereotypes by coming across as pleasant and approachable.”

If I could teach activists one thing, it would be to respect everyone. Some cite Martin Luther King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” to claim King thought civility is oppressive. But his life shows the flaw in that interpretation. Where did he rant at his opponents? Matt Woodley noted that in the Birmingham letter, King "did not question his opponents' motives. Instead, he called them "men of genuine good will" whose "criticisms are sincerely set forth." "I want to try to answer your statement," he wrote, "in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms." And that he did."

King gave advice I wish I’d always remembered: "No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm." In the last year of his life, he said, "The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force." He knew civility is not an obstacle to nonviolent protest. Civility is at its heart. The adjective in "civil disobedience" was crucial to his activism. If it was not, he never would have said, “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”

Where there’s no respect, there's no love.



Three quotes to end on—and out of consideration to feminist anti-racists, none by white men:

"If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die." —Maya Angelou

"Civility costs nothing, and buys everything." —Mary Wortley Montagu

“You should respect each other and refrain from disputes; you should not, like water and oil, repel each other, but should, like milk and water, mingle together.” —Buddha

Related: Respect everyone

Saturday, September 28, 2013

two gods of fanatics

A few years ago, I noticed that "fanatic" comes from fanaticus: "inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple" and wondered who the god of fanatics might be. Bill Colsher left this comment:
Of course there's a goddess of fanatics! Two of 'em: 
Juvenal uses fanaticus in Satire 4 with reference to Bellona and in the 2nd (along with Livy) with regards to the priests of Cybele. The word is actually pretty rare - Perseus showed only 18 instances, mostly in Livy and those mostly refer to the galli.
Bellona was a peculiarly Roman goddess of war. The sister (or wife or daughter) of Mars, her temple is where the senate would convene to meet with persons who could not enter the city, e.g. commanders still holding imperium. Her priests, in a Spring festival, would dance and stab themselves in the arms and shoulders with knives. 
The galli, priests of Cybele, as is well known, would castrate themselves (presumably only once) in an ecstatic celebration on March 24th. Roman citizens were prohibited from joining this cult until the time of Claudius.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Loving grids: I'm an agnostic atheist left libertarian (if you trust grids)



ETA: Lines are one-dimensional, grids are two-dimensional, reality is multi-dimensional. So don't put too much faith in any model of human behavior.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Socialist Bible verses: Proverbs 14:31

As usual, the KJV is pretty:
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
But the NIV is clear:
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Brother Will says: Nothing. How do you improve on that?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A spoiler-free observation about this week's Breaking Bad, subtext, why Walter White's a great tragic hero, and good endings

1. A surprising number of people took the final speech in this week's episode at face value. I didn't expect that because two great performances—by the speaker and especially by the primary listener—should've told everyone that more was being said than the speaker's words implied.

But subtext is often missed.

2. Walter White's a great tragic hero because he never stops believing that he can fix everything if he just tries hard enough.

3. Most stories have one possible emotionally right ending. Two episodes short of the conclusion of Breaking Bad, I don't know whether the right ending is Shakespearean devastation, or some degree of redemption for the survivors, or a hollow victory in which Walter never fully realizes the price everyone has paid.

My socialism is democratic socialism

Continuing my thoughts in My socialism:

My socialism is Democratic socialism. Like most political terms, it encompasses competing ideas; I don't pick one because my stress stays on "democratic". I look at history and trust people to work things out as best they can.

Two quotes by democratic socialists:

Rosa Luxemburg:"Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element".

Eugene Debs: "I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition."

The problem with calling yourself a democratic socialist in the US is the Democratic Socialists of America are unwilling to run candidates against centrist Democrats, which effectively makes "democratic socialist" a synonym for "neoliberal". But their FAQ is still useful: What is Democratic Socialism?

Monday, September 16, 2013

How much puts you in the US's Top 1% by Wealth and Income?

