“Could It Be? Did Hollywood Execs Get The Memo?” speculates on the reason for the number of movies-about-women (which seems to correspond with movies-by-women). I would take issue with her assertion that Mama Mia! or Kit are any great leaps forward for womankind, but I’ve not seen either, so I won’t get into that here.
The show, although broadly about having sex with your neighbors, is about the women: their relationships with each other, of course, but more importantly, about their inner growth in a time of political and social upheaval.
I am vastly impressed by the writers’ ability to turn “women’s lib” into something that’s not a cliché, that doesn’t feel like you’re being beaten with a plotstick, and exhibits real growth on the part of the women (and yes, the men, too) involved.
I’m not even certain that I can do this episode justice by describing it. I’m afraid of turning the characters into cardboard archetypes or offending readers…if you will forgive me for both, and don’t mind some spoilers, read on. But most of what I want you to come away from has already been said, and I highly recommend the show as a feminist exercise. Read more >>
I Kissed a Girl (& I Liked It) is the title of the “#1 Pop Hit” of the summer. I even heard it on the radio the other day (although not before I heard the article).
This hits on something I’d been thinking of bringing up around here: the fact that female-on-female, shall we call it “experimentation”, is socially accepted or encouraged where as male-on-male “experimentation” is frowned upon and derided.
Yeah, I like girls and I’m attracted to girls, too, but overall we would end up with boys, like to marry & be normal with boys.
A friend of mine was recently telling me how he dated a woman who was bi (but not out) and wanted his permission to make out with girls at parties, so that no one would suspect her of being bi. This was a concept that confused the hell out of me, but he explained that a het girl in a relationship would not consider making out with other girls “cheating” whereas a bi girl would. And, of course, if the het girls noted that one of their number didn’t want to “cheat”, she would be immediately outed as bi.
It still kinda makes my head spin. Meanwhile, of course, the boys in the room would not do anything that would cause anyone to suspect that they had any desire/inclination to do the same [by making out with others of their gender].
So how far can a het girl go before people might think she was bi? Or worse (!) lesbian? Is it progress that acting bi is seen as normal and expected (even if it’s limited to hets-acting-bi, rather than actual bi people)? Or is this just another way that women are socially trapped into fulfilling male fantasies?
Being bi is a trend.
But only for girls.
A legal team attempting to defend their client against (among other things) “obscenity” charges is trying to get Google to release certain stats about search terms in the area the trial is taking place. This is because part of the “obscenity” definition relies upon what “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find obscene. Check out the graph.
A photo commentary on the export of various Japanese media phenomena and the increasing incorporation of anime and manga-inspired sexist and escapist fantasy elements into American popular culture
(overheard between a drunken John & a drunken xJane at last night’s Abney Park concert)
Background: Yesterday, xJane was sitting around, slightly ill, and generally feeling sorry for herself. Whilst innocently watching Emmy consideration DVDs, she received a call from John, who asked if she was busy (she was not) and if she was interested in a steam punk event (she was). What followed was a scramble to finish the DVD (it’s an interesting & funny show, and I recommend it to all and sundry), google costumes, create a costume, finish laundry & dishes, see if I could rope anyone else into this (it’s like drugs: cosplay seems more normal if you can convince other people to do it with you, right Onigiri?), google hairstyles, make & eat dinner, shower, and get all steampunked up.
She then drove to the venue, which is the perfect place for such an event, and immediately knew she was in the right place. Perhaps 2% of the people who showed up were not in cos. Twas tres cool. She stood in line in the chilly LA air for a while, then was allowed to wait inside for John (who was then allowed to skip the line!). Many thanks to Isaac for the tix, for then we entered the 1870s. Or some kind of approximation there of.
Steampunk is hard to define, but I usually go with “Victorian futurism”. It’s was the future would look like if it were trapped in the past. Think the Time Machine, Golden Compass, Diamond Age. It generally involves lots of gears, leather, and zeppelins. It has some hardcore overlap with the Goth scene (although there is less blood involved in steampunk, there are arguably more corsets) as well as DIY/Makers.
