May 16, 2009

I am still alive

Sorry I went into hiding for two months.
I haven't been exceptionally busy or anything, and it's not like there's been a shortage of things to write about.
I am just a LAZY TEENAGER who sometimes prefers dodging virtual 3-dimensional square-shaped prisms in an endless sea of said prisms, a "field" of "cubes," one might say, to writing about important things.
Bloggings will return shortly.
Hooray, summer!

March 09, 2009

Today I read some FML and realized this is yet another popular cultural meme beloved by everyone in the universe except me. FML

So, yeah. doesn't really appeal to me. At all. It's rarely funny and the schadenfreude aspect can only keep me entertained for so long.


I know a lot of people like it and read it daily. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! You crazy kids. Please, enlighten me: What do you like about FML? (Or dislike, I suppose, but as stated in the title, I am currently the only one in the universe who holds that position)



P.S. I really like the word schadenfreude.

March 07, 2009

No giant squid. WHAT THE HELL, WATCHMEN.

Watchmen was good...


Not cool.

Aside from that major flaw, the movie was really really good. Of course the brilliance of the graphic novel couldn't be translated to film, but I think it was well-done and true to the comic. It was really violent, and there is a graphic rape scene. It is R for a reason. But none of the violence was gratuitous. It's struck me as odd that many reviewers say the violence is really amped up for the movie and a lot more intense than it was in the GN. I didn't find that to be the case at all. I think the difference between violence on paper and violence surrounding you is that you can kind of glance over or ignore a fight scene in a comic, but you can't do that in a movie theatre. So even though the violence is the same, how you perceive it changes with the medium. For me, it was equally violent in both.

I'm impressed that the movie was as good as it was considering how dense and layered the GN was and how much they had to pack in. The weakest moments were when things were too condensed to be really good and effective. For the most part, the acting was great. Jackie Earle Haley was incredible as Rorschach. Better than Heath Ledger in Dark Knight. And the scenery, especially on Mars, was amazing. SO PRETTY. Like in the GN, there is a lot to look at and take in.

So yeah, it's a really good movie. Definitely read the GN before you see it, though.

Also, I just realized I never went over the plot or anything. Basically, it was written by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in 1987, and it is set in alternate reality 1985, where the existence of costumed vigilantes has changed history. HOWEVER, these people, the main characters, are not superheroes. They are flawed. There are no good guys or bad guys. Morality is not black and white. You are not supposed to root for any of these people. You are not even supposed to identify with them, or feel sympathy for them. They are freaks who like to dress up. It is what superheroes would be like if they actually existed. So basically, the world is on the brink of nuclear war, and the GN is really about how these different people react to the end of the world. Also, it has a giant squid.

Read. Watch.

February 28, 2009

Death of a Gasbag

Paul Harvey, you will not be missed.

February 19, 2009

Bible Belt Bloggin'

Here is the result of a recent Gallup poll asking how important religion was to people in different states:

Very cool, and about what I'd expect, except for NC being more religious than Texas...really? My dad brought up an interesting point, though. He said the results may not have been accurate because, especially in the South, people feel pressure to say they're really religious. But that still implies that religion has a huge influence, so it remains a good indicator of how important religion is.

Anyway, just wanted to share that with y'all.

February 18, 2009

Why is it racist to have a white affinity club at school?

Because the literary magazine club, which is entirely white, is a white affinity club.
Because the GSA, which is entirely white, is a white affinity club.
Because many other clubs at this school are exactly like these two.
Because many churches, schools, workplaces, and government offices are white affinity clubs.
Because many towns and suburbs are white affinity clubs.
Because every country club or golf course for miles around is a white affinity club.
Because our entire society is one ginormous white affinity club.

We don't need another one.

Slippery Slope

Of all the debates regarding abortion, the most interesting one has to be the question of personhood. What defines a human life? What rights are owed to human beings? Is it fair for the government to decide what personhood is? Especially in the wake of a new North Dakota measure, one important question arises:

Are women "persons?"

There are two main sides to this complex issue. On one side, the pro-choicers, who say that they are not, and that, because they are not technically persons, they do not have the right to own their bodies--rather, fetuses, which are persons, have that right. On the other side, there are the pro-lifers, who hold the extreme belief that women are persons.

