Hypocritical Hyperbole

The Abomination of Obama's Nation

Because you care so much, why Valentine’s day and I don’t get along well January 31, 2012

Yeah, the problem with Valentine’s day is the selling of it. It’s the culture around the day. It sets the expectation that any other time you do something good isn’t worth it. You aren’t doing your job in a relationship if you do something every other day of the year but don’t go out of your way to be awesome on this day then you’re a failure as a boyfriend. It’s everyone asking what I’m doing for my girlfriend and the complete and total disgust on their face and disdain in their voice when I tell them nothing because it’s an insignificant holiday to me. I hate the value judgement our society makes on me as a human because of my choices.

I hate the commercials. Those jewelry commercials are all terrible. The whole set up where you can judge how much a woman is worth based on the pieces of jewelry she gets and how women are supposed to be in competition with each other based on this is awful. The thing where the valentine’s transaction is bling for sex is ridiculous. No I don’t have a problem with prostitution, this isn’t that argument. The argument is the obligatory nature of the transaction. The commercials are explicitly saying “Buy diamonds, get sex” It’s a mess. Same goes for chocolate. Same goes for flowers.

That’s all bad, but as stated earlier, the worst part of valentine’s day (and the weeks leading up to it) is dealing with other humans. I’ve been harassed by complete strangers in lines at stores about how I don’t do anything for that day. I got reprimanded for cursing out a coworker a year back because he asked what I was doing to get some pussy that day. I got in trouble because “don’t fucking talk to me that way” is more offensive than what he said. Then I had to deal with people all day coming to me asking about why I’m such a fucking grinch and why I’m so selfish. (note: I’m single at the time) People were telling me I should just go find some random woman to take out and get some because single women are all going to be unanimously sad and depressed about not getting their womanly need for mindless affection met and will just swoop in on me like a vulture to Mike Collins. This is all accepted while my choice to not participate in this particular cultural event is met with scorn.

I have countless stories about being spit on or ridiculed or having water thrown at me, not for being rude or offensive, but simply by saying I found Valentine’s day to be a pinch absurd and had no plans to ever engage myself in it.

Look, I don’t care if people do Valentine’s day. It doesn’t change my life if you are a terrible significant other (what an awful term) all year long and only do something good on Valentine’s day and your partner thinks you’re great for that. That’s fine. I’m fine if you go out and buy diamonds and happen to have sex as long as there isn’t coercion involved. The thing is, I simply don’t care about what other people choose to do with their lives. I just hate it when they come judging me in my face for not doing the same stupid stuff they do. Get out of here with that.

On the bright side, there’s this.

 

Plodding through Dragon’s Path (Where sometimes expectations just aren’t matched)[spoiler party] January 30, 2012

So I had heard on occasion from some different reputable people that this Daniel Abraham fellow is a good writer. He wrote a book under a pen name along with some other fellow (who I believe is an assistant to George R. R. Martin) that was quite spectacular. While it is quite difficult to know without the authors stating specifically who did what work, you’d think that just being involved in something so good would rub off on you, at least in certain ways. One of the big appeals of Leviathan Wakes, to me, was how good it is on social issues. It’s so rare to read a book that is short on (if not entirely devoid of) sexsism or racism or ableisism or transphobia and so forth and so on. This seems to be especially hard to find in speculative fiction. It seems like no matter how much we change our worlds we carry our current day prejudices with us. Sometimes it’s blatant and in your face, other times it’s the casual garbage that we just take for granted or hardly even notice. Leviathan Wakes was refreshingly short on all of that extra trash that pulls me so quickly out of books.

So here I was, thinking it was safe for me to venture into a book that half of those writers was involved in. I hoped it would be as good as Leviathan wakes, but really I was just betting on something that wasn’t atrocious. What I got fell well short of what I was expecting. Dragon’s Path is yet another example of a book where the writer chooses to change soo much of the world and still stick to outdated notions of gender and sexuality. Not only this, but it also another example of the callous disregard for loss of live on an extreme scale.

