solarbird: (Lecturing)
I think it's an appropriate time to remind any actual conservatives out there that the last thing to make Marxism really popular - I mean, actually, legitimately popular - in the US? Fascism.

I mean it. Seriously. Actual fascism - and all it entails - managed to turn a rampaging monster like Stalin into our pal "Uncle Joe." That ... that took a lot.

So when you're thinking about exactly how hard should you hold onto your reflexive alliance with white supremacists and neofascists like Bannon and Milo, think about that history. Think about it real hard.

Because right now, you've got a whole generation of people who have grown up being told that online death and rape threats and doxxing, and systematic harassment, is just something they should deal with. Conservatives have been saying all that is just Free Speech, and embracing the abuse organisers and agreeing that the solution is that women should "just log off." They don't even bother addressing people of colour.

Like you can fucking log off. That's saying, "stop being in society." That's "hide thyself in a nunnery." That's "give in," that's "go die," that's "accept being absolutely without value to us." It's the opposite of an answer - it's support for the abusers.

Meanwhile, at the same time, and in response to this same situation, the so-called "liberal" side of things has been giving fuck and all of a response, with occasional dishwatery tsk-tsk statements and a lot of hand-writing about violating the rights of people who are literally trying to organise ethnic cleansing.

On the other hand, the Marxists were out way in front, talking about this in the context of economic politics, racial politics, and how fascism is the natural end-state of late-stage capitalism. Who is on the ground fighting the fascists? The antifa (anti-fascist) movement, which while not by any means universally Marxist, is generally very left.

When Richard Spencer - who has personally published articles supporting genocide - got oh-so-deservedly punched in the face on camera, who cheered? Everybody who has been targeted - almost all the women and a decent number of men of an entire generation, a lot of women of all generations, and a decent number of other men besides.

And, of these political factions, which said "about FUCKING time DO MORE OF THAT" and who, by contrast, lectured about how you have to have polite and respectful discussion with people who are literally planning your mass murder?

Conservatives, and mainstream liberals, you want a roadmap to actual popular Marxism? Guess what: you don't need a fucking roadmap. You've already built the road.
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
Upright Republicans - ones to whom any of the supposed small-government principles ever mattered at all, or, for that matter, one to whom any of the claimed GOP principles ever mattered at all - need to understand that the GOP is no longer their party.

And if they want to take their party back, they need to cause the GOP to lose in 2016. There are times, no matter how much you don't like it, that you need to lose an election to win the future, and when you do that, you need to do it in a clear and visible way.

Fortunately, there is a clear and visible way to do that, and the way to do that in 2016 is to vote for Gary Johnson. Gary gets 5%, and it will be an extremely clear message: you can't win without us.

Because right now, at this moment, the GOP is an unrestrained horde of overt racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, and absolutism, it is a party of chaos and strong-man leadership, the opposite of law, the inverse of order. A GOP victory in this condition would be a tremendous loss for all the principles of small and hands-off government. Both parties will be mass rule, and the one least historically aligned against that will have won with that as their standard, and will not turn away for decades, if ever.

The GOP must lose this election, and it must be clear why.

Gary Johnson won't win; the Libertarian party is a joke. I say that as someone who has voted big-L more than not. A lot of people will say, therefore, that you are "throwing away your vote."

That's horseshit. This election, if you're on the small-government side, it's the only way not to throw away your vote, and it's the only shot at not losing the GOP to the mob.

The GOP must lose 2016. Badly. And it must be clear why. Responsible, upright Republicans must vote Gary Johnson in 2016. He won't win - but you will.
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
Okay, a lot of people are linking to Brett Arneds's opinion piece on Marketwatch, wherein he "blows [the second amendment] baloney into a million pieces."

I'm not gonna link it, and I'm not even going to argue the merits of gun control. Instead, I'm gonna repost something I posted elsewhere, because this is the exactly sort of thing that starts getting to me about gun control advocacy.

Hamilton was writing about (and directly referencing) Article I, Section 8, and Article II, Section 2, of the then-proposed American Constitution. He was not referencing the second amendment, or any part of the Bill of Rights, because it DID NOT YET EXIST.

Yes, you heard me, AMENDMENT II DID NOT YET EXIST when he wrote this article. It would not even be proposed for ANOTHER YEAR AND A HALF. He cannot have been writing about it.

I mean, read the damn Federalist Paper he linked, if you've been cheering that article. It talks about whether States or the Federal government should control the Militia. It's Federalist No. 29 - "Concerning the Militia."

What's he quoting and paraphrasing? Article I section 8, Article II section 2, not any not-yet-extant Bill of Rights text.

The paper was published Thursday, January 10, 1788.

The fleet of proposed amendments which were winnowed down to become the Bill of Rights were introduced June 8, 1789, 18 months later.

His article is a lie, a lie that relies on you not reading what's linked and not putting dates together and not knowing what you're actually talking about to "prove" something it does not in reality prove.

In this way, the gun control movement has long been exactly as callous towards reality as the fundamentalist movement has been about queers and abortion rights, and is what drove me away from it, because I have had that weapon turned against me my entire life, and I will not have it.

I simply won't.



eta: In response to comments elsewhere: I feel that Arneds is quite intentionally conflating discussions on control of the militia with discussions on the right of individuals to bear arms in the second amendment, and the people forwarding it around are taking that bait with alacrity and doing so quite directly. I believe both points were intentional, which is why I called it a lie, as it was intent to mislead. That's what I was reacting to. No, he never literally states, "Federalist 29 is specifically about the second amendment," but he's sure as hell setting that up.

Quoting myself from elsewhere:
I assert: Arneds's article takes the "collective right" model of interpretation as given. Without that, talking about the ideas over who controls the militia is irrelevant. Do you agree?

If you agree: assuming A (collective right, in this case) to be true, when B (individual right, in this case) and A are mutually exclusive, automatically invalidates B.

However, because the truth of A is assumptive, rather than proven, asserting that A is true proves B is untrue is a falsehood. Or, in this case, because I have seen the rhetorical structure of this article used by fundamentalists with deceptive intent against queers my entire life in their efforts to exterminate me and mine, it is something I read as a lie. Beyond that, I react to it badly, but that doesn't change the structure of the situation.

And that claim above is the claim this article makes; if I assume A, then because if A is true then B is false, therefore I have proven that B is false. That's what the NYDN commentary does, that's what all the people I was responding to in my post collectively have done, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it pisses me off.
solarbird: (pindar-do-pardon-me)
The GOP establishment has actually gone to war against the demi-fascist Mr. Trump now. It's fascinating.

I mean, they've been ramping up. They've been throwing bits of everything at him hoping something might stick. They're quietly telling more vulnerable members of Congress that they won't be punished for distancing themselves from Mr. Trump if we wins the nomination. They've even been blaming everyone else for the monster which is their creation, pulling their usual externalisation/I'm-not-crying-you're-crying projection tricks:

The media, licking its collective chops, cannot wait for the GOP to become the party of racists, misogynists and authoritarians that liberals have always portrayed Republicans to be.
--Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post
But none of that has been working. So now, they're really cranking it up, threatening their rank-and-file with the worst, an out-and-out party split. They're telling everyone, break ranks, endorse Trump, and we will end you. Your career is over at that moment, they're saying, in pretty much those words, and Chris Christie is being made an example of right now. Any other hints of disloyalty will be treated the same.

