Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Ghost of Lilly Kane

(found via WFA)

ms_ntropy asks an interesting question about my favorite recently cancelled show:

Is Lilly Kane (Veronica Mars) a [Women in Refrigerator]*?

I would argue mostly no, because

1) Lilly is always a person to us.

We learn a lot about Lilly after her death. (Technically, everything we learn about Lilly we learn after she has died.) And we learn this because of Veronica's investigation. In searching for Lilly's killer, Veronica never treats her dead friend as a symbol; Veronica is very much focused on finding Lilly's killer, not on taking revenge on the person who took her friend from her. And no matter what she finds out about her friend - who was very real and very flawed - Veronica still views her as a friend. This is true even of Lilly's boyfriends and brother, the former of which had a tendency to put her on a pedestal.

and most importantly:

2) Lilly has agency.

Even aside from the question of whether Lilly's ghost is really Lilly, Lilly was killed because she was important, not because Veronica or someone else was. Lilly was the one with connections and knowledge and power. Lilly was killed to stop Lilly, not to send a message to Veronica. Plus, Lilly's death resulted in lasting changes to Lilly's entire world, not just Veronica, and not just Veronica's world.

The problem with WiR, after all, isn't that women get hurt or killed, it's why women get hurt and killed and how often women get hurt and killed and how little we know about them other than that they get hurt and killed. A lot of the complaints about Tygra and Big Barda are not so much that they were hurt/killed, it's that didn't fight back, which makes them seem to be secondary characters rather than superheroes - ie, it treats them like people we know little about. The rest of them seems to be more just general disgust at this happening yet again. Plus, added ire for the possible allusion to WiR in leaving Big Barda on the kitchen floor.

*ms_ntropy actually asks if she is a "Person in Refrigerator" after also asking why WiR is restricted to male protagonists. Not that I don't think that's a good question, I just think that it's a bit silly to ignore the gender implications of stuffing women in refrigerators, especially considering what recently happened to Big Barda. More importantly, Lily's not the protagonist, so why use gender neutral language for non-protagonists if you aren't questioning limiting the discussion to female victims?

Only Amusing in Small Doses

I'll admit that I was skeptical at first of Ragnell and Kalinara's decision to tag each link at WFA.

After some time, I've decided that it is the best idea ever.

Now, instead of seeing:

Why do I bother?

I see:

Why do I bother? (Rational Mad Man)

Really, sweetie, none of us know either. And I doubt any of our theories are terribly complimentary.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dear Heroes Writers

Didn't we do this already?

I mean, really, was there anything in tonight's episode that wasn't stolen from last year?

I Knew This Would Be the Case

I'm bored. So I turned on The Big Bang Theory to see how bad it would be.

The problem is

A) I love Sheldon, not the other dude that we are supposed to relate to and like.

B) Sheldon's costume - The Doppler Effect - has to be one of the best costumes ever.

C) I want to be at the party were everyone recognizes the awesomeness of his costume and creates a prize for "the costume that best visualizes a scientific principle" just because it's that awesome. I don't want to be at the party they go to in the show.

And yes, A-C have everything do with the fact that, as a first-year, I was awarded "Most likely to explain a scientific principle during dinner" - or something of the sort. (I'm sure it was funnier than that.)

I want to love this show so much! Because the science jokes are soo effing funny! But everything else? badBADBAD!

Oh, and, gee, not sexist at all:

"But in the information age, we are the alpha males!" No, you're still the dipshits. Sexy men don't resort to evo psych and Nice Guy arguments. And way to spoil one of the few nice moments with a rape joke/nice guy lament, assholes.

Anonymous Cowards

So, I just googled my real name (for slightly random reasons that are partly to do with a career workshop I was just at) and discovered that

1) most of the first page is not about anyone with my real name, but about an actress that shares my last name who played a character who shares my first name.

2) The first real mention of me was of an award I forgot that I had received. What makes it extra cool is that it's from grad school - which I dropped out of - which actually makes it good to mention because it helps to show that I simply refined what I wanted to do rather than completely changed course or completely flunked out.

CLA also reminded me that I keep forgetting to put down that I've presented a paper at a conference before. Which is part of what made this conference kinda of a weird experience. I've never been to a conference for work before, but I've been to a couple similar things for school, I've tagged along with my dad to one of his before, and with my mom to a couple of hers*, I've presented a paper at one myself before (as a student) and I've even helped my dad and the team he was working with teach full day workshops. I realized once it was all over that I wasn't at all nervous about what to expect, which is weird for me when I'm going to public things like this for the first time. But, really, it wasn't the first time, which is why I was so very not nervous at all.

2) The second is also from grad school - and includes a really bad picture of me.

3) The third is from undergraduate. (Not so) Boring school stuff. A better picture of me. I actually really wish I could share this. It was lots of fun. :)

4) My real name is in no way connected to this blog. Except in the google search I just did. Heh.

5) My alma mater finally deleted my first web page. Written all in html - text only - and uploaded using pine and FTP transfer. I hope I have a copy somewhere.....

One last question. Because of #1, I'm guessing any prospective employer googling my name will add stuff to it to try to find me and not the actress. But I can't think of what - any ideas?