Let’s set a thing up here. We live in a land with 13 different races of human. Think video game fantasy stuff. Lizard people, Wolf People, Elephant People, Boar People, stuff like that. The taxonomy of the world is that different. Somehow though we still wind up with all the same generic Middle Ages Europe power structures and societal norms. With this we also carry over the exact same sex and gender dynamics as we have now. So much of this is true that the author goes out of his way to have one character lecture another about how there is no weapon natural for a woman. Women just aren’t fit for combat (ignoring that the book makes sure to include a bunch of female soldiers). I thought originally that the point was to say that there is no natural weapon for anyone. Instead it was just going on the assumption that all women are small and weak and as such no weapon would give them an advantage in a fight against a man. If this was just the one character’s idea we could let this go without any real fight or discussion. Had another character butted in and refuted the ideas behind the statements we would be fine. The statement doesn’t take into account men who are short or skinny or not strong or women who are trained in the same way as men would be in that society to be fighters. There’s no acknowledgement of societal factors that dictate what fighting is and who does it. The entire point of this lecture (well for literature’s sake it’s to make another sexist comment later in the book) was to tell a female character she shouldn’t even bother training to protect herself. Then, far later in the book a female character recalls that conversation and says to herself that he was wrong, because women do have a natural weapon, that of sex.  This whole notion is so fucked and backwards and sexist to it’s core I’m not even going to go over it.

Now, that there isn’t the only example of sexist thoughts and ideas. There are sections talking about how men go to war and women heal it all up with their companionable chit chatting. There’s more stuff as well, but that was just the best example of the kind of thing that totally derails a book for me. It’s superfluous and unnecessary.

Now, while that’s outrageously annoying I might still reccommend the book if a bunch of other things go right. The world is so devoid of great books (Not everyone can be N.K. Jemisin)  that sometimes you have to just take the good stuff where you can get it.

Then something awesome happened. (Remember, this is a soiler party). The book does one of the greatest things ever. It takes your stereotypical fat book reading nerd character and . . .makes them a stereotypical fat bookish nerd.Well, what do we expect? Everyone loves Samwell Tarly. It’s an easy character to sympathize with. He reads books and likes to think and do speculative essays. He’s not really cut out for war, there should be something else for a character like this to do in life rather than fight battles for the honor of other people. This is all well and good, tropes happen and we move on. This fat kid moves on indeed. He is put in control of a city. The plan was for him to fail at it, and fail he did. He failed spectacularly. Then he learned that he was set up for failure. This was a chance to do something rather cool. Instead our fat bookish nerd turns into Nero and lights a city on fire. His rationale for this you ask? They rioted. Because they were starving. Yup. He bungled the job and all the citizens decide to protest because he was making it hard for them to eat. So he burns them all. Yup, all of them. Locked the city down and had his soldiers shoot down anyone who tried to escape. Yup.

Then Abraham spends the rest of the book trying to make us feel bad for him when things get out of his control.I am thinking that the entire series is supposed to be us following the bad guys, but it’s hard to tell. He sets up people who are fond of slavery and treating non nobles as animals. Let’s say this is what he’s doing. I believe there is a way of writing this that doesn’t attempt to make it sound like he agrees with the awful bigots. The book is worded in a way that makes these ideas the moral center and compass for all other actions. It’s like Daniel is saying right to me, that laws on treating slaves better is bad and the idea of farmer’s having a say in the governing of farms is bad because the noble’s know better of farms than farmers.Not exactly refreshing, know?

 

Quick Reflections on MY MLKjr January 18, 2012

I am one of the Americans fortunate enough to have been taught about Martin Luther King Jr, if not in full, then closer to full than the grand majority of other Americans. We’re all a victim to the white washing of history. It’s a simple fact of life that the people in power who write the history books (rich white dudes) write things from their perspective. Their perspective is that the actions of white Americans against non white people were never as bad as those non white people ever claim they are, or if they were bad, were justifiable because those non white people had it coming by not being white.

Read accounts of people during the time, and read the edited documents we have in our history books now. It’s always true. We even have first hand accounts from people saying how awful it is and being above and beyond the regular call of racism, and yet we talk about the civil rights movement (and all of American history) in such bullshit and quaint tones.

So the history most of you guys got of MLK jr was a history of non violent protest and peace and love through getting our asses kicked by the cops and other white folks for fun. They don’t know the reasons for the lack of violence on the part of the oppressed. Most people, to this day don’t, have any real understanding of the point to a non violent protest movement. Then y’all learned black folks got rights, then he got shot. America was no longer racist and anytime a black person brings up race you go and yell about how we’re equal and the black person needs to stop whining and get over the “it” of racism that doesn’t exist.