Measuring the Top 1% by Wealth, Not Income - NYTimes.com: "The Times had estimated the threshold for being in the top 1 percent in household income at about $380,000, 7.5 times median household income, using census data from 2008 through 2010. But for net worth, the 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million, or 69 times the median household’s net holdings of $121,000."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

If U.S. Land Were Divided Like U.S. Wealth


Rationalizing Animal: The Righteous Mind

Why Won’t They Listen? - NYTimes.com: "The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others."

The article's worth reading, especially for the point that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. A successful socialist party will have to promote values that appeal to both groups.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My socialism

Robin Hood, Superman, Jesus, and John the Baptist made me a socialist. Robin Hood taught me that heroes take from the rich and give to the poor. Superman taught me that an advanced society like Krypton shares the world's resources with all its people, and if you can't live in an advanced society, you help people where you are to make a better world. Jesus taught me it's easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than it is for rich people to get into Heaven, and John the Baptist gave the simplest explanation of how a sharing society works: If you have more, share with someone who has less.

Karl Marx only helped me understand how capitalism works: the ruling class owns most of the things that make wealth, and the working class works to survive.

Though I suspect I've always been a socialist, for decades I thought I was a liberal. I believe passionately in democracy, and one-party systems in Cuba, China, and the USSR made me accept the logic of people who do not believe in progress. Like them, I thought what had not been, could not be.

But then, like the first people who dreamed of democracy, I realized that what had not been, must be. That's my definition of progress.

In my life, the world has made enormous strides toward increasing personal freedom while the gap between the rich and the rest of us grows greater. People who don't understand the United States say this is a rich country, but the truth is it's a country ruled by the rich. The US's median wealth is not first in the world—that's Australia's, which is $193,653. The US's median wealth is 27th in the world, at $38,786. Half of Americans live below or near the poverty line80 Percent Of U.S. adults face near-poverty and unemployment.

Tell me Americans are lucky because we're not as exploited as people in some other countries, and I'll tell you house slaves should not be grateful that they're not field slaves. The world is rich enough for everyone to live in comfort, if only the resources were shared.

So I'm a socialist. I'm not an ideological socialist—I don't feel like I know enough about Marx to be called a Marxist, and I certainly don't know enough about Marxism's many splinter groups to claim membership in any of them. In his lifetime, Marx looked at one group of self-proclaimed Marxists and said, "If that is Marxism, I'm not a Marxist." I suspect he would say that of every group which wastes time sniping at potential allies.

I'm a pragmatic socialist. Defining my socialism calls for two adjectives:

1. Democratic—I would rather lose under a fair system than win under a biased one.

2. Libertarian—I believe adults should be free to do as they please, so long as they do not limit anyone else's freedom.

If you need a label for me, the best is probably left-libertarian, but you could also call me a Christian who believes in Jesus's teaching about how to live in this world.

To come: Why I believe socialism is practical.

ETA: Top 1% of USA take biggest income slice on record

The social chasm in America

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to survive a mobbing (that mostly happens online)

I learned about mobs as a boy, when the Ku Klux Klan targeted my family. Since then, I've despised mob justice, no matter what the offense or whether the mobbing happens online or off. And yet, to my shame, I participated in online mobbing when I thought it was for a good cause. I failed to understand the negative form of the Golden Rule: Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. Or, if you enjoy conflict but have a protective streak, consider this version: Do not do to strangers what you would not have done to your family and friends.

I learned that the hardest way. I don't know if I made every mistake the target of a mob can make, but I made the most common ones. This is the post I wish I had read the day before I was mobbed:

The internet does not read charitably. Making that problem far worse, many web sites follow the first law of tabloid journalism: If it bleeds, it leads. Whether their audience is liberal or conservative, feminist or men's rights, white or black, Christian or Jewish or Muslim, gay or straight, scifi fans or fantasy fans or romance fans, they know one truth: Outrage is google juice, because outrage junkies need their daily spike.

If you are targeted, the outraged will denounce you at your sites and theirs. What you said will be exaggerated for maximum effect. If you were pseudonymous, people who usually defend pseudonymity will proudly hunt down your real name and share it. If you're female, you will probably get rape threats. Regardless of your sex, you may get death threats—online if you're lucky, in your workplace or delivered to your home if you're not. Attempts to destroy your career may include calls to your bosses. When you have been declared a transgressor, you become an "other" and the mob will excuse almost anything a mob member does to you.