*Yeah, I know you aren't technically supposed to be able to do that. When I went with my dad, it was being held at the Anaheim convention center. We parked at the convention center, I went to Disneyland, he went to the convention, we met for lunch, etc. I wasn't actually "at" the convention, but I spent some time wandering around the convention center and peeking into meeting rooms while I was there. When I went with my mom, it was for a kid's lit conference that's held every year at a local private college. One of her co-workers wasn't able to make it to the dinner, so I got the co-worker's ticket.

Hybrids and Bastard Formats

So what do librarians talk about when they get together?

Apparently, where to shelve graphic novels.*

Is it art or literature? Dewey says art. Most libraries disagree (if the librarians at the panel are a good indication, anyway).

I'm sure you are all appropriately fascinated to discover that Dewey says that The Amazing Spider-man is shelved under 741.5973: Arts and Recreation; Drawing and Decorative Arts; Drawing and Drawings; Cartoons, caricatures, comics, graphic novels, and fotonovelas; historical geographic, persons treatment; American author/artist/creator.

What I actually find interesting, but not surprising, is that the DDCS has an extreme bias towards the written word. Part of what causes a lot of the hand-wringing and confusion is that most works of sequential art are hybrids rather than one or the other. It isn't just art, but it isn't just text, either.

Part of the logic behind classifying graphic novels in the 700's is that other hybrid works are classified there as well, such as dramatic works. The problem is that technically, you are supposed to be able to classify all kinds of formats by the DDC, so making the distinction between how the information is presented on the pages, but not between actual formats - unless it's fiction! - seems pretty arbitrary. Why are movies classified as Arts and Recreation? Are recordings of theatre productions shelved in the same place? (And why the hell can't I find something to tell me how audio fiction books are supposed to be classified? Are they Arts and Recreation or Literature?)

I suspect that issues like this are going to become more frequent and that Dewey will either fade into non-use by the general public or will have to completely revamp how they classify all kinds of non-text works.

*This particular "workshop" covered more than this, but a lot of the time was spent on the DDC for graphic novels.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wait, Mr. Elephant!

I've been at CLA for most of the day. My first day at my first professional conference. Why, I almost feel like a real grown-up!

The last workshop I went to was the best. It was about Kamishibai, a traditional Japanese storytelling format. It's kind of like a cross between a slide presentation and a flannel board story. Kamishibai stories usually consist of about 10 large cards that have illustrations on the front and cues/the text of the story on the back. You flip the cards as you tell the story, just like you would flip pages. Only, the illustrations are always facing the audience, because you don't need to twist the pictures around to read the text, which lets you stay more engaged with your audience and lets kids really study the pictures. Often they are displayed in theatre shaped frames.

They can also be very interactive. The first story we listened to was called Larger, larger, larger!. The storyteller had us repeat "grow larger, larger, larger!" (in Japanese!) before she would flip the card to reveal the huge pig, huge egg, etc. (And I'll just note here that while this may seem like no more than just good fun to a lot of people, one of the things they go over in our storytelling workshops is that toddlers and preschoolers need as much practice speaking as they do listening. Giving them meaningful phrases to repeat helps develop language skills, especially among very young children and ESL learners. Personally, I also think that experiences like this help kids to think of themselves as writers as well as readers. And better writers make better readers.)

The people that did the presentation had a few really nice kamishibai stories for sale based on folktales around the world,* but we all couldn't get over the modern samples they'd brought over from Japan, especially the stories for preschoolers. Which, unfortunately, aren't available for sale in the US.

Turns out, they are available for sale outside of Japan - just still not in the US!

This is either a Dutch or a Belgian site that sells Kamishibai, and it has some of the cards they showed us during the workshop.

I loved this one, called Strong Together! (Or Together we are Strong! I'm not quite sure.) Besides being insanely cute, the pictures tell the story enough on their own that you can tell the basic plot of the story even though the cues on the back of the cards weren't translated: A gray spiky ball that is at least three times as large as each of the squares comes along and scares the squares away. The squares are sad. The squares cry. But the squares have an idea; they climb on top of one another to make a tower. Now they are taller than gray spiky ball. Now gray spiky ball is scared and runs away.

I really, really, really want The Round Greedy Trolls too. Which, apparently, teaches math and sharing by having the three round, greedy trolls fight over two ice cream cones.

*Speaking of which, is having a kid hatch out of vegetation a common occurrence in Japanese folktales? ^.^ I suppose that would explain a lot of my favorite manga.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Another Note to "Leaders" Declaring Premature Victory

Wildfires stripping hillsides bare in the fall? Cue to mudslides in winter - provided we actually get rain.

Call Me Crazy

Now, the six illegal immigrants caught stealing relief supplies from Qualcomm may have simply been planning on selling the supplies, but did anyone think to consider that they may have been bringing them to families and friends hiding/living in the hills out of fear of being arrested?

Sadly ironic, no?