The Edison in downtown LA is a steampunk-themed bar. It is always steampunk themed but may not always be as overrun with steampunks than it was last night. It may actually be a historic landmark (and if it’s not it should be): it’s the first private powerplant in LA…turned into a bar. The generators, coal-furnaces, and just all around ambiance is still there. They even have a steampunk dress code (which stresses no “athletic wear of any kind” and that they “strive to more quickly accommodate those who” dress steampunk). It’s a place I would certainly go back to for drinks & perhaps a bite to eat.
Abney Park is a great band whose music might be described as “industrial punk with Eastern/Arabian influences” if not for the lyrics (check out their favorite, played twice last night, “Airship Pirate“). They had a great presence and awesome fan interaction (singing along, stopping songs in the middle because of a mistake, jokes, &c.). They play electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, violin, and djembe (yes, electric djembe) all of which have been steampunked out. And they play them well. This is not just a bunch of weirdos who think they’re a band. This is a band who is also a bunch of weirdos. But in their defense, so is their audience (watching the Artful Dodger and gentlemen with muttonchops mosh is friggin’ awesome). And so am I.
John nor I do this on a what you might call regular basis, so our steampunk was a little mild (although the darkened & sunken eyes that Jana pulled of on John were the perfect effect!) compared to
some most of those in attendance. Unfortunately, I do not have a corset on hand for just such events. This shall be remedied soon (hear that, John? lemmie know when they’re back in town). Nor goggles, nor top hat (though I should have spectacles somewhere, which I shall find & superglue to an appropriately dainty stick to hold to my face). John did admirably with $12 and a borrowed hat. And DH has a remarkable amount of steampunk stuff hanging around: too bad he has no inclination in that direction. But I think we did quite well on short notice and with no practice. I could totally get into this.
Since it was John, there was much emphasis that evening on absinthe, of which there was plenty to be had. We each had a shot of heavily sweetened absinthe from and we split a “Hemmingway”: a shot of absinthe mixed with champagne. We then went and sat down for a while. We ended the evening with Denny’s before slinking home, glad that, at 2AM none of my neighbors was around to ask what I was wearing.
I thoroughly enjoyed (and survived) the whole schmear: the dress up, the drinks, the people, the event. Who knew that heavy drinking was good for a cold? John & I met at the venue before the concert started and had a chance to wander into each of the little alcoves to check out the decor (John kept commenting on the attention to detail) as well as the people. And once again I have to give props to the effect of the Masque: people walked up to me as though they’d known me for years, “Those are awesome gloves!” and we’d start talking about little boutiques in Marin county. Staring is encouraged in this kind of a venue. Some of the people even had their own personas (I heard one gentleman introduce himself as Baron von [something german]). I found myself wondering who these people were in meatspace, for want of a better term. Do they wear goggles to their offices? Or are they corporate lawyers in the day light and corseted wenches only in the shadows of the Edison?
And what causes people to get into this? Cosplay at a con is one thing, but cosplay at a bar takes it to a whole nother level. I wonder if there isn’t some of the camaraderie of religion that attracts people to this: if you know they’re into [Jesus, Buddha, steampunk], you already have something in common. John mentioned that there was a notable increase in the amicability of the people at the Edison last night (as opposed to people in everyday life). And it was true: the gentlemen opened doors for each other & for the ladies (even if they were wenches). Perhaps some of the attraction of the Victorian lifestyle is the level of politeness that is acceptable in mixed company. I just like the corsets. And the gears. And I’m totally going to look for costume pieces the next time I’m at the army surplus store. This is totally my bag (and if not for John, I’d not’ve known!).
By now, many of you will have heard that one of the Vatican’s astronomers has indicated that there might be life on other planets. Even that they might be without sin. Many of my favorite science fiction books involve the intersection of religion and space travel (Dune and Ender’s Game chief among them). But really, this is a classic theme and, I would argue, evidence of atheism among science fiction writers.
Perhaps not atheism but certainly doubt. To dream up a world where all the religions of earth had merged into one (the Orange Catholics), but still managed to find sectarian conflict with the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, only to then join forces against an off-shoot of the latter, requires more than a usual amount of doubt in one’s faith. Even Orson Scott Card’s science fictional religions are not Mormonism, and I liked his approach to Christian evangelism to other planets: Jesus, though he appeared as a Jewish man, came to save us all: Jew, Gentile, Formic, and Pequenino alike.