So now, we're seeing a real party civil war. But the question is - how will the oligarchs weigh in? And on which sides?

It's hard to say. The Koch brothers, for their part, are saying they're staying out of it - which is most certainly a vote of no confidence in the GOP Establishment, even if it's a lie, as I presume it is. If it's not a dodge - they do lie a lot - it's also probably an implication that they think they can have more control with a newer party. (They've tried that before.)

The rest will probably fall down on one side or another in the next couple of weeks. Can't keep track of 'em without a scorecard, getcher programmes right here!

What a spectacle! What a show.

eta: Oh look, they've rebooted Mitt Romney!

eta2: And the LA Times have pulled out one of my favourite words, "inchoate," for their editorial. Excellent, said Mr. Burns.
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Seanan McGuire posted an article today on why you need to leave reviewers alone. Authors Behaving Badly is kind of a perennial lol-topic in reader circles, and a stunning percentage of those stem from authors reacting – badly – to negative reviews.

She has a bunch of good reasons why you don’t engage such reviews, even if they’re just being mean. And all that’s fine. But a couple of people have posted about how hard that is, and I realised there’s something Seanan didn’t say, to wit:

If you’re staring at a negative review and itching to say something, don’t, not just because of all the obvious reasons, but because being reviewed at all – no matter how negatively – is a kind of compliment in and of itself.

Remember that. Even vendetta reviews are compliments, really, because they mean the reviewer thought you were important enough to talk about, even if just to try to take you down.

And leaving aside vendetta reviews – like the Rabids attempt to game Goodreads – a sincere but negative review also means they thought you were worth the actual time they spent. Even if they don’t admit it, the facts on the ground are that you were worth the time they spent actually reading or listening to or watching your thing, and the time they spent writing a review about it.

Remember: no matter how much they may’ve hated whatever they’re hating – and let’s say they hated it a lot – they still cared enough to take the time to write and post a thing about your work. In a world flooded with opportunities to read/watch/listen to/react to material, they listened to yours, and wrote about yours, which means that you’re worth that much to them, at very least.

And it’s not symmetrical. They’ve handed you the big advantage. After all – you’re not writing about them, now, are you? No.

Good. Keep it that way.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (Lecturing)
Over on Facebook, people are getting weird and panicky, and posting various bits of data out of context. They're freaking out more than I think they should about the Baltic Dry Index, in particular, and are starting to do things like quote Superstation 95 as a source. (Pro tip: SUPERSTATION 95 IS NOT A SOURCE. DO NOT QUOTE IT. EVER.*)

Anyway, here's a cross-comparison chart you should consider before panicking about the Baltic Dry Index; it's oil price against BDI. Fuel is a meaningful part of the cost of shipping. Note that the BDI follows (in part) the chart of oil, and oil hasn't been this cheap in a while:



Note further that crude oil imports in North America are at lows not seen in a long time due to domestic production; consider the implications of that on an overbuilt shipping fleet. Note further further that China went off its binge of years-in-advance commodity buying a few years ago and a couple of years ago dropped out of that entirely. Note the effects of that on copper and other important industrial commodities, and the effects of that on the value of shipping any of those things around, and the effects of that on demand for shipping and - therefore - price demand ability of an overbuilt shipping fleet.

Get the picture?

I'm not saying shipping isn't slowing. It is, for all the reasons related above. Earnings are also disappointing this season, and the economy is showing stress. Automobile demand isn't great, for example. But these are secular realities in a commodities slump. This happens. Don't panic.

Really, I have to wonder how much recessions (and impressions thereof) are going to change once we get a generation of people who haven't been looking at an alternate mode of civilisation under a completely different economic system (the Communist bloc), and for whom each recession is not some sort of existential crisis leading to straight to international communism. I'm not even sure the millennials will be able to get past it - this might very well take another generation past that. We'll just have to see.




*: Superstation 95 is, in fact, a front for a white-supremacist revolutionary organisation (Hal Turner's, specifically), heavy on the conspiracy theory. A few days ago, they posted a "story" that got passed around through various blogs and ended up on Zero Hedge unquestioned, claiming that all ocean shipping had stopped. All of it. This was horseshit - even the graphic they posted showed cargo ships en route - but that didn't stop people from taking it at face value. Their goal is destabilisation through fear in order to launch a race war. They also claim to be a New York City radio station; they are not. There is no such license. If they exist at all on the air, it is as a pirate station.
solarbird: (not_in_the_mood)

The Puppies made another attempt to game a system last week, but it fell apart rather hilariously.

The first notice it got was a lot of very negative commentary all at once on a negative review of one of the oberpuppyführer Vox Day’s collections; Lis Carey left a note about it in File 770‘s comments section. And File 770 also found a post about it on Vox’s blog. (Linked via DoNotLink).

Well, it gets dumber from there. Sean O’Hara started poking around, and found that there was a Secret Puppy Goodreads Group*, formed with the explicit intention of gaming the site by bombing “SJW” reviewers and authors with negative reviews and ratings, and uprating all Puppy-affiliated works. The problem is, while it was a limited-access group – well, I’ll hand it to Sean:

Too bad for him the only thing keeping out the SJWs was a challenge question that could be answered with a simple Google search. By Saturday night I had access to the group. I didn’t know what to do — undermine him from the inside, play Serpico and leak screenshots on a piecemeal basis, or save them up for a big reveal. The last one seemed the best way not to get caught until I had a good collection of dirt, and I was strongly leaning in that direction.

But after reading File770’s news roundup yesterday, which included a story about someone being ganged up on by Day and his goons, I decided it might be better to give warning where I could.

Here are a collection of screenshots from that group.

And apparently, while Goodreads is a bit of a mess sometimes, that was simply too much for them, and they banned the whole lot of them, with Vox himself being singled out for permanent lockout.

Vox has, of course, claimed victory. (Also a DoNotLink link.)

It’s kind of sad at this point, really. The problem is that the crazy neighbour is only so funny, because sooner or later, they might just bring in a bunch of friends from out of state and take over a wildlife refuge centre, and then it’s not so much fun anymore.

And since we’re talking Puppies, I might as well point at this takedown by Scott Lynch of John C. Wright’s accusations against Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Worldcon, supported by all witnesses who aren’t John C. Wright. I don’t think anyone outside the reactionary rightist circle has a lot of fucks go give about Mr. Wright – remember, this is the guy who came to my blog threatening to sue me for libel after I quoted him accurately and in context. That’s the kind of reality-disassociated sad muppet he is. But I saw his new post, “Stormbunnies and Crybullies”, responding (quite negatively) to George R. R. Martin’s recent call for winding down this fanwar, and one paragraph stood out:

But I am a forgiving man, jovial and magnanimous. I make the following peace offer: Go your way. Cease to interfere with me and my livelihood, do your work, cease to libel me and meddle with my affairs, withhold your tongue from venom and your works from wickedness, and we shall all get along famously.

Emphasis added.

Don’t write what I don’t like, and we’ll get on fine.

I’m the kind of person he doesn’t want to exist. I’m several kinds of people he doesn’t want to see being written about. (You might recall John as the person who so passionately hated Korra from The Legend of Korra, explicitly and specifically because she’s bi. He’s one of those hate-the-sin love-the-sinners whose idea of “love” is making people like me illegal.)

So if we all just stop writing about uppity women and those horrible queers and faggots – all of whom, as you’ll recall, should be beaten to death with ax-handles and tire irons – we’ll get along just fine.