You'll get two kinds of mobbers, haters who want to abuse and threaten you, and concern trolls who want to enlighten you. If the only mobbers were concern trolls, you could treat them like evangelists at your door. But the haters will be far more noticeable. When a lynch mob screams that you've rustled a horse, the ones who would like a nice talk over tea about whether you found the horse or even know that a horse went missing will be far less noticeable than the ones waving nooses.

The most important thing to understand is that you will go a little insane. At the very beginning of the mobbing, when the right response is crucial, adrenalin will kick in and you'll shift into fight or flight or freeze response. You'll be torn between anger over being attacked and despair for the consequences to your reputation. You will desperately want to do anything that will make things better, but you won't have a clue what that may be.

Your instinct to make the mobbing end immediately will be more correct than you will know at the time. The longterm psychological efforts of mobbing can be so horrible that most members of a mob would be ashamed if they knew what they were doing, no matter what they thought you had done. Most mobbing targets have to deal with some degree of adjustment disorder.  Some kill themselves. During and after a mobbing, you may have trouble sleeping. You may eat or drink more. You may be unable to focus on your work. The depression and obsession that can be caused by a mobbing may drive away the friends who had stood by you during the mobbing, starting another and deeper cycle of depression and obsession.

Which is why I'm sorry to say there's no perfect solution.

But I can tell you how to keep from making a mobbing worse.

1. If you think you were wrong, or you are willing to lie for peace, apologize. Don't try to justify or explain what you did. Apologize without reservation, accepting full blame for what you did. Show that you understand your mistake, you are ashamed of it, and you know you do not deserve forgiveness, but you hope you'll be given a second chance.

Your apology will be scrutinized. The most extreme outrage junkies may not forgive you, but most members of the mob will be pleased that you've seen your sin and want to be part of them.

2. If your sense of pride or integrity will not let you apologize, follow this general guideline: Do not hide, and do not engage.

Your goal is to survive with the least damage. Flames spread too quickly on the web for anyone to put out every one. Trying to fight the flames is far more likely to fan them than end them. You must let the fire burn itself out.

But you can't do that by hiding. The mobbers will make and share screencaps of what you said. Any attempt to hide will not only be futile; it will further enrage the mob as it thinks you are trying to escape from justice.

Follow these steps:

1. Do not shut down comments on your post. The outraged people want their chance to speak at the site of the outrage. By letting them vent at your site, they will vent less elsewhere.

2. Add a note to the beginning of the post and in the comments saying that you're leaving the comments open so people may respond, but you won't reply to anyone now because you need time to consider what they say. If you're aware of specific errors in what you said, mention them, but don't try to say more.

3. Do not try to defend yourself. To the outraged, you are now the face of all they think is evil. You are not a human being. You are the effigy they may pummel because they can't hit Satan or whatever they have decided you represent. Nothing you might say will change their minds—they're attacking you because they are committed to a worldview. Anything you offer in defense will become fuel for their fire.

4. Tell anyone you care about to stay out of the mobbing. Anyone who defends you will only become the mob's next target.

5. While the flames burn, spend time with people offline. Go for walks or bicycle rides or something that's physically and mentally engaging. Clean your home. Volunteer to help someone have a better life. Make art. Remind yourself that the people who treat you as inhuman can be treated in a similar but better way, by being ignored.

6. If you suspect the mobbing is hurting the quality of your life, talk to someone you respect, a psychological counselor or a religious person or anyone whose advice you'll seriously consider.

Good luck.

Related: Social Mob Justice: The Outing of Zathlazip

ETA:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Down with kerfuffles, up with celebrations!

I do not want to know about any more kerfuffles. By "kerfuffle", I mean an internet outrage focused on something said or done by someone who has no power to change society. This includes every News At 11 issue I can imagine:
  • Men complaining about women
  • Women complaining about men
  • Old people complaining about young folk
  • Young people complaining about old folk
  • White people complaining about black folk
  • Black people complaining about white folk 
  • Trans people complaining about cis folk
  • Cis people complaining about trans folk
  • Fans of one kind of art complaining about fans of other kinds of art
  • And anything else in which anyone with no power is declared to have the wrong opinion.
I do want to know about people doing great things for people, because I love people who do great things for people.