Then there’s Archangel, where Jehovah, whom the whole world of Samaria worships, rules with a laser fist from on high (yes, it’s a spaceship). And Silicon Karma which explores a technological afterlife created when we stopped believing in a spiritual one. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep explores at what point morality starts applying to inanimate objects, even as they have their own cult of personality (if not a full-blown religion).
What are some of your favorite intersections of religion and scifi? Where any of them instrumental in your exodus from the garden?
over at Feministe. Verbose, but worth the time.
Spark is a category for sharing links. No intense commentary, just a link & a brief reason you might want to click on it. Something to Spark your Mind to Flame, if you will.
My sister, the geophysicist, was telling me today about the Southern California ShakeOut, an event this November 12th at 10AM when everyone is being asked to stop & consider what would happen if there was a 7.4 earthquake on the San Andreas. She went to a seminar where different representatives of the event spoke about the various pieces of the puzzle.
Such a quake would break the freeways heading east. The only “escape” would be north. The first city north is Bakersfield, whose mayor has stated that they would be unable to deal with the influx of refugees that such a quake would cause and would shut down the freeway. Which just underlines the importance of working together: we’re in this together, as a state and as people.
Such a quake would cause fires, fires that LA firefighters would start work on, and which San Diego firefighters would very quickly pitch in with. Until the aftershock hit SD, forcing them home. The best thing to do in that kind of situation would be to head to the beach and watch the city burn.
If evacuated, people would surrender their household belongings to the looters, who would come. If people have a disaster plan, and if they stick to that plan, most people will congregate with their friends and family members, with food, water, data (hopefully!), and pets. (See comments for my disaster plan.) My sister made the very valid point that we (humans) can live without food for weeks (although I will have my cats) as long as we have water. My sisters’ plans are to congregate, one with food, one with guns & ammo.
It’s interesting to me to listen to peoples’ disaster preparedness plans, and in Southern California, disasters (fires, quakes) are never far from peoples’ minds. But I have found that most people my age don’t discuss disaster preparedness in terms of fires, quakes, or tornadoes; we discuss it in terms of zombies. “When the zombies attack…” is the frequent start of conversations among friends & coworkers.
“When the zombies attack, if you can’t grow your own food, you won’t survive.” A coworker (who always bikes to work) has told me, just before pointing me in the direction of his favorite gardener-cum-activist.
“When the zombies attack, this will be one of the worst places to be.” Is a frequent phrase heard early in the morning at the Apple store, just before the giant glass doors (they weight a ton each) slide open to admit the first shoppers with their dead dead eyes.
“Dude, when the zombies attack, I’m hanging out with him.” This violates my rule, since it was spoken by a 40-ish coworker about a 60-ish coworker who holds the record for his age group in running the marathon. However, the logic here is misplaced since, when the zombies attack, he’s gonna be running. And we won’t be able to keep up…
“Of course I’ve got an earthquake kit at home. When the zombies attack, you need to be prepared!” This one was interesting to me since it combined the two: being prepared for an earthquake as the same as being prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
“My wife calls it the panic room,” a friend says of a closet in his home where he keeps his guns, “and when the zombies attack, we’ll be set!” His wife is now thinking of putting provisions in there.
In the same conversation, his brother said, “No, when the zombies attack, I’m going to WalMart!” And then proceeded to outline his clearly thought-out reasons: food, lockdown, and guns. Although WalMart no longer carries guns, which we reminded him of. “Okay, then when the zombies attack, I’ll swing by your place first. We can get some guns and then hole up in WalMart.”
There’s no if in these conversations. There never is. The zombie apocalypse is clearly very entrenched into our psyches. And I wonder if it really is the most concrete way we can think about the unknown disasters that can strike. I’m currently reading the Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable, which discusses the difficulty humans have preparing for, mentally and physically for the improbable and for the not-clearly-defined. Southern Californians can say glibly that we have many earthquakes a day and that there is a high likelihood that a large one will hit us soon. But very few of us have a disaster plan. Is the zombie apocalypse so outlandish that it becomes real to us? Something that we can prepare for in a way that we cannot prepare for earthquakes, fires, and tornadoes? Or is it a broader social commentary about social sheep/zombies? Or, or! Is it because there are hundreds of cultural zombie artifacts (movies, TV shows, books) to help mentally prepare ourselves but for natural disasters, we must turn to the hated genres of history and documentary (Twister, I think, actually proves this point).