The only ‘peace’ these guys can imagine is complete and utter submission to them. No wonder they have such a fascination with ISIL and the like; it’s a mirror. So do everything by their rules, on their terms, all the time, and always, always give them exactly what they want and do nothing else, and we’ll be just fine.

Stalin would be proud.

I was thinking about pasting in one of the stop liking what I don’t like memes as an ending for this post, but that doesn’t really work, because that’s just about childish frustration and confusion. This, by contrast, is childish frustration and confusion pupated into man-child quasi-fascism, and I don’t have a properly-fitting caption.

But I might have a good animated gif.


Even Kylo Ren is a more complex character than any of these people.


And I just don’t know where to go with that.

*: eta: The original post is missing. I don’t know why. This was the original link: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/9683209-you-all-owe-me and here is a still-valid Google cache as of 2016/01/05 21:45 Cascadian Standard Time.

 


This is part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (Lecturing)

Over on Tumblr, I was asked, in response to an offhand comment:

earlgraytay asked:
Hey, do you want to talk about your GOP theory? I grew up worshipping at the altar of Reagan.

Hoooooooo boy here we go.

Okay, so it’s really not that complicated, but we do need to lay a bunch of groundwork, which is the part that makes it look complicated, so bear with me.

First, you have to remember that there was once a GOP that wasn’t batshit insane. Yes, it’s always had batshit insane hangers-on, but that’s pretty much true for every party. (And in some parties, that’s all there is, Wildrose Party of Alberta, I am looking very pointedly in your direction.)

This was back when one of the big things that defined “Republican party” as separate to the “Democratic party” in the 20th century - back when the GOP was the anti-racist party, before Nixon and the Southern Strategy - was that a democratic government - small “d” - could not legitimately exercise unlimited power. It must be contained, and the best way to do that is through representation, not direct democracy, and by strict observation of constitutional law.

This comes from a variety of sources, and goes back to the American revolution, and was then hammered home by watching the French revolution which followed.

In practical terms, one can obviously talk about this being more seen in the breach than the observation. But it was still more than lip service; it was a legitimate philosophical tenant. The Democrats had thrown much of this idea overboard during the Great Depression, but the GOP held on to it.

Obviously, that shit is over. You see, after Richard M. Nixon lost the 1960 election, he decided that the New Deal alliance that built the mid-century Democratic Party couldn’t be broken unless the Confederacy stopped being a single-party all-Democrat bastion. So he, along with his cohorts, started steering the GOP away from anti-racism and towards coded pro-racism - the Southern Strategy - just as the Democratic Party was being lead in the opposite direction by its northern wing. And it got him elected in 1968.

Now, I realise all that’s all very well known, but I wanted it out there, because this set the groundwork for what happened later.

And that foundation having been laid, let’s skip ahead to the late 1970s and early 1980s - Reagan’s epoch and later.

The Southern Strategy has paid off, Reagan has broken the Democratic stronghold. LBJ’s prediction upon signing the Civil Rights Act - that the Democrats would lose the South for three generations - has effectively come true.

With that has come the beginnings of a cultural shift. Parties are, after all, made up of their constituents, and that culture shapes party culture.

The Democrats had a big enough alliance that Dixie culture was one part of many. You had the socially-very-liberal New Englanders, you had the quasi-Nordic social-democratic and socially-liberal northwest (small but material), you had the unions of the midwest, and so on. The fundamentalist Baptists of the South (and their expatriots in California) were equals amongst peers

That was not so much the case with the GOP. They’d attracted a lot of religious voters, and had done so quite intentionally, in taking on the South; that included a lot of fundamentalists - the size of the party grew substantially.

But those fundamentalists were new to the party, and in the early 1980s, even after working for Reagan, they found themselves not getting what they wanted, and not getting what they felt they’d been promised.

So in response to internal protest, what they were told, and what they believed and acted upon, was that they may have supported the party, but they weren’t of the party. The old GOP was very much turn-based and seniority-based; they needed to get involved in the rank-and-file and work their way up. Not just turn out and vote; start working for the party. They had to join the club, as it were.

So they did. And as the fundamentalist revival took over more and more of the Southern Baptist (and similarly-oriented) denominations, that interlink became more and more toxic.

That’s because - and this is probably the critical factor - not only is one of the key tenants of modern American fundamentalism that there is there no legitimate opposition (because the religious is the personal is the cultural, and the religious opposition is, literally, Satan), but that there is no legitimate middle ground. Compromise is criminal; excessiveness is a requirement.

Dig down a bit, and this comes out of Revelations, 3:15-16, and let’s go with King James because they love it so: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Cold or hot; there can be no “lukewarm” middle ground; the middle ground is actually worse than Satan.

They’d harp on this constantly. You cannot findJesus except through ever-increasing fervour. And by the early 1990s, this had become a general cultural value - one spoken about openly. I didn’t have to dig for this; they were saying it outright. And then, as is inevitable, the cultural value became a political value, and the last remnants of the old GOP were swept away.

I monitored a lot of fundamentalist radio at the time, listening to the things they said to each other, things not intended for greater-public consumption, transcribing and emailing it around so people would know what the political fundamentalists were saying when they thought it was just amongst themselves. By then, they’d hammer on this explicitly as a political value - a political necessity.

Then, just a few years after that, they added “spiritual warfare,” which was spiritual “armour” you’d don in your mind to be impervious to the temptations of the enemy - the words of the enemy, the thoughts of the enemy, the discussions of the enemy.

That’s when I started sending up warnings to anyone who would listen, because I know how this goes. That didn’t go over any better than my warnings about that little experiment the Pakistani government was running in Afghanistan - but I digress.

And as the fundamentalist population took over the organisational structure, the day-to-day working of the party, this attitude became contagious - first common, then pervasive, taking over the secular members of the party as well. That’s just because humans are social animals - they go along with their friends, on most things. It’s what they do. And that’s the culture which spread.

And now, well, we’re here. You have a Democratic party which only now is beginning to understand the chasm and cultural issues; you have a Republican party which is functionally a fundamentalist movement on whatever axis it chooses to follow, whether that axis is actually “religious” or not, as that has become its cultural core.

Even if the religion part itself went away - if it vanished overnight - the cultural value of unipolar validity, of the intrinsic invalidity of middle ground or compromise and the illegitimacy of any opposition wouldn’t vanish. That isn’t going anywhere peacefully, except through long-term failure, followed by ageing out of the primary population - something that’ll take another decade or three. That doesn’t mean they’ll hold power that whole time; I mean it’ll take at least that long for this cultural phase to fade away to irrelevance.

So, there you go. If you made it all the way through this, congratulations! It’s a lot.

solarbird: (Default)
I've been thinking a little about Anna's post about Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron and about Black Widow as "love interest" and the "monster" comment and Disney/Marvel's rather hideous sexism in merchandising and trying to separate out all those bits and pieces into a coherent thought.

And I've got various things to say about various parts, but I think want to talk about this one tweet. It gets spoilery below here, so consider yourself warned now.

Read more... )
solarbird: (Default)
I continue to be bemused by the ongoing return of vinyl LPs. Another year, another set of gains, in both units and revenue. Data from Statistica:



It matches what I was seeing in an RIAA PDF from earlier this year. Vinyl sales are doing very well, thanks, and are the only ownership segment that's actually rising. Streaming revenue is climbing too, but wow, not enough to make up for all the down segments.