Regardless of the guilt or innocence of this particular group of illegal immigrants, it seems to me if any of our leaders actually wanted to be a leader, they'd do more than just call off the hunting of illegal immigrants for logistical reasons. They'd also declare/call for temporary amnesty and send someone out to deliver supplies and make it clear that no illegal immigrants who go to Qualcomm will be arrested or have their presence documented in any way (except possibly age and overall numbers for statistics reasons).

Does anyone know if RedCross or Fire and Rescue is sending anyone out there?

I Love Stephen Colbert

He's filling out the paperwork to run in South Carolina as a Republican and Democratic candidate. Which is all very silly and would be very stupid, except that the main point of the joke is the very real fact that it costs $25,000 to run as a Republican, but the Democrats only require $2,500 - which can be waived if one gets enough signatures on a petition.


(I am curious though. I wonder if Republican's usually charge candidates more, or if the cost of running depends more on which party holds more power in that state, and the average income of each state.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Cost of Global Warming

At least a portion of the destruction in the past few days and near future can be blamed on global warming.

Drought and warmer winters have made turned the natural presence of bark beetles in the San Bernardino Mountains, much of which is National Forests, into an epidemic and extreme fire hazard.

Trees weakened by drought and pollution are less likely to produce enough sap to expel boring beetles. Warmer winters means that more bark beetle eggs will survive to adulthood. The lack of natural fires and prescribed burns also creates over growth that contributes to an unnatural buildup of fuel.

Here is a map of Bark Beetle infestation in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The above map is from the San Bernardino County Museum.

Apologies for the size, I couldn't find a better one. You should be able to click on it to make it bigger.

Between the two main lakes, at the edge of the western swath of pink and red, you should be able to make out where the 18 - the highway that runs from Lake Arrowhead to Big Bear Lake - meets the 330 - the middle road leading from the mountains to the valley. That's where Running Springs is.

This is the current fire damage in Running Springs.

The above map is from rimoftheworld.net. Since residents are using that site to get updates, and the site administrators have taken everything down except the fire updates in order to deal with the demand, please wait until the fire is contained before clicking through.

You can see that the burn area overlaps the beige and lighter pink area on the first map. The latest reports are that the fire is moving towards Lake Arrowhead. (The western lake.) So it's burning along the pink area, not toward the beige and green area.

The Lake Arrowhead fire is on the western edge of the lake, the fire area overlaps the pink and dark pink areas on the first map.

I Hate The News

"We aren't having a public health crisis in addition to the property destruction because the state and federal government learned all sorts of good lessons from Katrina!"

Oh, bullshit

We aren't having a public health crisis because


b) California learned some lessons from the 2003 fires.

c) This is mostly happening in rich, often white, areas of SoCal

d) there aren't so many national guard units needed yet that the war has become an obvious issue

seriously people, wtf?

It's Still Several Blocks Away From the Library

But it's eating up all my kids homes. I just hope they're all ok.


correction: CBS is now showing downtown and there is smoke right behind the library (which is off screen)

update: two blocks away

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Like A Disaster Movie

The News tonight:

Fires all over SoCal. Fire units stretched thin. State of Emergency declared. National Troops mobilized.

Flooding in New Orleans again. A canal closed. Levies may break.

In other News, the president is asking for more money for war in order to maintain access to oil in the middle east.

All flowing almost exactly as if it was written for Deep Impact meets An Inconvenient Truth.

(except no mention of how many National Guard troops are now not deployed in CA bc of 1 and 2.)

Correct Me If I'm Wrong, But...

(spoilers spoilers spoilers....that you've probably heard already anyway)

.........when people are unconscious or dead, their knees tend to not do this:


At least Bucky's knee could conceivably be resting against his other one. But Big Barda? How the fuck did she fall that way, and why didn't gravity pull her knee down?

Dear comic people, if you want us to stop picking on you, you might at least consider showing superheroines actually looking dead when you kill them, rather than like a maiden protesting her imminent deflowering.

Now I realize this isn't exactly the most important thing to complain about, but it seems pretty typical for the particular way in which writers, artists, and editors in comics can be incredibly stupid beyond belief.

Oh, and Bellatrys, here's another thing to add to your list: note how we are at eye level with Bucky, even though he's lying on the ground, but we are practically looking through a hole in the ceiling down at Big Barda.

In other news.

Oh, my God.....He makes you do chores?!?

I still love Runaways.

And, can Brian and Joss just write all the superhero kids from now on? Cuz' that would improve Heroes immensely.

Edited: Because I obviously know nothing about Captain America other than that he died. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What's the problem with DC? (And Marvel too?)

Personally, I think they are just plain stupid. They've spent too much time catering to a small, specific audience that they are completely oblivious as to the fact that not only is their audience actually more diverse than they are, but that their potential audience has positively exploded recently.

I mean, sure, DC (finally) started a of line stand alone graphic novels for teen girls - a line that has absolutely nothing to do with the characters they are famous for - but well, that's pretty much it. Which, considering some of the huge changes and opportunities in recent years, is just ridiculous.

(I know even certain Fangirls have thought this next bit was a weird point when I've brought it up before, so let me see if I can explain this a little better this time.)

Marvel and DC consistently put out an insane amount of movie-tie-in books for kids when their superhero movies come out, but none of them is ever comics or a graphic novel. Why?