But are they really? Or are they nothing more than clumps of mammary, vaginal, and uterine cells? Sure, one day they could potentially create a life via a hypothetical pregnancy, but beyond that, they're just a few measly cells.

And I mean, is something really "alive" if it's totally dependent on another being? Face it: women, who carry real live human babies all the time, even when they're just in pre-human baby form (or, as pro-lifers prefer, the dehumanizing term "fetuses"), are completely dependent on those babies. Everything that affects women factors in the fact that they have babies inside them first, from how they're treated by society to the kinds of medical attention they can receive. But it doesn't make women persons. It just makes them dependent on a full-fledged human being, who already has rights and dignity and autonomy. It simply isn't fair to encroach on those rights for the sake of something else's "life."

The pro-lifers seem to think that if you show someone a picture of a grown woman, it will convince us that they are persons. But that's just condescending. As if we don't understand what women are. It's just another example of how they are always trying to convince the pro-choicers that we're irresponsible for, in their words, destroying a life. But we've already proved that, not only do women have fully autonomous lives, they're not even persons to begin with. As long as a human life can continue in peace with all the rights that belong to it, it doesn't matter what's sacrificed--whether you call that a couple of cells or, in extreme cases, a "person."

February 16, 2009

Epic Fail

This is a long post. I started it a while ago. I finally finished it.


So we're reading the Ramayana in my English class, this big Indian epic that's been shrunk to about a 20th of its original length so that our tiny freshman brains can take it all in without freaking out and never approaching literature again. In India, it is still a well-loved folk tale, which makes sense, considering there are (though these are not its only attributes) some really great battle scenes between gods and demons, and the language is beautiful.

Considering it was written approximately 2000 years ago, it is unsurprising that there are sexist and classist overtones. But the fact that these are components of a different culture does not mean that they are beyond critique. It does mean that critique aimed at the book is not a criticism of India or its people. And really, I'm not even criticizing Indian culture. I think that as a Westerner I don't have that privilege. What I am criticizing is an epic that both influenced and was influenced by that culture, one that reflects beliefs held by many other societies at many other time periods, and one that has many positive attributes as well. Some of the sexism and classism in this book is overt, some is subtle, almost none of it has been discussed in my class, and I feel like ranting.

But before I begin my thrilling expose into this book's seedy underbelly, I would like to share one thing that makes me claw at my skull in despair: the fact that simple syllables, when strung together into medium-length names, are beyond the grasp of some of my peers (and the fact that my teacher finds this cute). Suddenly, "Dhasaratha" is no longer the syllables "da," "sa," "ra," and "ta" put together, but a big scary non-English thing.

Another frequent complaint: that in the drawing of Rama and Sita on the cover of the book, Rama looks like a girl. He has long hair, makeup, and ornate jewelry, like Sita. His clothing is opened at the front. Obviously, he is not a woman, because in the drawing his chest is completely flat. But people in my class pretend to be SO CONFUSED, because which one is supposed to be the guy??? This inevitably results in much guffawing. You mean, different cultures have different standards of beauty? Oh, my aching sides.

Now that that's out of the way, discussion of the actual book will commence. Early in the story, Rama, the hero, starts his initiation and has to prove himself by killing some demons and restoring peace to some tortured souls. One of the latter is a woman named Ahalya, who, after being raped by the god Indra, was turned to stone by her husband for being impure. Indra's punishment: his body is covered with one thousand vaginas. He is filled with shame and no longer gets to party with all the other gods and demi-gods.

So, you rape someone, and you lose your popularity. Someone rapes you, you are turned to stone possibly for all eternity. Also, on two levels, this is not the right way to change a rapist. First, giving him more vaginas than he could possibly know what to do with: not the best idea. Second, teaching a rapist further that women's body parts are separate from them (and their humanity) and that what makes them women is dirty and shameful hardly inspires more respect for women.

Another demon Rama must kill is one named Thataka, who used to be a woman but was turned into a demon when she got mad at this sage for killing her husband. Rama is conflicted about killing her: on one hand, she is a horrible demon who is destroying the land, on the other, she's a woman. Hooray for chivalry. Also, the reason she is so evil is less because she's destroying the land, and more because she isn't being womanly and nurturing.