Data again Statistica, this graph Forbes


I think there are a couple of things going on here.

First, the LP surge - yes, of course it's at least partly a fad. That's not durable, and the increase in rate of increase is most probably a warning sign.

But aside from that, I think the rise in LP sales may be related to the LP package being a physical/tangible object that's interesting to have for itself. Certainly, if you're going to pick a CD vs. a vinyl LP as an interesting physical object, the LP wins. Bigger covers, more interesting art possibilities - the whole drill. But...

I wrote a while ago about how the RIAA made music ownership a negative value. I think that's still pretty much true, for digital.

But I don't think that perception ever reached vinyl. Vinyl had been written off by the time the RIAA swung into self-destructive smashy smashy. And I'm wondering if vinyl still caries a weight of ownership that digital no longer does.

I mean, I just had a friend of mine who has never owned a turntable and is the opposite of a hipster say she's thinking of getting one. This shouldn't be ignored.

The downside for the artist, of course, is that LPs are a lot more expensive to make - particularly for indies. And smaller living spaces mean less space for storage of any kind of stuff, including LPs. That's a limiting factor, and while it might become less of one as housing stock rebalances, that rebalancing is a longer cycle, and probably won't come early enough to matter.


or somebody will find a way to make it their job


The second statement I take from these graphics is that the industry - as of 1st half 2014 - is still both sinking and on fire. That Forbes chart shows year-to-year revenue changes in stark numbers - down categories at $-394m (downloads, CS, synchronisation, others) vs. up categories at $+231m (streaming, vinyl) year-to-year.

That's a $163m revenue loss. I certainly don't see how vinyl can staunch that much bleeding. And the streaming revenue gains - while obviously more substantial, and where the industry is betting its future - don't even make up for the drop in paid downloads. They're just cannibalising their own revenue streams.

We're still living in a post-scarcity environment. And there's no rearrangement of desk chairs that can change that fact. Delay the repercussions a little, sure; stop them, no.

Me, I want to release something on Edison cylinder. It can in fact be done; there's a company in the UK doing it. And wow, it's expensive. But if, you know, 20 people want to go in at $50/each for cylinders, I will do it. I will do it in a heartbeat.

No? Yeah, I didn't think so either. XD



This is Part 11 of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of essays about, well, what it says on the tin. In the digital era, duplication is essentially free and there are no natural supply constraints which support scarcity, and therefore, prices. What the hell does a recording musician do then?
solarbird: (Default)


A couple of impressions leapt out at me from the Norwescon 38 panel photos posted on Facebook on Friday. It's only a small number of photos - eight pictures, representing seven panels. One of those panels was one of my nwcMUSIC panels; "What the Frak is Filk?" if I remember correctly.

First, let's get one big thing said up front; I don't want to make undue guesses about race, but at least in photos, this looks like Mighty Whitey Incorporated. That's a problem.

But also, let's talk about this:

        men          women      recognisably gender-variant
         1             0                   0
         3             1                   0
         5             0                   0
         3             0                   0
         2             2                   0 **
         1             2                   0
         0             1                   0
     -------------------------------------------
        15             6                   0

**: One of mine; I actively work to gender-balance nwcMUSIC panels.


Now, I work this con. I've worked it for years. I know the last couple of heads of programming. I know they're trying not to do this - moreover, they're trying specifically not to do this. And Programming Head has told me that the list of attending pros and performers actually is roughly equal. So in reality: they aren't doing this.

And yet, despite all those facts, here are the numbers we see represented in these photos:

Excluding single-person panels (one reading, one workshop):
          Male panelists: 14
          Female panelists: 5
          Women are 26.3% of panelists.

Including single-person panels:
          Male panelists: 15
          Female panelists: 6
          Women are 28.6% of panelists

Multiperson panels, majority male: 3
Multiperson panels, majority women: 1
Panels gender-balanced: 1
          Women are a majority in 20% of panels;
          Men are a majority in 60%.

In majority-female panels, 33% of panelists are men.
In majority-male panels, 8% of panelists are women.

Excluding single-person presentations/workshops:
          Panels without men: 0
          Panels without women: 2

Including single-person:
          Panels without men: 1
          Panels without women: 3


Sure, it's a small number of photos, of a small number of panels. But it's what's posted. It's what's online right now.

And remember all those things I've talked about, how 17% women is representationally balanced and 33% women is seen as kind of being 'mostly women'? Well...

Again, and I really want to stress this, these are not representative. But that's kind of the point: they aren't representative, but you can't tell that from the photos. The reality doesn't show up here.

What does show up here are the choices made about which panels to photograph and which photographs to post. From a record-of-events standpoint, a perceived history standpoint, those choices override the reality.

And that's called erasure. Not in a big way; in a very small way, in fact. A grain of sand, striking a mural on a wall. But one grain of oh so many.

I do not believe or even suspect for a second that the photographers or the social media group did this shifting on purpose. I truly, genuinely, do not. Do not go after them.

But the numbers say that it happened nonetheless. I didn't go looking for it; it leapt out at me, and then I did the numbers to see whether I was making it up. I wasn't. And so it proceeds.

This comes in a context. I was just reading about studies showing that two and three year old children play with gender-assigned toys when adults are around, but that they play freely across toy gender boundaries when they think adults aren't watching.

That's how ingrained this is, that's how deep it runs, and how early. Two-year-olds get it. You don't need conscious sexism, or even adult- or teen-acquired sexism. It's taught so early that the erasure is unconscious and automatic.

But still taught. Not instinctive, as the shift in playing habits shows. Taught. And learned.

Echoed from Crime and the Blog of Evil.

solarbird: (gypsy mst3k)
Let's talk about ZARDOZ.

No, really. I mean it. ZARDOZ. More-infamous-than-famous John Boorman 1970s SF movie, a miscast Sean Connery, a wardrobe director presumably still on the run from Fashion Interpol, a giant flying stone head, ZARDOZ.

I've seen ZARDOZ a few times, as a bad film fan. And like most everyone who sees it, I laughed like a hyena. But... after seeing it a couple of times, I began to realise that underneath a lot of garbage... it's not that bad a film. Yes, the wardrobe designer committed a great many sins; the decision to throw Sean Connery into safety-orange bandoliers certainly makes a statement, and that statement is, "you cannot stop laughing at Sean Connery in safety-orange bandoliers." And yes, even aside from that, there's a lot of 70s bullshit floating around.

But underneath all that, there are some interesting sciffy concepts being played with here, many but not all having to do with a society of immortals who survived the apocalypse but were forced to watch it and can't deal with the combination of survivor's guilt and boredom, and, along the way, what they then do with the survivors around them.

You can start to pick out that there's a plan, in other words - both by characters and director - and you can start to pick at some of the weird philosophy being thrown around. There's still a lot of affectation, and the ending is pretty incoherent, but you can see the bones of something in that wreckage.

Then Minion Paul dug out this, and gave it to me:


That's not Paul's hand


My immediate reaction, of course, was laughter. Of course ZARDOZ had a novelisation, all those terrible movies had terrible novels. And curiosity got the best of me.

Now, ZARDOZ was an original story for film. John Boorman has the story and screenplay credits. But the book in my hands wasn't a novelisation of that screenplay. It actually went the other way around. John Boorman explained it, in his author's note; in 1972, he had a story idea, and he set out to write a screenplay around it. What came out was basically a novel, and not a screenplay. A short novel, yes, but nonetheless, pretty much a novel, one that he then adapted to film.