In addition to the teen manga that's been in the store since we opened, the bookstore now has a section just for graphic novels for kids. We've had it for about a year. It started out as less than one shelf; it now takes up more than a whole bay. (Partly because they recently changed how we shelve things; beginning reader graphic novels used to be shelved with beginning readers.)

I might try counting them today to be sure, but I think there are more titles about Marvel and DC characters in Beginning Readers than there are in the graphic novel section. I'm fairly certain the Disney has more graphic novels in the kids section than Marvel and DC do, combined. Hell, Disney (ok, technically Disney licensed titles by Tokyopop) even ties Marvel and DC individually for graphic novels in the teen area - and easily outsells DC. (Marvel is saved from getting beaten by Kingdom Hearts by the ever popular Runaways.)

What the hell? It's not like their non-graphic movie-tie-in books don't sell. It's not like graphic novels don't sell to kids. Why are there practically no graphic novels by DC and Marvel for kids? It just makes no sense.

It's not like, unlike Scholastic, they are being asked to try a new format. They kinda already know of to do comics. It's not like this wouldn't get them new customers for their actual comics. A lot of the kids asking for Bone or Pokemon books are not already comics readers. Some of them may be, but, judging by how often they have to fight with their parents in order to buy a graphic novel, I doubt they all make regular trips to the comic store. And while parents are still quite skeptical of the literary value of sequential art, they are less reluctant to let their kids buy a thick graphic novel at bookstore than a very thin comic book in a store where most of the books on display feature porn-esque and graphically violent covers. These now elementary kids, however, will be much more likely to spend their allowance as a teen on Marvel or DC comics if they get attached to Marvel and DC characters now.

It's not a given that these kids who are getting hooked on Bone are going to start walking into comic books stores and buying comics by DC or Marvel once they can do so; it's not a given that any kid who might do this will do it no matter what. It's also not a given that their love of the Batman movies will remain strong enough over the years to give them a reason to go to comic book stores when they are old enough to do so alone. But that's exactly what DC and Marvel are assuming is true.

And don't tell me that superheroes just aren't highly popular among kids - boys and girls. Fantasy novels are extremely popular at the moment for much the same reasons that comic fans are fans of comics. Very few of the most popular kid and teen novels in recent years would have sold as well as they did if kids didn't love heroes with special powers and/or gadgets.

You can see this same obliviousness play out in how they didn't capitalize on the goodwill and interest generated among non-comic reading adults through the popularity of the X-Men and Batman movies. I actually got interested in comics because I loved the first X-Men movie. Being a book person, I wanted to read the books too. But it took me several years to become a regular at my local comic store because nothing I found there reminded me of the movies. It was Runaways, Buffy, and finding fellow fangirls to give me some advice on what to try that finally did the trick.

I can't be the only one who got excited about comics because of the movies. I can't be the only one turned off by the in-crowd mentality among comic fans (yeah, I'm looking at you, Dale Carnegie acolytes), the vast differences in tone (read: porn style covers and other common complaints) between the comics and the movies, and just how incredibly confusing it all is to newbies. And, again, how dismissive even usually helpful fans are of legitimate complaints. "But you can always look it up on on wikipedia!" is not a helpful response to "Damn, these backstories are confusing." I'm not looking for more HW to do, thank you. Are there any titles that don't require research? Because if not, I'm going back to the manga section. At least there I can easily order back issues if needed.

I know I can't be the only one, because much of the anger over the MJ statue came from newbies and non-comics readers who loved the movies. I don't think that the lesson of the MJ kerfluffle is that "sex sells". I think Marvel and DC should have taken it as a sign that they have a bigger fanbase than they thought, and that they need to treat these new fans with respect or they will lose them before they ever really had a chance to get to know them. A lot of what this means, btw, is truth in advertising. Don't put cheesecake covers on non-cheesecake comics. Don't pretend that the MJ statue isn't about sex or confuse accusations of objectification with being accused of simply showing something sexual. Don't respond to complaints by saying that it fits her character; it doesn't fit her character as the movie fans know it, and telling them that the movie doesn't count is hardly going to get them coming back and buying your stuff. Instead, explain the idea of multiverse to the newbies and direct these new fans to something that they will like. And when you have trouble doing that last, take a good, hard look at the lack of diversity in your current products.

I don't know if their recent corpse on the kitchen floor was a deliberate diss to feminist fans or not. I think it's kind of like arguing whether someone meant to be deliberately insulting when they said something sexist. It's not the intentions I care so much about, but the effect of the sexism. Whatever their intention, DC just demonstrated once again that they are completely oblivious to both the diversity of their audience and the diversity of their potential audience.

So, was DC being stupid or sexist with their latest blunder? Well, like Pandagon, this is a both/and blog. DC was both stupid and sexist for killing you know who, and leaving her on the damn kitchen floor. Seriously DC, this is why I think twice every time one of your comics looks interesting. And don't even think I've forgotten how much you can suck too, Marvel.