And I want to know about powerful people doing bad things, because I want to do whatever I can to stop powerful people from doing bad things.

But the one bad thing I can stop right now is participating in outrage culture. So I'm opting out. If you tweet about a kerfuffle, I'd appreciate a kerfuffle warning of some sort. If you don't, I'll forgive you, but odds are good that if you keep doing it, I'll quit following you, no matter how much I love you.

The best advice St. Peter and Malcolm X ever gave was "Respect everyone." That doesn't leave any room for outrage culture, but it leaves all the room you need to work to make a better world.

Katy Perry as Jungle Queen - Roar

Katy Perry - Roar (Official) - YouTube:

Read what you want without apology: on the Paul Cook Kerfuffle, and misogyny vs misandry in f&sf

The kerfuffle du jour is about Paul Cook's When Science Fiction is Not Science Fiction. The buzz words are "girl cooties" and "misogyny". Cook's post may make you roll your eyes wildly—mine spun. I think his silliest notion is that Orson Scott Card influenced Gene Wolfe. But that's not the reason for the kerfuffle.

Cook starts his piece by praising Marion Zimmer Bradley. He praises Lois Bujold's early work in the middle of the piece. In the comments, he says one of his favorite books is by Pamela Sergeant. And yet he's accused of being anti-female. The most roundly mocked part of his post is in this:
Bujold tips her hand in the eloquence of her language (normally a good thing) and the attention to detail that only women would find attractive: balls, courts, military dress, palace intrigues, gossiping, and whispering in the corridors. All of this is right out of Alexander Dumas. True, these intrigues and flourishes do happen in the real world (or they used to), but Bujold, over time with novels such as Miles in Love and Cordelia’s Honor, you can see that Bujold is a closet romance writer. Not that this is a bad thing, but some of us aren’t that interested in romance.
Whether Cook's being ironic or sloppy when he says "attention to detail that only women would find attractive" is "right out of Alexander Dumas", I dunno. At that point, my eyes were still spinning over his distaste for The Shadow of the Torturer, and his not liking Dumas only made them spin harder. But I strongly suspect he knows Dumas was a male writer who is loved by male readers. So calling him misogynistic for not liking work that he says was influenced by Dumas seems odd to me, especially given his "not that this is a bad thing".

What Cook seems to like are Boy's Books. He doesn't like major romance plots, and he doesn't want fantasy tropes in his scifi. He has a traditional male taste in reading that I, a Dumas-lover who believes most great books include romance and who couldn't imagine writing a book without romance, simply don't get.

But I also don't get women who only or mostly like Girl's Books.

And that's fine. It's okay if you like the kinds of stories that are traditionally associated with your gender. Liking old school scifi is not misogynous; liking romance is not misandrous. No one should apologize for what they like to read.

For some people appalled by Cook's taste, my last sentence may be controversial. Would they mock a woman who chose to marry and stay home? Would they mock a man who supported her? It seems to me that in real diversity, there's room for everyone.

Perhaps the oddest criticism of Cook's post is that because he doesn't like zombies in steampunk, he's sexist. Or perhaps he's sexist because he doesn't like zombies and doesn't like romance. In any case, I agree that no one should recommend any zombie love stories to him.

There are people claiming they're speaking up and calling out because dangerous opinions must be opposed. But where is Cook's power? He's a geek in the old sense, someone who likes something that's not popular. He can't influence the field. If you're concerned about power, call out Patrick Nielsen Hayden or another white man who publishes a lot of books by white men with white men on their covers. I'll think you don't understand capitalism if you do, but at least you'll be bravely calling out someone with power in publishing.

ETA: Don't miss Emma's observation in the comments.