And this is that novel, put into proper novel form, with the help of co-writer Bill Stair. This is the idea, the story they were trying to film.

And this novel, while strange... works. More than that, it falls right into place in the history of the SF, coming between Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars before it and Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang after it, and it's got ideas which are clear contemporaries to elements of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress before it and, I would argue, Singularity concepts from much later. ZARDOZ the novel plays with all the concepts you can dig out of the film, but much more effectively - thoughts on orthodoxy and closed systems and the necessary incompatibility of dissent in such systems, and the ennui and rage of unchanging eternity, and more.

But there are parts, both thematic and mechanical, that didn't make it to the film - at least, not recoverably, not that I can see. Pieces that set the story into context, and in doing so, make it coherent.

An example of mechanics: in the film, there are several "vortex" areas, homes to the Immortals, all protected from the desolation of the unstated apocalypse which one can reasonably presume to be nuclear war, surrounded by the desolation outside. But the assemblage of technologies seems strange and nonsensical - a giant floating stone head, a force shield, massive computing capabilities, but they're growing and harvesting food mostly by hand, but there's psyonics apparently, and they're immortal (via very Cylon-like reincarnation) but can't reproduce despite massive medical knowledge, and they're all meditation freaks and you can go on trial for disharmonious psychic vibrations, and on and on and on.

It comes across in the film as bad worldbuilding hindered by 70s woo. But in the novel, you know why all these elements are present, and you're given a greater whole.

The vortexes were made from technology developed for sublight interstellar colonisation ships. Some of these ships even launched, before the end; these vortexes are built from the ones which didn't.

Antigravity drive for propulsion and for shuttles, reused for the stone head. Radiation and large-kinetics energy shields needed in outer space, used instead to keep out nuclear weapons radiation, intruders, and conventional bombs. Neural interfaces in every crew member, mentally connecting them to each other and their omnipresent computing devices, forming the Tabernacle - the massive distributed network AI needed to run such a vessel. Centuries of learning to grow plants and crops in a variety of terrible conditions, manually but with genetic manipulation at your fingertips, to jumpstart a compatible biosphere on a terraformable planet. Reincarnation to enable a long enough life to get you there across hundreds of years of travel and the dangers of deep space. Meditation and mental discipline exercises to survive the trip with sanity intact. Massive cultural records on call for social needs, and, of course, plenty of duties for everyone to keep boredom at bay. But stuck, instead, on a ruined Earth, with nowhere to go...

...or is there? But now I'm teasing you.

And thematically, ZARDOZ the novel plays with still more ideas, ideas that aren't so easy or even possible to dig out in cinema in this context - like the failure of the various the 60s and early 70s movements to achieve that kind of next-level-of-consciousness enlightenment that both the Soviets (via the New Soviet Man) in the East and the hippie and related movements in the West were trying to achieve, right about the time Hunter S. Thompson and Dennis Hopper were writing and filming about those failures as well.

And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil... we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave... so now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

-- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas



And just when you think the story's thematics are getting a little too deep into weird sexual politics and flirtations with misogyny, the story spins around and calls some of its own characters out on all of that, saying, effectively, it knows, it knows, it knows that this is part of the problem, but it doesn't know how to fix it.

Just like the Eternals couldn't quite figure out how to achieve their ideas about enlightenment, either. But they know, they know, they have an idea what might need to change, not to achieve that hypothetical next level that was so part of the era's milieu, but how to make it possible to achieve. And maybe there's a way for that, too - but they don't know how to get there...

...but maybe Zed does. Somewhere, in his bones. Again, I tease - or do I?

The ending... well, it's utterly unfilmable. I mean that in the sense that the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey is unfilmable - sure, you can set up a camera and show what's going on in physical space all you want to, but without external text, it's going to make exactly zero sense. We actually get a bunch of chunks of it on screen in the film, but the viewer has very little idea what it means in the narrative.

The film of 2001: A Space Odyssey works despite having these problems, because you had the visual genius of Stanley Kubrick at work, and he delivered a psychedelic fireworks show unlike anyone had ever seen. And while he couldn't - and didn't - deliver the text, he could and did deliver the sense of emotional confusion, horror, and resolution that's carried through the end of the novel. The text is lost, but the emotional impact remains. Genius.

The ending of ZARDOZ isn't that clean; the emotions are less clear and the ideas honestly more complicated. And while John Boorman's a good director, he's no visual genius, let alone one on the level of Kubrick, and he gave himself less physicality to work with in key ways. So sure, you can film Sean Connery as Zed sitting at a table looking at a rock crystal for a while, but somehow, that lacks the visual punch of the great transit Arthur C. Clarke gave Kubrick for 2001.

Alternatively, you could try to go into Zed's head, and try to film the real action of the story, some of which is sort of tried and sort of transported into realspace, but with the most important character in those scenes - the Tabernacle itself, taking an active role as a sapient character - functionally removed from the film, that fails too, presumably because Boorman simply couldn't figure out how to make that work. And I can't fault him for that, either, because I don't know how you would. I can come up with a dozen terrible ideas - some of which I've seen tried - and few to no good ones. I'm a musician, Jim, not a director.

All of which gets back to how it's just unfilmable. Oh, they tried. A lot of the physical action of the ending, the unimportant but still shootable parts, that's there. It's just that without a greater context - and without the Tabernacle character itself - half of what's going on is lost, and the other half makes little to no sense. Particularly not the final set of scenes in the stone head, the ones which evoked such confusion in reviewers and audiences alike. Everyone gets it wrong, and it's not their fault, because the material you need to get it right simply isn't there to get.

But it's all there, in the novel.

In the end, ZARDOZ is still a mess of a film. It just is. Boorman and crew tried something they couldn't hope to pull off, and, predictably, failed. And no, that's not actually a parallel to the story - I almost wish it were, it'd make a nice sting on the end of this post. But I'd be lying if I said it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have so much more respect for what they were trying to do now. It seems quite delusional, if you sit down and watch ZARDOZ the movie, once, without trying to dig out all the pieces you shouldn't have to need to dig out, to contemplate an unironic respect for that mess. But I can see what they wanted to do, and why they tried.

Neither the novel nor the film truly succeed; certainly not alone, not even taken as a package. The film's a mess, the novel has pacing problems, it dumps ideas at you for you to develop rather than doing it in the story, characterisation isn't entirely sold, you need to do a lot of reading for content because huge chunks of material are thrown at you in toss-away clauses, there are some really dated psychological assertions, and some of the ideas you're expected to buy are problematic at best.

But the novel gives you enough to see it. You can see what they tried to do, what they wanted to achieve, and where they failed. And with the right kind of eyes, you can in fact see past that high-water mark, past that place where the creative wave broke and rolled back, and see the masterpiece they could not deliver.

I just wish they could've figured out how to get there.

Echoed from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Our new neo-Celtic fantasy novel soundtrack album is on special for blog readers only!

solarbird: (korra-excited)

Well, it’s 2015, and I’m writing this as the fireworks are still going off around me and downtown; I didn’t go, I’ve been too busy working on all the tune parts for the live Bone Walker release party/concert at Conflikt at the end of the month.