Edited: for grammar, spelling, etc. And to add that I did go ahead and count up the number of DC and Marvel titles in the kid's manga/comics section. Combined, they have a grand total of four titles. One copy each. To put things into perspective, there are two Yu-Gi-Oh! titles, with about four copies each. Seven Babymouse titles, with about 3-6 copies each. Eight Captain Underpants, with a full faceout and backstock for almost every title. One title each for Artemis Fowl and Warriors. The former has a full faceout, but that's because it's a new arrival, it will likely shrink down to just a few copies like the latter within a month or two. All of these books are thicker and larger than the Marvel and DC titles, so that makes the latter really hard to see when browsing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Look Ma! A New Class of Vertebrata!

Dear Jellvision,

Rodents are mammals too.

I think the word you were looking for is....um....Badger, actually.

Who doesn't know jack now?

I Hate Commercials

(but I'm feeling better about Heroes this week.)

A few questions/observations for the people who are supposedly trying to get me to buy stuff.

Career Builder - So, only men have careers? Well, that thats hardly a convincing argument for me to to buy what you are selling. ps, when I have to fucking pause the damn commercial to be certain that there is indeed a woman or two in the background, you might as well have not have them in there. (Except for the sake of those actresses' careers.)

Ah, yes, Ritz - "We have women in our commercial. But they don't talk. The guy in the lab coat does."

30 Days of Night - Women are good for screaming. And being bait. And giving the camera soulful looks. And occasionally saying that stupid thing that you know is going to bite the person who said it in the ass later. (I don't know if the movie is actually like this, I just thought, considering recent denials and conventional wisdom that women don't go to the movies, that it was worth pointing out that this is how it's being sold.)

Subway - Women talk! About their looks.

iPhone - Dear Apple. I really love your products. I usually love your commercials. So I just have to ask: Do women not own iPhones? Because that's would be news to my mother.

NBC comedy - All our shows are about men. Except for 30 Rock. Which is Tina Fey's show. But look! A Baldwin!

ER - Wow! A woman! Who isn't just a mother but a doctor too! Yeah, I can't imagine why ensemble shows are popular among women.

Journeyman - Man saves woman. Hey, aren't I watching that show already?

As for Heroes

Bad things:


Micah's bratty cousin.

Mr. I'm going to bully you into going out on a date with me. Claire letting him.

Stalker Dad. Keeping secrets again.

Crying "I'm helpless without a man" girl gets to add hopelessly naive to her resume.

Two grown men putting a little girl in danger.

Good things:

Micah's other cousin. She has a female friend! And she beats the guy who threatened her - and it wasn't with sexual assault.

And a big congrats to Heroes for handling the New Orleans bit much much better than I thought they would.

And hey! a girl talks to Claire with the intention of being nice!

Matt's (not) kid gets a mention. And hey! He didn't just spontaneously generate into this world

Crying "I'm helpless without a man" girl has an actual skill! It may not be a superpower, but it's useful.

Next week: Kristen Bell - yay!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Now I'm Never Going to Get Any Work Done

Thanks, Lyle

Btw, when you sign up (which you don't have to do to play, just to kep a record of your scores), the choices for gender are:

Not sure

Than it asks

What is your sex

Which is a fill in the blank question

I'm guessing it's mostly there as a joke, but it's kinda nice to see something besides "male or female" in any case. And hey, I'm all for smart jokes that point out that "sex" and "gender" are not the same thing.

Oh, yeah, and, I don't know jack.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Stupid, It Burns!

I have all kinds of shit to do, but once I'm done, Rabinov is getting fucking skewered for voluntary providing quotes such as

"It's tricky," he said. "It may have been too rough for women, and we didn't get the reviews we had expected."

re: the "failure" of The Brave One.

Soooooooooo.......................the only two movies (The Brave One and Resident Evil 3) that I've been tempted to see in the last month both feature women doling out lots and lots of violence, but the reason why I didn't shell out $20 bucks to see them isn't because they scheduled them the same time as when my shows were starting back up. It's also certainly not because every time I thought to try to fit one into my insane schedule, I though "fuck it. you know they probably screwed it up anyway. Wait until the dvd when it's not so damn disappointing that they did. In the meantime, finish off those Fullmetal Alchemist episodes that are still on the TiVo."

Oh, and The Brave One is a "failure" despite making money back and, more importantly, putting WB in the running for an Oscar.

Robinov said he would happily make Nikki Caro's noble failure "North Country," starring Charlize Theron, again.

Good for him. Next time, though, he might want to let someone who is not a douche have a crack at it. Maybe then we'll get a good film rather than just a ok one.

And Robinov is still seeking the right script and star for a "Wonder Woman" feature, which has been in development for a decade.

no comment

(via nimbus in the comments at Written World)

He says this shit like we're supposed to applaud him for it, and I'm actually supposed to believe that he never said that other stupid thing?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's Not Our Fault We Can't Make Good Movies, It's the Fault of All Those Wimmin

(again, via Feministing)

Robinov is a douche*:

We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.

but Gloria Allred rocks:

If that's what he said, when movies with men as the lead fail, no one says we'll stop making movies with men in the lead. This is an insult to all moviegoers and particularly women. It is truly unfortunate that women get blamed for decisions which are made by men.

