Narnia: Bully For You

[Content Note: Bullying, Ableism]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are pulled into Narnia through a picture on the wall, along with their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

Alrighty. I promised we'd get through Chapter 1 today, and I am nothing if not reliable (except when I'm not, which I think we can all agree doesn't count). And since we've been bouncing all over the place with Aunt Alberta and snippets from Chapter 2 and whatnot, I think it's best if we take it from the top for those of us who haven't read the book and are in danger of being left behind by too many time skips. So! From the beginning!

Narnia: Why I Say Allegory

Tonight I cannot sleep, and so I am re-reading Fred Clark's excellent post on some of the ways in which Aslan fails as a Christ-allegory. And I am unduly annoyed that the first page of comments on this excellent post are largely intent on missing the point of the post entirely by instead focusing with laser-like precision on the fact that Fred (as well as others who discuss Narnia as a work of literature, including myself) refers to Aslan as an allegory for Jesus whereas C.S. Lewis, the author who created Aslan, strenuously denied that Aslan was an allegory for Jesus.

Open Thread: Tomato

Hosted by a green tomato and her two brothers.

Fat Acceptance: Fat Shaming and Playstation Portables

[Content Note: Surgery, Fat Shaming, Medical Malpractice]

Some of you may remember that I had a spinal fusion surgery last May. Today was my six-month followup for x-rays and discussion with my surgical doctor.

I'm in pain constantly. It's actually gotten worse since my surgery, and I deeply regret getting it at all, at least in part because Things Be Worse, but also because now that the surgery is over and done I no longer have any real hope of ever getting any better. I knew, going into the surgery, that if things didn't get better like I hoped then I would be emotionally crushed, and ... here we are. Sigh.

Open Thread: Scenic River

Hosted by a scenic river.

Twilight: "L" is for Madonna/Whore Complex

[Content Note: Rape Culture, Ableism, Hostility to / Invisibling of Asexual People]

Twilight and Philosophy, Chapter 1: You Look Good Enough To Eat: Love, Madness, and The Food Analogy

I need to take a break from Twilight for today, partly because a combination of illness and job-searching has caused me to lose my train of thought for Chapter 13 and have left me sort of mentally flailing about in the sparkle-meadow. I've been wanting for awhile to pick up some Twilight essays here and there, and this seemed like a good opportunity, especially since I got stuck in radiology for an hour with Twilight and Philosophy on my eReader. So let's talk about Plato in a post that isn't related to Narnia for once!

Open Thread: Yellow Dahlia

Hosted by a yellow dahlia.

Fat Acceptance: Today In Fat Hatred

[Content Note: Fat Hatred]

Hat-tip from NAAFA: The APA Monitor, the official magazine of the American Psychology Association, has a cover story on childhood obesity which they have decided to illustrate with two pictures (one the front cover for the issue) of fat children looking ashamed and guilty and sad for being the obvious blight on humanity that they clearly are because, you know, icky fat:

Narnia: Alberta vs. Arthur

[Content Note: Death, Nuclear War, Sexism]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are pulled into Narnia through a picture on the wall, along with their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

Sometimes I wonder what certain books would be like had they been written by different authors. I've been thinking that a lot lately with regards to Dawn Treader, and as the winter holiday season comes upon us in my region of the world, I find myself imagining what the result would be if we pulled Charles Dickens' opening lines from A Christmas Carol...

Metapost: Moderators

In the next few days/weeks, you'll start seeing people with stars by their names on the blog besides just myself.

These moderators are providing an invaluable service to both myself and the site. Knowing that there are moderators other than myself who have the ability to step in and say "no, that's not on topic, take it to the open threads" or "no, that's against the safe space comment policy and needs to stop" or (in the case of a worst-case troll invasion) lock threads until we can deal with a large-scale problem, means that I have room to breathe and sometimes even put the phone/tablet/computer down and go do something fun for a few minutes without worrying that THE SITE MIGHT NEED ME.

I cannot overstate the importance of this to my mental health and stress levels, or how grateful I am to the moderators for being willing to help me.