It’s hard work, too. I have a little secret that isn’t very secret: I am not a natural tunes player, and, this being the trad album, there’re a lot of tunes in it. They were by far the most difficult part of the album, and they’ll be the most difficult thing to perform live, and even though I’ll be kind of miked down a bit on mandolin, I still need to get it right.

Seriously, though; rhythm parts: 10 minutes to learn. Melody on flute: maybe 20. Sung parts: 10-15 minutes, and I’ll make new parts. Tunes: weeks. No idea why. It’s such an outlier that Anna has incorporated it into the Free Court universe, in the background, as part of the way magic works; traditional Irish tunes and the Sidhe magics don’t get along, and that’s on purpose.

But I’ll manage, I always do.

Perhaps coincidentally, the Space Needle is currently fireworking Newfoundland colours. I’m not even making that up. Newfoundland Liberation Army, represent.

I’ve seen people say that 2014 flew by; not for me. For me it felt kind of endless; 2013 seems so long ago. 2014 certainly had some personal lows; two more rounds of eye surgery, including – hopefully – the last one; way too much hanging out at home (recovering) and studio (recording). But it had highs, too – the most successful nwcMUSIC to date, actually finishing the Bone Walker project (preorder OK!) and y’know what, I’m going to say it again:

Korrasami is canon and nothing hurts.

No, seriously, see… here’s yet another level of it. There’s this longstanding trope of having queer couples who end up dead, or in tragedy. I mean, sure, mostly we don’t exist, but if we do: tragedy or death. Not cake or death; tragedy or death. We get one or the other, and sometimes both. Mercedes Lackey did it, for example; big three-book queer love story; one ends up dead, and gets reincarnated (without memories), so he can fall back in love with the survivor… who then dies. Tragedy and death twice in one trilogy! It’s amazing.

Similarly, as much as I love Revolutionary Girl Utena, it did it too, more or less. Maybe Utena still exists; maybe Anthy will find Utena; we don’t know. (In the manga, she doesn’t, but the anime is different in many ways.) At the time, I was really angry about it, because it hit that same trope after teasing us with better; even though she’s not dead (or so it’s implied), they’re still ending apart, as stories say you must, if you’re queer.

Elfquest, too. Dart’s boyfriend Shushen? Introduced and dead in two issues. Boom.

Basically, as a rule, queers don’t get to go off into the sunset together, in fiction. That’s historically not for us. For us: tragedy and/or separation, often through death.

Until now.

I can’t overstate how much that changes the world. It may not seem like much to people who are used to having it. But in a desert, even a teacup’s worth becomes an ocean of water. And for that, I can forgive a lot about 2014.

We face 2015 with a whole new world. Gear up, everybody – let’s see what it brings.

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solarbird: (korra-excited)

I saw a comment on Tumblr that this Korrasami ending was the ending we all wanted, but that we weren't emotionally ready for it. I think they're on to something; we did all want it, but we weren't ready for it, because we didn't think it could happen - it was our impossibility.

But suddenly it actually happened, and the world changed, and we're all in a kind of shock from the emotional unreadiness. It's the best kind of emotional unreadiness, perhaps, but unreadiness nonetheless.

I think that comment reveals a lot about why so many of us are reacting not just so strongly, but over so many days. We weren't ready for this; we couldn't be, because it was impossible. And all these many days of reaction are us emotionally processing that the world is suddenly new. Particularly for the adult fans, we're... catching up. We're playing forward this emotional release from all the years ago when all the straight kids got this sort of thing but we didn't, reeling it out to whatever point our adult lives are in now. That takes time. It may take a lot of time for some of us; it's as if a lot of very old metaphorical/emotional logjams across the many people of the fandom have been blown clear, and it's all cascading downstream.

The poison wasn't just in Korra; it was in a lot of us, too.

solarbird: (korra-excited)

Not much going on at the Lair tonight; we’ve been binge-watching Book 1 of Legend of Korra, now that the Korrasami Is Canon after-parties are in full swing.

And, y’know, even as a very happy Korrasami shipper, I really gotta say two things. One: Bolin and Korra were kind of adorable together. They really were. I’d kind of forgot that, and it’s a lot of fun watching that all happen again. Sure, they’re better as drinking buddies, but that’s still adorable.

And two: I’m sorry, but Korra and Mako were terrible for each other. They just were. I thought that at the time, and I think it again in rewatch. They bring out the worst in each other – and the people around them, except for Asami – all the damn time. And I’m not even blaming Mako. The dynamic is just kind of toxic. They spark off each other, sure, but seriously, these sparks set the wrong kind of fire.

Also, I don’t care whether they said they weren’t writing it in book one, you add a little blush tone on Korra when Asami is all over her after the tournament semifinals in “The Spirit of Competition,” and that would be our first hint. Not Book 3. Book one.

Korra shys from spiritual and emotional issues and wants to charge in with everything. Korra’s and Tenzin’s frustrations they haven’t yet dealt with. Mako and Korra making a bad kind of fire. Korra and Asami’s then-crackship being not such a reach. Benders and non-benders being so out of balance – with our Avatar quite atypically later falling in love with a non-bending technologist.

Which all comes back to the theory that I had that Book 1 would be better in retrospect. Specifically, as Books 3 and 4 have progressed, I’ve had the thought that the characters in Book 1 and how they work with (and against) each other would make more sense in the complete context.

Knowing the destination, all of these mixed emotional signals came over time to form a prelude, carrying a set of themes which came to be addressed in both general, and specifics, over time. Again and again, this whole series has been about dealing with the scars of the past – revisiting political scars of our world, and personal psychological scars of characters.

I like Book 1 much better after having read The Promise, which tells us more about how Aang’s life progressed in certain key emotional ways after the end of The Last Airbender. Korra is dealing with Aang’s issues, too. I like Book 1 much better after finding out more about the Gaang’s kids in general, and how the traumatising dangers and adventures of their childhood affected their parenting and children, and how their issues were addressed in Books 2-4, where we learned about all that history. I like Book 1 better knowing better that each year’s Big Problem was an interpretation of one or another political extremism of the last century, instead of just skimming an idea for cheap drama.

I like Book 1 better knowing that the bad-dynamics relationship did fail, and that the failure was handled maturely and well by those involved. And I like Book 1 better knowing that the accidental relationship everybody joked about but which just seemed to flow given even a hint of a chance came true.

JMS on Babylon 5 used to call this “holographic storytelling.” This is where episodes of the past would become more relevant and revealing later, in the future. Ivanova gave Talia her water during a Series 1 interrogation. Korra thanked Asami – rather tenderly – for the chance to keep playing. Both were seeds.

I think it was more of a strength in B5 than here, truth be told. But I am very happy that Book 1 is made better by Books 2-4 – not “fixed,” not “retconned,” but explained and in a way that mades a whole. I just wish it had been a little more palatable before all that. Sure, it’s great that it came together and became wonderful. But it would’ve been even more lovely had – to paraphrase Tenzin – the ride not been quite so bumpy. Not for the characters, but for us.

Even so – goddamn I am glad I stayed along for the whole ride.

This was supposed to go out earlier, but for some reason did not. But if you have celebrate a holiday today, I hope you enjoy it. If you celebrated one last week, I hope it went well; if you will be celebrating one in a few days, or one in a couple of weeks, well, I hope it goes wonderfully. Me, I got my present. Korrasami is canon, and, at least for now, nothing hurts. :D

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solarbird: (korra-excited)

Korra and Asami as a canon romantic couple is CONFIRMED. The completely obvious is categorically and unequivocally confirmed; Korrasami is canon on every level.