Fortunately for me that isn’t the way I learned it. I learned it a better way. I learned that non violent protest is the only way a group that is oppressed in the very specific way African-Americans were oppressed from before the USA was founded up until now is able to gain rights without complete assurance of regression and extermination. Make no mistake, if black people took to the streets of Virginia violently taking back land and such the cops would be (even more than they kind of already were and to some extent still are) allowed to kill niggers on site. In the same way it’s assumed now (and in a similar fashion to how we treat darker skinned arabs and especially the muslim ones) that blacks are criminal in some way and so when they are shot in their own homes by the police without due cause everyone says “well he probably did something”, outward expressions of violence would have led to a great societal shrugging of shoulders over the rapidly increasing pile of dead black bodies.

I learned that non violence didn’t mean not fighting. I learned that it meant not backing down from what you believe and using all the tools available to you. I learned that the civil rights movements of the fifties and sixties was a greatly organized PR move. Is it awful that black people had to do things in a certain way to disprove stereotypes that weren’t true? Absolutely. The hope was that after the struggle we’d go through to disprove those lies they wouldn’t continue to haunt us. I also was made to understand that at times there is simply nothing you can do to win. If the world is casting you as an angry black man and you do so much as to raise an eyebrow in question of something you’ve proven them right. So, at these times, you yell.

That’s what MLK did. He yelled at the times he was being derided as just an angry negro not being happy with the spot the whites had set aside for him. And make no mistake, he knew he was in a fight against white society. He knew the main reason whites and blacks couldn’t work together was that whites were unwilling to accept blacks as equal citizens, nor were they willing to accept that racism actively disenfranchises blacks and that in order for true equality to exist whites would need give up some of their societal privilege. He knew that white society associated blacks with bad and evil things and that is something that needed to be changed.

He also was a firm believer in economic justice. That’s what he was all about before his assassination. He was trying to upset the economic system in America. He was working for laborers. He was peacefully doing the same thing union heads were doing in the 20s and 30s. This is the legacy I grew up with. I grew up with someone who was willing to hire enforcers to stomp out people on his side to prevent them from breaking a boycott. That shit’s hard to do and hard to live with, yet those are the decisions that move a broken society like our forward.

I honestly feel remorse for all of you who grew up with sugar-coated visions of Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement he was such a part of. You have a lesser understanding of just how great he actually was. You didn’t get to grow up idolizing someone who was a threat to society. You never knew how little white society wanted to do with the man and just how uncomfortable he made everyone. All you ever knew was a nice guy who guy shot for trying to make the world a little bit better while I was able to grow up with a man who was murdered for trying to destroy a society out from underneath itself.

Yeah, that was totally smug and snarky, but fuck it. The MLK I grew up with is sooooo much cooler than yours.

 

Shadowland: Power-Man (Where Spidey is Kinda Sexist) January 12, 2012

Filed under: comics,Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 22:18
Tags: , , , , ,

So I pick up this book from the library cause I heard it wasn’t completely deplorable. Know what? It’s not completely deplorable. In fact, it handles some issues (mainly race and the politics of growing up and out of your neighborhood and the reaction of the people left behind) better than pretty much any other main stream super hero books I’ve read in the past year or so. Honestly though, none of that holds up past the end of the first issue. Well, that stuff holds up, it’s just all completely undone. And it’s undone by something stupid, that has no call for being there.

Soft. LIKE A WOMAN.

What added benefit do we get from spidey’s sexism here? None. It has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Any number of spidey quips would’ve worked there, and he has millions. Sexism just isn’t called for. This is what doesn’t happen now. You don’t get to go “it’s a joke.” That’s not a good excuse. That’s just something people in privilege like to say so as to police and invalidate the responses that the people they’re offending. It’s lazy. This writing, though, isn’t lazy. Nothing else in this book leads me to believe that the writer is lazy with anything involved here.

So here’s what could’ve happened. I could be missing the secret sarcasm font and this is poking fun at casual sexism. The problem with that is that there are no indications that this isn’t playing off the old notion that women have naturally softer mental dispositions than men. There’s nothing that comes before or after that says to me Spidey(Fred Van Lente) knows this is ridiculous and that other characters around know this is ridiculous. The line before is fine, and from there the joke could’ve gone to so many places. Soft like a pillow. Soft like cuddly bunnies. Soft like Drake. All of these acceptable. He’s actually a writer so Fred could have come up with a billion better lines than I can, but he used woman.