Later, Rama has to string the bow of Shiva in order to win Sita as a wife. He does it. And they get married, thus uniting their two kingdoms. Ah, love.

After Rama and Sita are married, they go back to Rama's kingdom. There, an evil hunchback named Kooni (yes, another eeeevil, hideous person with's would seem as if ableism is a recurring theme, oh, EVERYWHERE) convinces Rama's half-brother's mom, Kaikeyi, that she should convince her husband the king to make her own son Bharatha the next king instead of Rama. Kaikeyi falls for it. Then, she tells Dhasaratha that he owes her two promises, and they are 1) to make Bharatha king and 2) to banish Rama for 14 years. The king has no choice but to accept, even though he is distraught. When Bharatha finds out, he declares that Kaikeyi is no longer his mother.

Lots to deconstruct there, not including the overt ableism. In this story, Woman is both the seduced and the seducer. Kaikeyi is two horrible dichotomous roles in one.

But the main event in the story is that, after Rama goes to live in the forest with his brother and Sita, she is abducted by the antagonist, Ravana. Not only does this create the ever-popular damsel in distress who needs to be rescued scenario, it also presents an interesting conundrum. Rama, as we know but he doesn't, is the god Vishnu in human form. Because he is actually a god, in his human form he is more than a man. He is stronger, more just, and more holy than an ordinary person. But Sita, too, is a god: the goddess Lakshmi in human form. And yet, because she is a woman in her human form, she is less than a god. Completely unable to defend herself or do anything on her own without Rama with her, her godliness does not make her any stronger than a human woman. In fact, it seems totally irrelevant.

Another interesting thing is that before she's abducted, one of the plots Ravana comes up with to distract Rama from protecting Sita is to send his sister Kamavalli to marry Rama. When she arrives, she tells Rama how much she loves him, despite the fact that it is improper for a woman to state her feelings so vehemently (the first hint that she is a demon). Rama declines. But not for the obvious reasons, which would be "I'm already in love with someone" and "You are an evil demon." Instead, he can't marry her because they're of different castes. She's of the asura class; he isn't. She is a higher caste than him. Etc, etc, blargh.

So that's pretty much it, just wondering if other people have noticed the same things in reading the book, or different things. It is still a good story, so if you haven't read it, you should. I just wish, somewhere amidst all the talk in class about basic plot facts and the obligatory "good vs. evil" discussion, ANY of the above was mentioned at all.

February 12, 2009

Remembering Lawrence King

He died a year ago today. King was only 15 and he was shot by his peers because of his gender presentation and sexual orientation.

Rest in peace.

An athlete is still an athlete





In which scare quotes are utilized

Valentine's Day is upon us.


I dislike the "holiday."

AND YET, I also do not like it when people gripe about how it is so commercialized and fake and designed to make single people feel unhappy.

The week leading up to it, you get alternately exaggerated sentimentality and displays of wealth and exaggerated condemnation.

It's a dumb cultural thing and I don't really feel like discussing it beyond that.


Hooray! Aw, man

From the LA Times:

"We think the Hyde Amendment is at risk for the first time in many years," Johnson said.


But as with the Freedom of Choice Act, Democrats and abortion-rights advocates don't seem ready to push that battle.

Aw, man.

One item of note from that article:

"There are signs, however, that the administration is in no mood for a politically draining fight over abortion. The White House persuaded Democratic leaders in the House last month to drop a provision from the economic stimulus package that would have increased Medicaid funding for family planning services."

The abortion fight is politically draining. I'm sure it's so tiring to have to defend reproductive justice. How exhausting. They simply haven't the time for such an effort.

February 08, 2009

How to Win 2nd Place at a Debate Tournament

1. Sing a Christmas song
2. Make broad generalizations
3. Fearmonger
4. Remember that America can do no wrong

No, I didn't win anything at the Duke tournament I attended yesterday. No, I'm not bitter. One fellow, to whom I shall henceforth refer as "Sucks at Debate," or simply "SAD," did win second place. I watched him give a speech in the final round. I was not terribly impressed. What follows is something of a rant.

SAD began his speech by saying that Christmas is his favorite time of year, and we remember the lessons we learn at that time well into the new year. The message of peace is one of those. SAD then sang a few lines of some drippy song. Then we find out that the question he is to answer is what the US should do to facilitate peace between Israel and Palestine. According to SAD, we should do nothing.