The Korra page on Wikipedia – where I had been fighting the erasure battle – has been unlocked, and the edit has already been made. I’d won the argument to at least the point of being in Significant Other with a section talking about the evidence – now we can just skip ahead because 100% creator-confirmed yes that is exactly what we meant and you gotta deal with it.


BOOM.

I am dealing with it by crying my remaining good eye out. I had no idea how much this mattered to me. It mattered to me because of how much I couldn’t let myself believe it was possible, no matter how heavily they were hinting at it all the last couple of series. I just couldn’t let myself buy in, I wanted to, but I couldn’t believe it was possible I was just praying we’d get an ambiguous no-endgame ending, and I was prepared to respect that.

I feel like a huge, missing piece of my emotional childhood has just been filled in. I feel like something very old and very hurt just got healed. I never believed we would actually get this one. I have never been happier to be so wrong.

KORRASAMI IS CANON AND YOU GOTTA DEAL WITH IT! And, at least today, everything is beautiful and nothing – not even Wikipedia – hurts.

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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

There is a big debate – following a edit war – on Wikipedia’s Korra page. A couple of editors are bound and determined that the Korra-Asami ending is not true, and are demanding a statement from the writing team as the only evidence they’ll accept – which isn’t even how Wikipedia works, but let’s put that aside.

I’ve been fighting this particular bit of queer erasure today, because we finally got one. And now we need to defend it.

They are leaning heavily at this point on “room for interpretation,” how the ending is “ambiguous” in their eyes. And to that, I wrote this response.


I want to talk about “room for interpretation” for a minute.

What’s that mean? “Room for interpretation” is usually invoked to imply that there are reasonable grounds for differing conclusions based on evidence. In fiction, one fandom example is the original Battlestar Galactica (1978). We don’t see Pegasus destroyed; we see Pegasus destroy two base stars successfully and go in for the kill on a third. Then we do not see Pegasus again. Given that we had not seen Pegasus before, and that Pegasus had escaped similar situations in the past, it does not seem unreasonable to assert that Pegasus might have survived the battle – limping away needing months of work before getting back underway, who knows? Pegasus was most likely destroyed saving Galactica and the fleet, but it’s not unreasonable to consider the alternative. That’s “room for interpretation.”

I want also to talk about “deniability.”

Deniability comes in to play when you’re forbidden to talk about or do a certain thing, but you do it anyway, with just enough obscurity to it that if observers really, really, really want to, they can deny you are doing what you’re actually doing. An example is in the film Spartacus, and the “oysters and clams” discussion, which was cut from video for many years because it wasn’t quite deniable enough for television censors. But that was the attempt; a discussion about gay sexuality that wasn’t about gay sexuality, but was about seafood. It was deniable that it was about sexuality, at least for initial release.

Now, how does this apply to the Korra finale?

Nickelodeon has a known policy against showing clearly GBLT relationships. This has been discussed extensively in regards to work such as Adventure Time, so I won’t go into it here; it suffices to know that this policy is in place. It has to do, we are told, with overseas markets – but they don’t make special cuts for places like North America and Japan, either, so we all get to fall under those rules.

This leaves creators who want to go in that direction with the reality that they must include at very least deniability. They cannot explicitly state the presence of GBLT relationships. They can only hint or imply, and the only question is how hard in that direction one can go.

In a context of women in relationships in particular, this can be difficult, due to the blinding phenomenon often referred to as “lesbian invisibility,” or the cultural assumption in the west that two women involved in a relationship can’t really be in a relationship until – and often not even after – it is stated explicitly. This causes many people to ignore vast swaths of contextual (and real-life, for that matter) evidence.

You can also see this phenominon in reactions online to this episode. Personally, I was surprised when I started seeing evidence of Korra and Asami building a relationship in Book 2, and told myself I was just overreading it – until it became pretty obvious in Book 3. Even then I was thinking that there was no way the show would be allowed to go there – until Book 4, when it became so strongly stated, given the limits of their allowed range.

And despite all that, a small but meaningful percentage of online reaction calls the Korra/Asami relationship ending “completely out of the blue” and “unexpected.” This is lesbian and bisexual invisibility syndrome at work.

But at the same time, this reaction also indicates how far the authors went in this episode; even those people most likely to ignore and/or downplay same-sex relationships between women as “just friends” are reacting to the finale. It is that conclusive in their eyes; they can’t ignore it – however much they might want to.

What does this have to do with “room for interpretation” vs. “deniability?”

I assert this to be supporting evidence that we are well past “room for interpretation” and into “deniability.” When people who routinely ignore implications of same-sex female relationships are confronted with evidence so strong that they’re reacting against it, “lesbian invisibility” has been shattered. Yes, deniability has been maintained, as we see in discussions above. If one insists, one can ignore enough parts of the source material to conclude it didn’t happen. This allows the show to be aired in places like Russia – “see, it’s legal, we didn’t say romance. We didn’t say elopement. We didn’t say girlfriends.”

But you’re certainly out of the “room for interpretation” field. It’s not ambiguous. It’s just deniable. Which we already know is a Nickelodeon requirement. And I think all of this must be considered in any reasonable discussion of the topic. Context matters, and this is our context, and to ignore it is to do a disservice to everyone.

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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Wow, this is quite the op-ed in The New York Times yesterday: Elegy for the ‘Suits’ – The Internet, Not the Labels, Hurt the Music Industry.

It’s everything you despise about The New York Times and The New Yorker rolled up into one! Paean to power and old authority? CHECK! Unchecked nostalgia for the prime of the Baby Boom era? CHECK! Slavish worship of corporate culture? CHECK! Fear of agency resting outside the hands of white guys in suits? CHECK! “What an asshole!” working just fine as a punchline? CHECK!

Really, it’s terrible and hilarious. And just wrong, of course – as I’ve written, the labels – via their industry group, the RIAA – destroyed the industry just fine on their own by making music ownership a negative value. Not to mention that they also drove the more aware musicians out through their ruinous strip-mining of artist value. It’s been almost 15 years since Courtney Love did the math, and the sharecropper approach wasn’t new then. If you signed with a label, you were giving them all the value and keeping something below minimum wage – if that. And they owned everything you made.

So no, “the Internet” didn’t “hurt the music industry.” The labels are the ones who set up the teetering edifice. The internet just let musicians break out and tear it down.

ps: talking of, pre-order the new album! We have a mastering engineer to pay. :D

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (Lecturing)

I have an idea about the Hunger Games movies. It’s something I’ve toyed with a bit since reading the books as they came out – yes, for once, I was the one who had read all the books first and had to STFU to avoid spoiling people.

Mostly it’s on my mind because we just finally Mockingjay Part 1 last weekend, and I thought it was really good and quite faithful to the first half of the book. But it’s very much a middle movie, and I don’t think people are reading it as a “middle” movie, because it’s supposedly the first half of the conclusion (as evidenced by the name) and because it’s the first half of the third book. And I think that’s causing some some of the complaints about stretching the story.

But the more I think about the structure, the more I’m seeing the first book (and film) as almost a prequel to a primary arc which spanned two books. Yes, they’re connected, tightly so. But I’d argue the events of The Hunger Games sets up the the action of Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and that those two books (and three films) form an arc of their own – and that the first half of Mockingjay really is its own piece, thematically.