Moderators will operate here much as I already do: they can and very probably will leave normal chatty comments in the threads and 95% of the time they'll be your basic Kickin' Awesome Commenter Person, just like they were before they were moderators and just like I am now. But when/if they pull out their Moderator Voice and tell someone to stay on topic, or to take a Feminism 101 question to the open thread, or to adhere more closely to the site comment policy, then I expect everyone to treat them exactly as you would treat me: as a site-owner who is not to be argued with.

I also want to note that each moderator here is an individual with hir own spoon budget. Not every moderator will have the spoons to enact moderator actions directly, and may instead largely monitor possible problems and contact me so that I can get to a computer and intervene. These moderators should be given just as much respect as the more visible ones, because they are providing an invaluable service by helping both me and the site to stay safe.

It takes one-hundred-thousand judgment calls over the life of a blog to make it a Safe Space. Though we are all imperfect people who make mistakes from time to time, that doesn't mean that the judgment calls made on this blog are up for commentary or vote or discussion. The reason for this is not because I think I'm perfect and never wrong, but rather because I've been-there-done-that years ago as a moderator whose decisions were constantly up for questioning, and I know for a fact that way lies burnout and misery for myself.

And that is why I ask that everyone respect the decisions of our new moderators and to always remember that moderating actions are done with the good of the blog in mind. Thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, and thank you for helping to maintain this safe space community. It means the world to me.

Metapost: Open Threads

Moving forward, we're going to (try to) have Open Threads every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is by popular request, on the grounds that we're becoming a larger community, and the "on topic" threads have become more "on-topic-y" in order to be more manageable from a moderation standpoint. So now there should always be a bouncy open thread to bounce in that is never more than three days old and which should by all rights be accessible from the front page.

We have a volunteer -- who shall remain nameless for now and will be announced later in the year when the threads debut! -- who has very kindly offered to donate hir time to put up the open threads so I don't have to wrestle with them. I would appreciate it greatly if people took time in the open threads to thank hir for her hard work. I know I will be doing so!

As a general open thread note, the Open Thread tag will indicate that pretty much anything goes within the general guidelines of the comment policy. I won't be moderating Open Threads heavily and there will be no "on topic" topic to adhere to, but of course please continue to use discretion with trigger warnings and content notes. Open Threads are open to 101 questions; I know that a lot of people would like to ask more about feminism and fat acceptance and so forth, and I will allow that in the OTs since it's largely prohibited from the actual on-topic posts.

Open Threads are also places for linkage and self-promotion, just like the lesser used Recommends tag is/was. So please do link to whatever you've been working on this week/month/year. And don't feel shy about it or like no one cares; I often pop over to read things and I know others do too. Similarly, if you've had a rough week and need to rant, Open Threads are perfectly good places to vent, so don't feel like you need to hold back.

I think that's pretty much it on metapost news for right now.

Open Thread: Love of Books

Hosted by a love of books.

Open threads are for anything and everything, including shameless self-promotion!

Feminism: Rape Culture

[Content Note: Rape]

Here is a horrific article that is very long and is in places written from a place hostile to feminism, so I don't really recommend reading it, but there it is for a leaping-off point.

The short version of the story is that it is absolutely possible to abuse and rape an unconscious girl, in front of dozens of witnesses at multiple parties, to have the abuse captured in photographs, video, and confessional tweets posted to the abusers' accounts, to have the story popularized by a nationally-recognized feminist blogger, and to still walk off without a jail sentence and have the larger surrounding community rally around you because that unconscious slut was asking for it, really.

Metapost: Job Update

Several of you have written truly wonderful comments and emails in light of yesterday's post and I want to thank you all and provide a sort of site-wide update.

Metapost: Employment Notice

Today is my last day at work before I go on Christmas vacation.

Twilight: Sparkly Vampires

[Content Note: Cabin in the Woods Spoiler (minor)]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

Here is my confession: I said we'd start with Chapter 13 today, but I'm going to slice in the last few sentences from Chapter 12 for context.