Monday, September 2, 2013

For those who love dance: DID I MENTION I LIKE TO DANCE- Flynt Flossy

▶ DID I MENTION I LIKE TO DANCE- Flynt Flossy (@Turquoisejeep) - YouTube:

Updating Thomas Paine on wealth-sharing and the basic income guarantee

If I had to pick one American everyone should know, I'd choose Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, the book that made the argument for the American Revolution. If I had to pick one quote to sum up my philosophy, I'd choose this, from his The Rights of Man: "I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good."

Paine noted in Agrarian Justice:
It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.
Because we are all the world's shareholders, he thought governments should:
Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.
 Perfectly calculating what money was worth in other times is impossible, but it can be done in broad strokes. 1000 Pounds notes, "A typical landless farm laborer might earn £30 a year--- about the same wage as a school teacher."

The median American school teacher pay is $54,270, so, if the US had adopted Paine's proposal, today, at the age of twenty-one, every US citizen would get about $25,000, and would be paid $18,000 a year for life on becoming fifty.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The liberal outlook vs liberal politics, or Why there are liberals in every political philosophy, and not all political liberals are philosophical liberals

I became aware of the problem with "liberal" when I was active with the Unitarian Universalists, who define their faith as a liberal religion. It's a religion that rejects authority and respects difference of thought. Though Unitarian Universalism attracts many politically liberal capitalists, it also attracts people to their right and left, from right-libertarians and Goldwater Republicans to left-libertarians and anarchists.

Bertrand Russell's "liberal decalogue" from “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism” explains the liberal attitude well:

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
Censorship is the easiest test of philosophical liberalism. Political liberals who try to silence their opponents are not philosophical liberals; political conservatives and socialists who believe in free speech are liberal conservatives and liberal socialists.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hit & Miss, Take 2

Just finished watching the sixth and last episode of Hit & Miss. I gave it four stars at Netflix. What Netflix doesn't let me say is that's five stars for acting, directing, photography, and small moments between the characters, but three stars for several weaknesses in the story arcs.

Doing my best to hide spoilers, here are my main complaints:

1. The Big Bad is all bad. We never have a reason to understand why his wife, son, or lover can stand to be around him.

2. The assassin varies her weapons too much. I expect a successful assassin to stick to a basic, simple technique, but Mia mixes them up. I suppose it's to the writer's credit that a job nearly goes bad when she uses a pistol for what should've been done with a rifle, but there's no reason why she shouldn't have had a rifle or gotten close with a pistol. In another hit, she doesn't use a gun when her pistol with a silencer would've been more plausible.

3. A character hangs around, seeming to have no purpose but to resolve a particular plot thread, then does.

4. The series doesn't exactly end. Reading about it, it's clear the producers hoped for more seasons, but the network talks as if one was all they planned. You might think the final moment is clever—you can imagine a reasonable resolution from there—but I think too many threads are left dangling for the never-to-be Season Two.

My recommendation is to watch the first two episodes. Then if you want to continue, go ahead, knowing that the series will not become as good as it could've, but still deserved a second season. All the actors are grand, and Chloé Sevigny deserves a reward from someone for doing so very many things well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A hard fact for anyone concerned about rape convictions and false accusations

From Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial | National Institute of Justice:
Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the
sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where
results could be obtained (primarily by State and
local law enforcement), the primary suspect has
been excluded by forensic DNA testing.
Specifically, FBI officials report that out of
roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989,
about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive (usually
insufficient high molecular weight DNA to do
testing), about 2,000 tests have excluded the
primary suspect, and about 6,000 have "matched" or
included the primary suspect.1 The fact that these
percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and
that the National Institute of Justice's informal
survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly
similar 26-percent exclusion rate, strongly
suggests that postarrest and postconviction DNA
exonerations are tied to some strong, underlying
systemic problems that generate erroneous
accusations and convictions.

It must be stressed that the sexual assault
referrals made to the FBI ordinarily involve cases
where (1) identity is at issue (there is no consent
defense), (2) the non-DNA evidence linking the
suspect to the crime is eyewitness identification,
(3) the suspects have been arrested or indicted
based on non-DNA evidence, and (4) the biological
evidence (sperm) has been recovered from a place
(vaginal/rectal/oral swabs or underwear) that makes
DNA results on the issue of identity virtually
dispositive.