I mean, let’s face it, Catching Fire is kind of a restart. It’s kind of a restart storywise – not from worldbuilding standpoint, no, but a bit of a narrative restart nonetheless. You’ve just got the characters’ backstories already. It’s a chance to restart, in media res.

As other examples of this phenomenon, I offer Book One of Elfquest vs. The Grand Quest (books 2-4, which form one story), and also, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I’m thinking that seen in this light, dividing Mockingjay into two films makes a lot more sense. Giving the middle of a story like this time to develop and breathe is sound, rather than rushing in to the big climax; you’d like to be able to treat this separately. (See also the variety of parallels between Mockingjay Part 1 and The Empire Strikes Back, particularly with Peeta and Han, who is, let’s face it, still in Carbonite, even if they’ve got him moved back to rebel territory, and who will start being freed in Part 2…)

Part 2 will tell me whether or not I’m on crack. Part 1 was so much lower key than the previous two films, in so many ways. That can read as being less ambitious – or as a lot more tightly confined, which isn’t just thematically appropriate, but is arguably thematically necessary to the story.

So if the atmosphere and character of Part 2 changes sharply from Part 1, I’ll consider that a degree of confirmation. You can change tone sharply between films without it feeling forced; if they’d done all of Mockingjay as one film, the feel of one or the other half would’ve been sacrificed, and I think to the detriment of the overall story.

I just kind of wish they’d gone all the way and given them separate titles. I can see why not to, from a marketing standpoint – but from an artistic standpoint, I rather wish they’d had.

But, yes. That’s my theory. Thoughts?

ps: We’ve had a lot of people posting in the Maker of Things comments section! Add your own, or check out what people have been saying, there’s a surprising lot already.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (Lecturing)

Just back from the first movie I’ve seen in months, Maleficent. I wanted to see this before it fell out of theatres, mostly because of the trailers with her wings, because yeah.

Let’s talk about the good parts, first: Angelina Jolie is wonderful. It looks great. The green fire which is signatory to this version of the character was lovingly rendered and just felt right. The christening scene, reinterpreted here? Perfection. The later interactions of Aurora and Maleficent, ages, oh, 13ish to the end of the story resonated well, and just worked.

But… while so many things are right, I can’t get past “pretty good” as a response. Not great. Merely pretty good. That’s because I just can’t get past the fact that in this film, too many things are too easy. I don’t mean physically easy, tho’ there is some of that; those parts are not so important. No, I mean emotionally easy.

And from here on out, we’ll be heading deep into spoiler territory, so you have now been warned.

Let’s start with our antagonist, King Steffan.

Sharlto Copley plays Doctor then King Steffan well, given what he has to work with. But there isn’t enough meat in the part. There should be; all the bones are there. But Steffan’s arc is missing too many important, difficult notes.

His needed to be both a more political story – it’s a very political tale, after all – and a story about ruined love. Okay, sure, there was never “one true love,” as the film fairly points out – but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a kind of love there, and I think there was. And, well, betrayal of such things is a staple of royal histories. It’s entirely in theme.

And so Steffan commits a great treachery, setting events in motion, becoming King Henry’s heir. But that sort of treachery – so personal a treachery – needs confronting. In the film, all we really get is a big fight scene.

That’s letting him and the audience off easy, and it’s a failing. We in the audience need to know his self-justifications – how it was right for him to cut off and steal her wings, how it was right for him to seize the throne from a dying King Henry, how everything since then – the economic hardships, the battles – have proven how he and King Henry both were right to hate and desire the faerie lands.

How it’s all self-defense. How it’s all her fault. Not his. Not King Henry’s. Her fault.

Never his.

We shouldn’t buy it, of course. We don’t need to believe it. We just need to believe he believes it – even if only by lying to himself so strenuously for so long. We needed Maleficent to confront his justifications, and deny them, laying the lies bare.

We needed to see that, and we didn’t. Steffan’s descent into paranoia – see also, “uneasy rests the head that wears the crown” – played out well, but that’s not enough. We needed to get into his brain, and find him lacking.

It also would’ve been nice to see some of this from Princess and then Queen Leah’s view. It’s clear that King Steffan’s isolation grows throughout the film; it would’ve been nice if we’d known some of that has come from Queen Leah’s knowing that something happened between him and Maleficent. Sure, she knows about the wings; that’s why he’s king. But there was more to it, more that he’s lying about, something both more and rotten. Something that makes her suspicious, then untrusting, then isolating.

In short, his betrayal should ruin two potential loves. Ruined love already underlies the text; it should be a stronger undertheme, since it’s what unlocks his character. Love doesn’t have to be “one true love” to still be love; Steffan ruins it through betrayal for the sake of power, every time he acts.

It would make a nice parallel to the the other easiness problem in the film: the too-easy relationship of Maleficent and Aurora.

Maleficent’s affection for Aurora comes too quickly and too trivially, in film-time. Less so in story-time; it spans many years in character. But that’s not communicated well, and even in story-time, Maleficent’s saving Aurora’s life from the inept fairy trio’s overwhelming incompetence* mere days after cursing her to die.

And it doesn’t resonate; it doesn’t work. Maleficent’s complex and multistage arc should be awesome – from young love, to betrayal and ruined love, to justified hate, to claiming her revenge… and then turning back from that, working through to regret, and to building an adult, parental love, and reclaiming her life for her own, from the wreckage wrought by Steffan.

Most of the pieces are there, but… it’s hollow in the middle. We needed a better arc of her hate. The arc is set up nicely. The betrayal is agonising. And so, she cursed an innocent baby to “sleep like death” tragically on the cusp of adulthood, as per her symbolic death with the rending and theft of her wings, and we’re kind of on board with that. We can see how she gets there.

So she can’t just step in and save Aurora over and over again without a good emotional reason, even if only to tell herself. Yes, it’s the turning point in her arc. Yes, from her own curse (irony!) she’s fated to love Princess Aurora in some form, as everyone who interacts with Aurora will come to love her, though not “true love” her. Maleficent is hoisted by her own petard here, and that’s fine.

But as with Steffan, there are always rationalisations for things done. Steffan needs to rationalise his evil; Maleficent needs to rationalise her goodness, in symmetry.

It could be simple – Aurora has to live to 16 so that Maleficent can see the curse she laid down become true, and watch King Steffan’s agony and failure to stop it. That’s a bit stock – a bit, heh, easy, really – but it’s a starting point.

Saving infant Aurora is a critical change at a critical moment. We needed some emotional support for that, and we didn’t get it. I’m not looking for All! The! Angst! – I’m looking for more emotional struggle to sell me the progression of character. Maleficent initially needs to save Aurora out of hate and revenge, not out of “well, guess so.” “Might as well” is just too damned easy.

Which is a damned shame.

Still, pretty good. Not what it should’ve been, though. That always hurts; good and great are awesome, terrible is terrible, hilariously terrible is even better. They are what they are and could be. But the near-misses like this one… they hurt. Maleficent could’ve been brilliant. Instead, by letting characters and the audience off too easy, it was merely… pretty good.

Not great. Pretty good.

And that’s a damned shame.


*: The three fairies were well too incompetent. It felt as though they were made even more spectacularly incompetent simply to provide more opportunities for Maleficent to step in and save Aurora. And again, that’s another case of letting things be Too Easy.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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