Instead of taking responsibility for their own lack of judgment about which scripts to make, directors to hire and budgets to OK, some men in the movie industry find it easier to place blame for their lack of success on women leads and to exclude talented female actors from the top employment opportunities in Hollywood in favor of macho males. If that studio confirms that their policy is to now exclude women as leads, then my policy would be to boycott films made by Warner Bros.

(emphasis mine)

The only problem is that of course they aren't going to confirm that that is their policy. So I say we skip that part and go straight to the boycott. Does Warners make anything that's actually good anyway? (Besides the Potter movies, and we have some time before the next one is due out.)

*by the by, so is LA Weekly, or whomever decided to make the URL "warners-robinoff-gets-in-catfight-with-girls/" instead of the article's headline: "Warner's Robinov Bitchslaps Film Women, Gloria Allred Calls For Warner Boycott"

NFL is Full of Sissies

via Feministing, we learn that NFL teams have been told to "control their cheerleaders." Apparently, their suspicion is that various cheerleading teams have been deliberately warming up in certain locations before the game, with the intent to distract the other team.


Ok, even if this is true, there's two big problems with this response.


First of all, since when is enganging in mind games considered to be not ok?

While my experiences with professional sports is admittedly limited, I did play JV soccer in high school. Let me rephrase that, I played JV soccer in SB Co., home of Landon Donavon, Shannon Boxx , and Heather Aldama. And all four of us are about the same age so, yes, while needless to say all three are eons ahead of me in talent and skill, making it to the JV team around the same time that they were playing varsity was nothing to sneeze at.

Do you know what our coach had us do every pre-game warm-up? Do our damnest to psyche out the other team. Our uniforms were to be perfect and, well, uniform. (We all had our team jackets on, or none of us did.) We ran as close to their side as we could. We ran in step like a fucking army. I don't know if it worked, but I do know that this was accepted. Strikers would go up and shake the goalies hand before a penalty kick in order to psyche them out. The game was as psychological as it was physical.

Now, I'm fairly certain the handshake isn't allowed in professional soccer - for various reasons, but I have limited sympathy for professional players of any sport who accuse the other team of "cheating" because they engage in mind games.


Most of all though, it's a stupid response by the NFL because it reinforces the idea that men are unable to help themselves around pretty girls - 'cause they're men you know! That's the basis for most rape apology arguments. The boys just can't help themselves.


The fact that the NFL consistently and constantly uses the cheerleader's sexual appeal to make money off of them - and get people to come to the games, which gives the home team a psychological advantage - just makes it even worse.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Games Good, Books Bad?

In a recent discussion over a Feminist Gamers, the topic of controversies over books versus controversies over games came up.

(pretty much, someone said something to the effect of "books never get treated this way!" and I called bullshit.)

Might Ponygirl replied with

But I think that videogames just don’t enjoy the sort of support in their controveries that books do.

Which is true, but "books have it bad too!" really wasn't the point I was trying to make. But then I wasn't really sure what my point was at the time, and my point wasn't the topic of discussion. The good news: I figured out what I want to say, and I have my own blog to say it at.

And really, I did say it in my comment over there, I just didn't explain it very well.

[P]eople rarely see “bad” books as evidence that books are bad, even though that’s exactly what they do when it comes to TV, movies, and games.

The flipside to this - the one that people rarely see - is that this also means that you now have the issue of what qualifies as a book. Most often, the debate is phrased as whether something is "really" literature. In my line of work the question often becomes whether it's something the parent will accept as fulfilling the requirement that they "read more and goof around less." (Needless to say, graphic novels rarely count, despite their growing popularity.)

Like a lot of common misconceptions, this doesn't seem, on the face of it, like a bad thing. And it isn't always. Parents should push their kids to to challenge themselves, and I don't believe that kids get as much from reading Goosebumps as they get from reading Bridge to Terabithia.

But there's the catch, the requirement that they get something out of it. Pleasure apparently doesn't qualify as "something" in that sentence.

(And now my ADD brain is remembering a conversation I had recently with someone about how we don't get enough vacation time. Back to the topic at hand....)

Whenever I suggest a book, and the kid says yes but the parent says no, it's almost always because it's not "serious" enough. Whenever a kid asks for a book, and the parent says no, the most common reason given (aside from cost) is that it's not "what they should be reading" - as in, you should be reading something that isn't called Captain Underpants and isn't full of pictures.

Now, I'm not saying that books have it worse than games. They don't. (Recent library workshop aside) Games can only dream of qualifying as worthwhile in their own right, rather than as a way to trick kids into doing something worthwhile. Even TV, which I think is much more limited in possible educational value than video games are, is more likely to be labeled as educational than any video game. What I'm saying is that the problems that books do have overlap with the problems that games have, so displays of sibling rivalry are hardly helpful.

Lauren wrote at Feministe that

The part that’s insidious for me is labeling the [Baby Einstein] videos “educational” when “entertainment” is clearly more honest. When parents start scheduling them into the child’s day, they’re doing so in their children’s best interest, but potentially to the detriment of the child’s education. Especially when a parent who is interesting in helping to further the child’s education might have better tools available to them for a similar price.