So the other option I’m forced to think about is that we’re supposed to laugh that spider-man is soft like a women. Because women are soft. And we all know that women are soft. So it’s funny. Because spider-man is a man, and therefor not soft. He’s not supposed to be or allowed to be soft. Because he’s spider-man, not spider-woman. Who is soft? because women are soft. Like goose down and marshmallows.

The thing is, I love this book. I’m a fan. This was just a misstep that didn’t need to happen at all. I’m not saying this book shouldn’t exist or Fred Van Lente shouldn’t ever write again. I’m just saying he shouldn’t do stupid things like subtle sexism in his books and that would make them all the better.

 

Things I liked in 2011 (Part 2 of ?) Music (Part 1 of 2ish) January 4, 2012

Filed under: Music — Micah Griffin @ 20:47
Tags: , , , ,

It is no great secret that I love music. I love it in many different varieties. I think good music is the best. Much better so than bad music. I don’t care whether or not this is the first year in which I heard the album, all the albums on this list are things that I listened to a lot this year and had not listened to a great deal in the year or years prior.

Two artists took over a great deal of my life this past year. One of these people were new to me and the other is a long time friend. First to the New

Josh Ritter is sort of a folkish singer songwriter type. I hate 98% of singer songwriter types. I hate 99.8% of singer songwriters with guitars. Dude and guitar (this is irrespective of gender) acts are as likely to make me impale my own ear drums as to tap my feel along with whatever drivel they’re playing. I don’t care about your lost loves or you whining, get out of here with that garbage.  Fortunately Josh Ritter is free of such simpering mess. Also, he has a much better handle on the guitar than a lot of his compatriots. I wouldn’t call him a great guitarist or anything, but he uses it in the making of his music better than most singer songwriters.

One huge thing in Ritter’s favor with me is that he has a great number of live albums available. It hurts him not that his particular brand of music lends itself greatly to live performances. His songs are able to vary greatly from studio recording to live solo show to a live duet with his right hand man Zachariah Hickman to a live show with the Royal City Band. I love live music and so this works for me. Whatever, talking about music quickly goes from “this is why this is good” to really stupid pitchfork reviews talking about the ephemera of music, and I cannot imagine that does any good for anyone who actually enjoys music for music’s sake.

YOUTUBE VIDEO TIME!

Josh Ritter is a boss, it’s difficult to tell from youtube videos and all how his concerts all go. I’ll wager you’ll be hard pressed to find a performer who puts more energy into a live show and is anywhere close to as infectious as he. It’s quite a remarkable show to be a part of. It’s the best concert I’ve been to that didn’t involve copious amounts of horn;(bugger your grammar) and I figure with four whole songs to fill up your time you would like a brief repose before more music here. So the next post will be about my old music friend whom I could talk about until the piggies came home.

 

A little why I have strong dislike towards Zooey Deschanel

The problem with all of Zooey Deschanel’s characters is the problem we often get with sexist ideas in general. It demeans all women outside of her because she’s exceptional and anyone who disagrees is upholding the traditional patriarchy. That’s weird, because it’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s saying that by being more like a dude she’s cool.

Not only this, but the things she does to be more like a dude are super mainstream things that traditionally have a lot of female participants. Lord of the Rings? Really? This isn’t even getting into the stupid ideas we have about gender roles and fandom or the demonization of traditionally female things that have a negative impact on society as a whole. Zooey Deschanel (and any other people in her archetypes, of the “exceptional females” and “Manic Pixie Dreamgirls”) never actually does anything to challenge notions of gender in society. Her characters, too busy being not so weird, never look for the female companionship they claim to both want and spurn at the same time. They’ve never heard of geek girl con. They never look to the male companions who ooh and ahh over her love of overalls and say ‘actually guys, this isn’t special, it’s just who I am.’ Zooey never seems to play a character with genuine interest in nerdy stuff, she just does it to not be like other women and get sympathy because all the men don’t want her. Zooey’s entire identity is wrapped up that special brand of quirk.

One final note. I’ve never seen a Zooey Deschanel character that couldn’t find an appropriate partner if she wanted one. The thing is, her character wouldn’t work if she stopped doing weird things to off put suitors. If suddenly the character is actually just like all other women (you know? people who are just like everyone else but have an entire lifetime of experiences that form quirks of personality and don’t actually fit into any pre defined social categories because all of them are too narrow to fit people who don’t try to fit into them) and stopped trying to put on the front of exceptionality then we have almost the exact same character that doesn’t feel like someone spitting into the eyes of other women every time they step on screen.