It is, of course, possible that some of the FBI's
sexual assault exclusions have included false
negatives. False negatives could occur, for
example, because of (1) laboratory error; (2)
situations where the victim of the assault conceals
the existence of a consensual sexual partner within
48 hours of the incident and the accused suspect
did not ejaculate (if the suspect ejaculated, the
DNA should be identified along with the undisclosed
sexual partner); or (3) multiple assailant sexual
assault cases where none of the apprehended
suspects ejaculated (the FBI counts the exclusion
of all multiple suspects in a case as just one
exclusion). Nonetheless, even with these caveats,
it is still plain that forensic DNA testing is
prospectively exonerating a substantial number of
innocent individuals who would have otherwise stood
trial, frequently facing the difficult task of
refuting mistaken eyewitness identification by a
truthful crime victim who would rightly deserve
juror sympathy.
Recommended: The Innocence Project - DNA Exonerations Nationwide

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why fantasists should write about rape (a response to Why fantasists should not write about rape)


George Carlin said,
They'll say, "you can't joke about rape. Rape's not funny." I say, "fuck you, I think it's hilarious. How do you like that?" I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. See, hey why do you think they call him "Porky," eh? I know what you're going to say. "Elmer was asking for it. Elmer was coming on to Porky. Porky couldn't help himself, he got a hard- on, he got horney, he lost control, he went out of his mind." A lot of men talk like that. A lot of men think that way. They think it's the woman's fault. They like to blame the rape on the woman. Say, "she had it coming, she was wearing a short skirt." These guys think women ought to go to prison for being cock teasers. Don't seem fair to me. Don't seem right, but you can joke about it. I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke.
If I was going to keep arguing that fantasists should not write about rape, I would use Carlin's example of Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. The humor comes from the inappropriateness of rape in a funny-animal universe. It's like zombies eating the cast of Glee or Superman saving the day in Game of Thrones: it's funny because the choice is artistically incongruous with the kind of story that was being told.

But now I'm arguing the other side. I completely agree when he says, "You can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke." One of my favorite quotes is from Terence, the Roman playwright who had been a slave: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. ("I am human; nothing human is alien to me.") Artists should never restrict their subjects.

Rape has been a subject in fantastical stories since The Epic of Gilgamesh. It's a brutal thing that men and women do to other men and women, so it has to be one of the things that humans write about. The challenge is to avoid the snares that catch too many writers:

1. The degree of trauma suffered by people who have been raped varies enormously, but no one shrugs it off.

2. Rape is a human problem. If a story implies that all rapists are male and their targets are female, its characters are not human. What's sexist about the Red Sonja trope is not that the female hero is raped; it's that none of her male equivalents suffer the same injustice.

I've written fantasy stories about rape and sexual abuse. I wanted to create some sympathy for a villain in my first novel, Cats Have No Lord, so, knowing that about ten percent of abused children go on to become abusers, I made her one of the broken who tries to break others. I wrote "Dream Catcher" for Terri Windling's The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors. I can't remember just now whether it's explicit that any of the characters in my Bordertown novels have been raped, but Bordertown is a setting where all the elements of dark fantasy may occur. That includes rape.

Recommended:

Midori Snyder's The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey

Kate Harding | 15 Rape Jokes That Work

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shetterly, you hypocrite, you wrote a story about rape!

"Dream Catcher", a story I wrote for Terri Windling's The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, is free online.

Discussing Why fantasists should not write about rape has inspired me to write the other side, so in the next day or so, I'll share a new post titled "Why fantasists should write about rape."

Say I contradict myself, and I'll quote Walt Whitman. I'm not contradicting something I've said often: all rules in art are only suggestions.

ETA: Why fantasists should write about rape (a response to Why fantasists should not write about rape)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hit & Miss

Just saw the first episode of Hit & Miss, a smart and touching show about a pre-operative transsexual assassin. I was skeptical when I heard Chloé Sevigny was the star, but I read a little about it, saw the reviews were good, and liked this quote about Sevigny's prosthetic penis: "I cried every time they put it on me. I’ve always been very comfortable being a girl, so it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that someone could feel so uncomfortable in their own skin."