(Hello, this is Zach Alexander — you may have read my Leaving the Garden post, and this is the first of a few guest articles I’m posting while John is otherwise engaged.)
“The stuff that really brings people together, and makes us happy to live together, originates from a caring and thoughtful mind that’s been exposed to many streams of education.”
That was the key point I took away from a presentation — talk, acoustic concert, and Q&A — by Greg Graffin, frontman and co-songwriter for the seminal punk band Bad Religion, who was honored with an award the Saturday before last at Harvard’s Memorial Church. (A recording is available at the link above, thanks to the Humanist Network News podcast.)
Since last semester, people from the humanist community at Harvard have been planning a ceremony for the Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, created last year to honor artistic contributions to human culture in a humanistic vein. The first was given to Salman Rushdie, who was a hard act to follow. But the committee, of which I was an occasional part, felt clear in the end that this year’s award should be given to Graffin, who is not only a musician but also a biology lecturer at UCLA.
That might sounds a bit caricatured at first glance — a group of atheist academics giving an award to the singer of a band called Bad Religion, whose logo is a cross with a slash through it! But the band has a more subtle relationship to faith than their name might suggest. Graffin himself is an atheist, but has said that the band uses “religion” not literally, but more as a metaphor for conformity of all kinds; for any kind of “shared way of thinking” that is prescribed by others.
The ceremony started off with an introduction by the able Dan Robinson of the undergrad Harvard Secular Society, followed by an introduction to both humanism and Graffin by Greg Epstein, Harvard’s star humanist chaplain. And then the honoree himself took the stage.
* * *
His talk began with a bit of history, starting with the scholastic tradition in the first medieval universities. Broadly speaking, scholasticism sought to use reason to make the Bible consistent with the ancient Greeks, holding the truth of both as fixed points. This was the birth of systematic theology in the West.
In contrast, the intellectual movement that came to be known as humanism emphasized the arts, especially the language arts. According to Graffin, they too paid homage to the ancient Greeks and Romans, not for the “sole purpose of making them consistent with theology,” but also to improve upon them — Copernicus improving on Ptolemy, Andreas Vesalius improving on Galen. And more interesting for Graffin, they emphasized the “creation of an active, politically responsible citizen,” arguing that the humanities were better suited than scholastic philosophy for the development of civic and social virtues.
This, he said, is a goal modern-day humanists should share: presenting creative and written works to the public with the hope of helping people lead better lives. That’s been a goal of his own work with Bad Religion, he said: not just entertaining people, but also making them think. And conversely, in his academic lectures he seeks to entertain.
The quote that began this article came at the end of his talk, as he was drawing these and other threads together. I took him to be saying that the best products of culture come from people shaped by a diverse range of experiences. A fitting way to conclude an acceptance speech for this award, which seeks to bring the often science-driven humanist movement more in touch with the humane and artistic as well.
(Intriguingly, given the context, he described this claim as a “naive belief in an untested hypothesis” — i.e. faith. Perhaps he was joking, or perhaps he was showing us his nonconformist side…)
“If you’re satisfied with that, I’d like to play some music,” he added, to enthusiastic applause.
* * *
It was the first time he had ever done both in one evening. “I’ve never actually played guitar in… a suit,” he said, and didn’t unbutton his top button until the second song.
Because I’m new to Bad Religion’s music, and punk in general beyond The Cramps, I’ll simply post videos of the four songs he played without much comment. The first one was “Suffer” from the 1988 album of the same name, and the rest are under the cut.
(h/t Rebecca at Skepchick)
Democracy in the US is not dead, just watch American Idol! NPR explores the parallels between the show where you choose the winner and our lost faith in our political process.
Spark is a new category for sharing links. No intense commentary, just a link & a brief reason you might want to click on it. Something to Spark your Mind to Flame, if you will.
So often recently there have been news reports of people who use the internet to stalk people. Here’s a story about how one girl used the internet to find her rapists and prove their guilt. It’s the story of a horrendous act, and a girl’s courage to confront her smug attackers. She’s not named (she is, and her attackers probably are, underage), but she comes from my old neighborhood. She is an Amazon, and I salute her.