Open Thread: The Hobbit

Spoilers.

Husband and I just got back from seeing The Hobbit. I really liked it, though I'm not entirely sure that it's for everyone. (There's some kind-of slow bits that seem an awful lot like nothing more than lore building until you finally come around to the plot-relevant payoff.) And it's one of the least hard-of-hearing-friendly movies I've seen this year; I couldn't understand a SINGLE WORD during the Smaug attack at the beginning and at one point near the end I said to Husband "what did Gandalf say?" and he answered "He said 'argle bargle farkle gaster'," which is not really a good sign.

But! I liked it. Five stars across the board. And you can say what you like about Peter Jackson as an adaptationist, but he clearly cares a lot about both the subject matter and the fans in the seats, and that's a rare and pleasant combination. The result is something that is crafted with love, but also with an awareness of the audience's needs. I approve. (Plus, he does amazing things with background music.)

The movie isn't perfect, by any means, of course. There's an undercurrent about how Good People are able-bodied and attractive and Bad People are various types of disabled and/or not so easy on the eyes. Cosmic background radiation issues for the genre, I know, but it's there. And this movie -- much like the work it's based on -- is extremely masculonormative; I'm fairly certain that Galadriel is the only speaking named female character in the movie, and that's hella disappointing for me.

Other random thoughts:

1. My favorite parts were the Radagast parts which were awesome.

2. They may have mithril and gems and shit in the Lonely Mountain, but there is also clearly sexy in the water.

 3. When Gandalf gives Important Messages to moths, does he give them a protection spell? It seems really fridge horrific that the whole world is always one hungry bat away from total destruction.

4. Speaking of Gandalf, I know it's not part of the world-lore and all but I could not get around the problem that 90% of their problems would be solved if Gandalf would just learn a Feather Fall spell. Sheesh.

5. And on the subject of world-lore, I will point out that "moon runes" seem like a lot more trouble than they're worth, and I imagine it would be easier to just NOT WRITE THINGS DOWN.

Open thread for movie related stuff.

Feminism: Parody versus Reality

[Content Note: Gun Violence]

(Promoted from comments.)

You know, when Douglas Adams wrote that the primary school teachers of the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax were armed as part of their job, it was supposed to be funny because it was ridiculous. Fast-forward to 2012 and ... people are actually advocating this thing. I don't even.

Eventually they realized that this was something they were going to have to sort out, and they passed a law decreeing that anyone who had to carry a weapon as part of his normal Silastic work (policemen, security guards, primary school teachers, etc.) had to spend at least forty-five minutes every day punching a sack of potatoes in order to work off his or her surplus aggression.

Context here.

Recommends: Conan the Barbarian Deconstruction

(Promoted from comments.)

This deconstruction of Conan the Barbarian is all kinds of awesome, and I heartily recommend it as amazing reading. It's 22,000 words long and each and every word is splendiferous.

Deals: Izzy's Book!!!1!

People! Today's Nook Daily Deal is Izzy's book! (If you don't know Izzy, she is a commenter here and is kickass in All The Ways.) Go ye forth and buy it, would be my advice.

Clicky!

Metapost: Disqus Fuckwittery

And I've just now noticed that Disqus has changed such that our header colors on our comments are all weird. I'm seeing this on Shakesville too. Can anyone confirm this on their end? All the comment headers are now white with a black border rather than gray and blue (for moderators).

If this is so, I'll need to bang my head against Disqus for awhile next.

Metapost: December 2012 Blogger Update

Because Google is run by a horde of unusually evil lemurs, they have changed the background names in the Blogger Interface Code again which means that I've spent all morning banging my head against their extremely stupid code rather than writing the Twilight post I was planning to write. Fuck you, Google.

This is the fourth or fifth time this has happened and I've made an executive decision to stop updating the New/Old Blogger Interface post and instead post new clean posts whenever this happens. To serve this end, there is now a new tag for these posts: Blogger Fuckwittery. These updates will continue to go up because I know for a fact I'm not the only visually disabled blogger out there who can't use the craptastic new interface that Google keeps trying to shove down our throats by randomly re-naming html fields every two weeks.