If you've known any trans folk, I suspect you'll agree that she gives an impressive performance. If the rest of the season is as good as the first episode, it's a great shame there are only six of these.

the internet's best short videos about class

Additions to this list are very much welcome!

socialist Bible verse of the day: James 2:5-6

James 2.5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

Brother Will sez: If you're wondering what that kingdom is, it's the world.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why fantasists should not write about rape

The woman who is raped and then becomes a hero is a fantasy cliché that many readers have hated since it became famous with Red Sonja. For decades, I've felt there was something wrong with it, but I've only recently known what it is.

Fantasists who write about rape are suffering from a failure of imagination. If you want a rape in your story, write naturalistic fiction. If you're writing fantasy, find a fantastical equivalent of rape that conveys the powerlessness and degradation of rape. Write about someone hypnotized, compelled, possessed, or otherwise supernaturally forced into doing anything they would not do of their free will.

Fantasy is the literature of literalized metaphor. What would be metaphors in naturalistic fiction—where a train can come at a character like a dragon or a capitalist can drain a community like a vampire or a down-and-out bum can make a comeback like a superhero—are treated as literally true in fantasy. But the symbolism remains: Any fantastical weapon is a metaphor for power, any fantastical obstacle is a metaphor for the difficulties we face in the real world, and any fantastical aid is a metaphor for the things that help us make it through our days. Tolkien might swear on ten thousand Bibles that Lord of the Rings is only a story and not an allegory, but it's a story about people dealing with a power the corrupts those who use it. The metaphors of fantasy may be denied, but they cannot be escaped.

But where is the metaphor in rape? In fantasy, something as mundane as rape is a failure of imagination.

Related: about rape in fantasy and fact

ETA: Someone was upset by my choice of "mundane". I was using it in the sense of the opposite of fantastical, like this dictionary definition: "of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one". Fantastical literature has fantasy in it; mundane literature does not. That doesn't mean one's better than the other, just that they provide different possibilities for writers. If you're going to write fantasy, use it to do what isn't possible in any other genre.

ETA 2: Elsewhere, I said:
War is a metaphor for social conflict. Sword fighting is a metaphor for conflict between individuals. But what is rape a metaphor for? 
I can’t speak to Patricia Brigg’s books. I haven’t read them. But I do believe there are exceptions to every principle, so if people have written well in fantasy about the consequences of rape, more power to them. 
And I must stress that I’m not objecting to writing about rape—I fully believe no subject is taboo. I’m saying that rape is the least imaginative choice that a fantasy writer can make. 
ETA 3Shetterly, you hypocrite, you wrote a story about rape!

ETA 4: Why fantasists should write about rape (a response to Why fantasists should not write about rape)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First African American on a presidential ticket in the 20th century: James W. Ford (Communist Party USA)



James W. Ford - WikipediaMark Solomon notes that this was part of a broader campaign:
"In 1932 the CP ran dozens of black candidates in every region for everything from alderman and mayor to lieutenant governor and governor to member of Congress. All the Party candidates stressed the issues of unemployment insurance and racial equality. Getting elected was not a serious goal. Campaigns were 'mass actions,' political sounding boards; in Ford's words, they were a means 'to mobilize workers in the struggle for their immediate needs.' When asked about chances for the Party's black candidates, Ford replied, 'The Communist Party is not stupid; we know that better than 4 million Negroes in this country cannot vote...and besides this, there is a great anti-Negro sentiment which the Party goes up against when it puts forth Negroes as their candidates.'"
The Communist Party USA won more votes with Ford on the ticket than in any other race:

YearPresidentVice-PresidentVotes
1924William Z. FosterBenjamin Gitlow38,669 (0.13%)
1928William Z. FosterBenjamin Gitlow48,551 (0.13%)
1932William Z. FosterJames W. Ford103,307 (0.26%)
1936Earl BrowderJames W. Ford79,315 (0.17%)
1940Earl BrowderJames W. Ford48,557 (0.10%)