SAD's first point is 'religious diversity,' which is always code for 'ethnic conflict,' which is in turn code for 'civil wars,' and is a convenient way for an ignorant Western kid to completely sanitize complex issues. He begins this point by discussing how America was founded on the basis of religious freedom, and people of all different beliefs came together to escape persecution.

Actually, the country was founded by a bunch of rich guys who didn't want to pay their taxes, but nice try. And I'm not sure "a couple of varying sects of Christianity" counts as "different beliefs." The Puritans came to America a) because no one took their crazy, extremist religion seriously in England and b) in order to tame the so-called savages that were already here. They were just a bit racist. Additionally, they thought religious freedom was ok as long as it applied only to their religion. Doesn't seem very noble to me.

But, according to SAD, those poor, backwards Arabs aren't nearly as free as we are. All of their problems are caused by their conflicting religions! In fact, the Muslims want to kill the Jews! And the Jews want to escape the horrible Jew-hating Muslims! And so there's fighting and stuff!

Again, completely simplifying a complex history. Contrary to popular Western belief, Israel and Palestine do not fight because their gods have different names. There are a number of factors that led to the recent escalation in violence: land disputes, poverty, etc. Religious extremism is ONE factor, and it is by no means the most important. And my jaw dropped when I heard "the Muslims want to kill the Jews." For one thing, it's entirely too broad a generalization, and it's false and offensive. For another, to paint this as a "Muslim-Jew" thing is completely wrong. It isn't. There are non-Muslims and non-Jews who were hit just as hard by the war, and talk like this only alienates them and makes them invisible.

SAD then makes an incredible, death-defying leap of logic and claims that America can't intervene because our religious freedom is distasteful to the Israelis and Gazans. They wouldn't listen to us because they're so put off by our democratic tendencies, so facilitating peace is futile.

The ignorance doesn't stop there. SAD goes on to say that we should do nothing because we haven't the money. Ignoring the fact that the only way to get out of a recession is to spend, we are currently sending out envoys to other places, like Pakistan. Sending ambassadors to a peace conference would be no different. And peace is far less expensive than war--if we're okay with spending billions of dollars on the Iraq war every day, we should be spending on peace too. Another bs argument.

SAD's final point is an analysis of a history of relations between Israel and Palestine. Basically, says SAD, they don't like each other. And so, for some reason, we shouldn't get in the way. Not only is this remarkably similar to SAD's first point, it's also blatantly hypocritical. For someone who blathers on about complexity and nuance, he's pretty willing to make blanket statements about entire groups of people. He concludes with another trite quote about peace. But the judges seemed to like it.

Which is why SAD, who shouldn't have advanced past his freshman year in extemp, won second place, and which is also why I tend to loathe the people in my event.

February 06, 2009

EW: Lady Gaga is not a feminist

Hardly surprising. Here is the actual quote:

"[My music] is sexually empowering women. There's a stigma around feminism that's a little bit man-hating. And I don't promote hatred, ever. That's not to say that I don't appreciate women who feel that way. I've got a lot of gay women friends...I'm not wrong. I'm free. And if it's wrong to be free, then I don't want to be right. Things are changing."

When things are called empowering, they are usually demeaning instead, or at least counter-productive (Suicide Girls, pole-dancing workouts, "choosing" to wear makeup, etc. etc). All too often, "adhering to the standards of the patriarchy" is conflated with "empowerment"--supposedly because a woman made a choice, it is therefore a feminist one. But as long as the patriarchy exists, no sexual choice is a true choice. "Empowerment" is another false construct of the patriarchy that tells women they can have all the fun of feminism with none of the man-hating stigma. It's not feminism. Only true feminism empowers women. And while there are many feminisms and it's not my place to define what "true feminism" is, it is definitely within my power to point out what is NOT feminist.

The "times are changing" part is also troubling, because the message that women should embrace gender roles, be willfully ignorant of sexism, and take off their clothes to make the men happy is not a new one. It has been around forever. The weird thing about our culture is that it is simultaneously extremely puritanical and hypersexualized. We need to be less narrow-minded about sexuality. But changing that doesn't mean objectifying women's bodies even more, even if they're doing it themselves. At the same time, we need to stop hypersexualizing women's (and girls') bodies.