And I have to agree. But the problem is that you aren't supposed to give anything to small children that isn't explicitly educational, so there's really no other way to market them except to say that they are good because they are educational. And the AMA's dishonesty about why such videos are bad for kids** gives the companies even more incentive to lie about their product than they would have otherwise. Disney can't make ads simply saying that they are the best entertainment videos for babies and toddlers (even though I think they are) because such things are not supposed to exist.

One thing I do disagree with Lauren about is the type of educational value the Baby Einstein's videos have. Supposedly, it's all in rote learning - people seem to think the videos act like flash cards. However, If you watch the videos it's clear that kids mostly learn from them by processing the stories, the same kind of learning that we supposedly encourage when the stories are told through other mediums. To me, this confusion implies that the value we place on storytelling depends highly on the medium through which the story is told. Which, in turn, suggests that the greatest value we place on storytelling is on it's ability to familiarize children with the "right" kinds of mediums - or facts and skills. Stories themselves have dubious value, perhaps because their intent is to entertain as well as teach. The perception seems to be that, once kids can read, unless they are clearly "reading to learn" something specific, reading is not always good for them.


Books are challenged and banned for all kinds of reasons, but there is a common thread running through all the challenges to books for children*** - and no, it's not religious beliefs or sexual content. It's whether or not the book counts as "literature." Controversial topics are usually considered ok, so long as the book is clearly lecturing at them. That's why books are more likely to get support when they are challenged. Since it's the actual message itself that's being debated and not the basic content, you have an easier time finding people who agree with the message strongly enough to fight for it.

The children's novels that made it to the ALA's top ten challenged books for 2006 are the Gossip Girls series, the Alice series, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, the Scary Stories series, Athletic Shorts, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Chocolate War****. The adult novels are Beloved and The Bluest Eye. So, sex, obviously, is a big no-no. And anything that suggest that the white, heterosexual man is not the center of the universe.

But apparently, kids having fun isn't really a good thing either.

(In fact, I'd say this is a big part of why sex is a no-no. Sex without procreation has no value other than fun.)

While there are plenty of books that kids ask for by name because they have to read it, there are fewer that kids ask for because they want to read them. Yet, out of all seven of the kid's books on that list, there are only two books that I've never been asked for by name, by a kid, who wanted to read it for fun. I'm not going to count the hundreds of thousands of books in the store and library to do the math, but fairly certain that 70% of the books in either place don't fit into that category.

Even more than that, four of those books are ones that reluctant readers - several, in fact - have asked for by name. I don't need to do the math to be absolutely certain that the number of books in the store and library that fit into that category is much, much lower than 50+ percent.

Now, again, I'm all for parents pushing kids to challenge themselves.

Still, I find it telling that the Gossip Girls is number two on the list of most challenged books for 2006, and yet the CW started a new series based on the books this fall. (Presumably aimed at a similarly aged audience.)

The contrast between the Harry Potter movies' sucess and book challenges made more sense, because it tends to be just a select group of people who dislike Harry Potter so much that they think kids shouldn't read it. But nobody likes the Gossip Girls. Well, no adult anyway. So while I'm sure that there are lots of kids who will be told that they can't read or watch Gossip Girls, I'm sure there's also a great many whose parents and teachers and librarians try to talk them out of reading Gossip Girls but whose parents won't care about them watching Gossip Girls any more or less than any other TV show.

Now, parents don't hate these books because they are fun, they just see fun as having extremely limited value.***** There's this idea that's taken root in our collective minds that, unless something is explicitly educational or healthy, it's probably bad for kids.

Or maybe it's that, if kids are having fun, they can't possibly be learning as well. So it's one thing for them to watch Gossip Girl, it's another for them to suck all the educational value out of reading by reading trashy books.

I think it's probably both, depending on the situation.

We need to educate people on the health and educational benefits that video games have. The internet and TV too. But we need to advocate for kids' right to have fun as well. Even if for no other reason than because the idea that fun is a privilege, not a right, leads us to cut off kids access to things that are explicitly good for them. Like exercise (ie, recess) for grade schoolers, or books for reluctant readers. Even the dynamic that Lauren decries in her post is one in which parents choose to have their kids watch Baby Einstein videos rather than play in healthier ways because the supposed rote learning they get from the videos is thought of as more educational that the learning they get through play.

*That and we think kids are really stupid - Baby Einstein couldn't possibly teach through stories because babies are too young to process stories. Never mind that they do so all the time. (I let go, it falls.)

**All kinds of studies supposedly say that any time watching TV lowers vocabulary, but I've yet to see one that doesn't make some stupid decision, like not control for time spent talking to parents or lumps kids who watch TV and play with books with kids who just watch TV.

***Children's books that children are meant to read themselves, rather than books like And Tango Makes Three which is primarily meant to be read to them.

****The common perception is that The Chocolate War is literature, but it's placement on the list is a holdover from when this was not the common perception, back when it came out and, along with The Outsiders and other peers, created the YA genre.