So! Here is the latest CSS. I've trimmed out almost everything that I think is deprecated, and I've labeled the stuff where I can so that reading the code is hopefully a little easier now. Also: this code snippet will work in both Chrome StyleBot and Firefox Stylish. Check the New/Old post above for longer download instructions.

Narnia: Showing and Telling

[Content Note: Depression]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are pulled into Narnia through a picture on the wall, along with their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

Ana's Note: I'm composing this on Day 9 of my illness (estimated to run 10-14 days by my fortune-telling doctor). So this may be less coherent than usual.

Metapost: December Update

Greetings and salutations!

I am still sick. Or rather, not quite sick, but I cough every ten minutes. And it's one of those lung-shaking wet coughs that sounds like I'm dying, even though I'm pretty sure I'm not. So that's been fun.

This, combined with aforementioned holiday festivities, is why I basically have not been answering email this week for which I am very sorry. I really, really, really hope to catch up next week at some point. This is my goal.

In posting-related news, I have three posts scheduled for next week: a Narnia post, a Twilight post, and a Disability post. After that, I have one more Narnia post lined up and then we are scraping barrel bottom. So my goals for next week is to WRITE MOAR and COUGH LESS and ANSWER EMAIL. These are my goals.

I hope you are all having a lovely December and I want to remind everyone to wash their hands after reading the blog because I don't know if I'm contagious or not. Just sayin'.

(Also: I got an ICE CREAM MAKER for Christmas. I am SO FREAKING HAPPY about my ICE CREAM MAKER. Homemade ice cream is the ONLY good ice cream as far as my tastebuds are concerned and I haven't had homemade ice cream FOR YEARS. You are all invited over for ICE CREAM once I figure out how to work the machine.)

Open Thread: Holiday Plans

Do you have any upcoming holidays? If so, do you have any upcoming holiday plans? Do they involve fun and happy and unicorns by any chance?

Open Threads are meant to foster chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note.

Open Thread: Reading Lately

What are you reading now or have you finished reading lately? Was it any good and do you recommend it? Speaking of, any good movies seen? Have you any random Twilight / Narnia / deconstruction thoughts to share?

Open Threads are meant to foster chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note.

Review: 1493

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
by Charles C. Mann

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

1493 / 978-0307265722

I really enjoyed Charles Mann's 1491, but after struggling to get through 1493, I'm afraid to re-read the first and find that my opinion may now be reversed.

1491 was for me a wonderfully compiled and comprehensive look at the Americas before Columbus arrived and everything was inexorably changed. I appreciated the information presented in the book, as well as the manner in which it was presented -- I was strongly affected by Mann's tone with that volume and how he seemed to take a great deal of care in writing his narrative respectfully as well as engagingly and accurately. We, the readers, may have been treading on the bones of history, but there was (for me) a sense that we were doing so with reverence.

1493, on the other hand, seems to suffer from the success of the first.

We'll start with the title, which seems to imply that 1493 will be what 1491 was: a comprehensive look at the Americas in that pivotal year, only instead of taking a snapshot immediately before Columbus' arrival, we'll look at immediately after. Unfortunately, this isn't really the case; 1493 is about what Mann calls "the Columbian Exchange", by which he means the fact that people, animals, plants, insects, microorganisms, etc. were ferried all over the world by travelers (like, but not limited to, Columbus) into new ecosystems, where they wrought serious changes to the local ecology and economy.

This isn't a bad thesis, and certainly there are a number of interesting facts here, but it means we're talking about a globe-spanning topic with millions of individual unique examples, without any single narrative to really tie things firmly and interestingly together. Perhaps the book would have worked better if it were limited to the Americas, as 1491 had been, and just looked at what the Europeans introduced into the American ecosystem -- and possibly a look at what the Europeans brought back from America with them. That would have been a more cohesive narrative, I think, than trying to tie the African slave trade in the 1700s in with a look at the effects of sweet potatoes on Communist China in the 1900s.