The only solution is the complete destruction of the patriarchy. Only then can women be sexually free and empowered. Until then, we are the sex class. Right now, no matter what we do, no matter what choice we think we're making, we have no true sexual agency.

Now, I don't really care what one person, especially a celebrity, thinks about feminism. It certainly doesn't change what I think about it. And who knows if LG really believes what she is saying? What I care more about is how LG's quote gives such a concise description of the patriarchy's main weapons: delusion and denial. Keeping women misinformed about what feminism is and keeping them unaware of their inescapable role as sex objects makes its job that much easier.

And the "gay women friends" thing is dubious, to say the least. Having gay feminist friends doesn't give you a free pass to say anti-feminist things. And it's completely dehumanizing. Of course, gay women are defined first and foremost by their gayness. They are not given names or personalities, just vague friend status, used as justifications and little else. I will be ever so happy when people finally stop using the "my [insert minority here] friend said it's ok" defense.

January 20, 2009

President Obama!

Watching the inauguration today, it made me indescribably happy when I read the little thingy at the bottom of the screen that said "President Obama says farewell to Mr. Bush."

President Obama. Mr. Bush. How awesome is that? (Answer: incredibly so)
He's finally gone. After spending half of my life with him and all his idiotic, anti-science, anti-choice, warmongering, power-hungry, god-crazed, hypocritical cronies in charge of the country, it is just so great to have someone like Obama as president. He won't be a perfect president, and he will probably be more centrist than he should be, and he won't be able to accomplish everything he says he will, and he will make mistakes. But he's intelligent, diplomatic, and pretty liberal, so I admire and support him, and I'm glad he's president.

I really liked Obama's inaugural address. I liked everything he said about ending the war in Iraq and forging peace in Afghanistan, creating transparency, regulating the free market, utilizing alternative fuels, and reforming healthcare and education. I liked that, despite all the appeals to God to bless America, he at least acknowledged non-believers. Overall, I was impressed. Aretha Franklin was amazing. And while Lowery's speech didn't make up for Warren's bigoted "compassionate conservative" prayer, it was really cool to hear the Negro National Anthem. Even Rick Warren couldn't ruin the inauguration for me.

A great inauguration. And it's snowing! This is the best day of 2009 so far.

January 07, 2009

Gaza, Israel, and Blaming

It's easy to be blind to Western privilege, and the privilege of not having to live in a war zone. It's easy to try to diagnose the reasons why the "conflict," as the word "war" is so often sterilized, began, without once realizing that the atrocities of recent weeks will never really end. Violence is a sad, horrible cycle that I, or anyone else with tons of privilege, will never be able to understand, no matter how much we try to theorize about jus ad bello or political opportunism or whatever else we use to, intentionally or not, reduce people's death and suffering to a question of foreign policy.

It doesn't matter who started it. It really doesn't. It doesn't matter to the person who was killed by the airstrikes or the person who was killed by the rockets. It doesn't matter to their families. It only matters to people like me, rich, white Western kids who write speeches for their debate class. And not angry ones about the hideousness of war, but calm, emotionless ones with five or more citations, seven minutes long, about whether Israel was justified in attacking Gaza.

War is never reasonable. It is never proportional, and it should never be justified. People are dying. Where is the outrage?

So what can you do, if you, like me, are truly ignorant of this situation? Stop reading the New York Times or watching CNN for coverage. Western media tend to either oversimplify these wars or dehumanize and other the victims. So here are some links to news articles without that bias.

Gazans: 'We are living a nightmare'

Massive Israeli carnage leaves hundreds of Gaza victims
Palestine: Situation report in Gaza by UN humanitarian coordinator
Barak: If the ceasefire deal doesn't meet Israeli demands, Gaza operation will continue
25 Gaza rockets strike Negev over course of Wednesday
Special Reports: Confronting Hamas

And we all need to stop blaming one side or another for the attacks. Everyone, even the US, is responsible to some extent. Eventually, we can discuss reasoning or justification. But right now, the attacks have just happened. To speak so callously and with such detachment from the situation is insensitive. We can, and probably should, all be talking about what's happening. But we should spent less time blaming and more time discussing this from a humanitarian viewpoint.

Take a moment of silence for Gaza. And donate here.