****We also think kids are excessively stupid. Like, kids who will be able to vote in two years are completely and totally unable to distinguish fact from badly written wish-fulfillment fiction. Have I mentioned that yet?

Friday, October 05, 2007

So, I'm vaguely remember, at some point, that Dan Savage said something that made me mad. Right now, I love him far too much to care:

Now this is a fake letter.

About half of the fake[ letters] I get follow ADAM's script: Man walks in, discovers his wife/girlfriend/sister getting it on with a dog. Usually it's peanut butter all over her crotch, so give ADAM a tenth of a point for creativity.

What if ADAM's letter didn't include that tired old story about a dog eating pussy—would we still be able to tell that it's a fake? You bet.

First, there's the piling on of unnecessary details in a self-conscious effort to make the letter seem more plausible.....

Most revealing, however, is that ADAM wants us to believe his wife is in her mid-20s. Not just because it's sexier—ostensibly—to picture a nude 25-year-old woman "spread-eagled on the couch" than, say, a nude 55-year-old woman, but because this letter, like most of the fakes I get, is really about the sexual degradation of desirable women. ADAM has issues, as they say, so he ran a fictional woman through a degrading sexual scenario in a letter to me. He hoped that I would run his letter in my column and in his mind this would somehow avenge the slights he's suffered at the hands of all the women who have ever rejected him.


(via Pandagon)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Echo Chambers

I never really considered myself to be all that left wing - until we took some stupid test in high school history and I scored as a complete commie-loving radical. Despite that, I still tend to side with the status quo when controversial stuff comes up.

For years, I was more moderate on abortion than even my younger brother. Now, my views are probably the most radical within my entire family.

A part of this recent change is due to reading some of the really awesome left wing and especially feminist blogs over the last few years. There's so many brilliant writers out there blogging away reminding me of things the mainstream media ignores and explaining things so much better than anyone else does.

I find it interesting, though, that my most radical stances tend to solidify not through reading Pandagon or Shakesville, but by reading the comments of people who disagree with Amanda and Melissa. Or rather, by responding to such comments.

For example, Amanda made a short post recently in response to a comment left at another blog. The comment itself was very outrageous (it ends with "Ugly old women virtually never get raped") and no one who reads Pandagon regularly would disagree on that point.

The topic of discussion then became the first part of the comment (because, despite stereotypes, you can only go so far with the unnuanced "evil!" or "that sucks!") :

Feminists invented the idea of “rape as hate crime” because it fit their overall “men vs. women” worldview.

Or rather, the main topic became whether or not rape is a hate crime. (fyi, while the discussion there considered at certain points whether or not all rape is a hate crime, I'm only talking about men raping women. Mostly because that's the kind the comment is talking about. Apparently men and boys are as lucky as girls and older women.)

Now, when I first read Amanda's post, I was thinking to myself "hell, yeah!" as she pointed out several of the ways in which the commenter's "proof" that rape is motivated by lust is so very, very wrong. What I wasn't really thinking about was whether or not that meant rape was a hate crime. If you had asked me back on Saturday when I first read the post, I likely would have answered "sometimes" - which very few people argued against in the comments section.

The weird thing is, listening to all the arguments, and pointing out the obvious - and maybe not so obvious - flaws in the less offensive arguments made my stance more out of step with the status quo than it was before.

Or - maybe not so weird.

The great thing about blogs isn't just the bloggers, it's the democratic act of discussing and debating things. Despite the fact that lots of comment sections are full of juvenile taunts and grammar lessons (I'm sure I've been guilty of both myself), comment threads can be some of the best parts of blogs. Not so much just to read, but because they are participatory.

By requiring that defenders of the status quo give forth real arguments, they force people to put to (digital) paper the twisted logic that often stays hidden, and therefore unquestioned. By motivating people to point out these various contortions, it forces the people making such comments to think things through more thoroughly than they would otherwise.

Emotions still cloud judgement. Debates still get hung up on connotation, definition, and myths that are accepted as fact. But overall, I think they are just what the founders had in mind.

Which brings us back to the weirdness of my more radical stances. Because the weird thing about my conviction that rape is a hate crime* is that it's a view that is less likely to change, despite being very not mainstream. Because it's a view that I put a decent amount of thought into, not just an emotional reaction or a value I picked up without questioning it.

The weirdness is that this goes against what we tend to think debate should be about. I shouldn't be simply convincing myself more thoroughly, I should be compromising and/or convincing opposite minded people.

But while the actual act of governing requires a lot of compromise and convincing, I don't think the real value of everyday discussions and debates lies in just getting more people on your side. It think a lot of the value of such discussion lies in self-discovery and being certain about what you really believe in, so that when the time comes to make that compromise, you know when it's ok to do so, and when you need to stand your ground.

After all, the reason why most people seemed to agree that at least some rapes could be hate crimes is because that's a very vague stance to take. As annoying as we radicals are, one has to admit that vague positions aren't very useful when it comes to actual governing.

*As I said there, the fact that it is one doesn't necessarily mean that it makes sense to prosecute it as such every time, especially when one is talking about hate crimes. But it does mean that it should be an option and that the larger culture should be educated about the true nature of rape.