Even if you're willing to stick with the narrative wherever it takes you -- and without being bored sometimes at the ratio of encyclopedic facts to engaging narrative -- there's additionally a huge tonal shift between this book and its predecessor, and for me at least this was a serious obstacle. 1491 had a very respectful tone, and was very self-aware of its own shortcomings. Mann open acknowledged that he was something of a dilettante historian, and that he was only stepping forward with his book in order to fill a literary gap that he felt needed filling. There were troubling untruths being told in service to the Columbus myth and he felt that the record needed to be set straight on certain issues.

Yet here in 1493, it feels like Mann has shed his respectful demeanor and taken on a tone that seems terribly self-aggrandizing. Just to select from the first chapter alone, he spends a tremendous amount of time setting up a Golden Mean Fallacy: 'some people claim THIS, other people claim THAT, but the truth is here in the middle'. This isn't necessary, it detracts from the narrative, and it pads the book out to a tedious length for no reason that I can see other than so Mann can pat himself on the back for being Right while others are Wrong rather than just getting to the meat of the subject matter. Here is one quote where he handles different aspects of the Columbus myth:

"Unsurprisingly, native people rarely endorse this view of their history, and Colón's part in it. An army of activists and scholars has bombarded the public with condemnations of the man and his works. They have called him brutal (he was, by today's standards) and racist (he wasn't, strictly speaking--modern concepts of race had not yet been invented); incompetent as an administrator (he was) and as a seaman (he wasn't); a religious fanatic (he surely was, from a secular point of view); and a greedy monomaniac (a charge, the admiral's supporters would say, that could be leveled against all ambitious souls). Colón, his detractors charge, never understood what he had found."

I don't understand why Mann wants to bash on the people he sees as ideological opponents (an "army of activists"? Really?), instead of just talking about Columbus from the ground up. He would have been better served to do so, really, because this kind of summing up of the opposition seems so lazy as to make me worry about the scholarship of the rest of the book. For instance, Columbus isn't called "racist" because his detractors mistakenly believe he subscribed to the same understanding of race as we do today; they call him "racist" because he didn't have a problem with enslaving and casually genociding people who weren't sufficiently like himself to deserve his empathy. They are, in other words, applying the term to his actions rather than to his supposed train of logic in service to those actions. For Mann to pretend otherwise troubles me: either he really doesn't understand Columbus' detractors, or he does understand and he's deliberately misrepresenting them. I find that a matter for concern.

Later, in the same chapter, Mann will casually dismiss local disapproval with the Columbus monument in Santo Domingo as nothing more than misplaced anger at dictator Rafael Trujillo, and will go so far as to lecture the residents on what they should consider the 'true' meaning of the Columbus monument:

"Residents of the walled-off slums around the monument told reporters that they thought Colón deserved no commemoration at all. A thesis of this book is that their belief, no matter how understandable, is mistaken. The Columbian Exchange had such far-reaching effects that some biologists now say that Colón's voyages marked the beginning of a new biological era: the Homogenocene. The term refers to homogenizing: mixing unlike substances to create a uniform blend. With the Columbian Exchange, places that were once ecologically distinct have become more alike. In this sense the world has become one, exactly as the old admiral hoped. The lighthouse in Santo Domingo should be regarded less as a celebration of the man who began it than a recognition of the world he almost accidentally created, the world of the Homogenocene we live in today."

So, just to be clear, Dominicans who regard the local monument to Columbus as a reprehensible commemoration to Columbus are wrong because they "should" view the monument as recognition of the fact that some people -- including, but not limited to, Columbus -- piloted a lot of different ships to a lot of different places over a lot of different time periods, and some of the results of those events are things like sweet potatoes and their effect on Communist China. Clearly.

I wanted -- so much! -- to like 1493. I expected to like it so much that even after receiving a free copy through Vine, I purchased an e-book version as well so that I could have both. I did this because I liked the scope, the cohesion, and the tone of 1491 immensely. But the scope of 1493 is so vast as to be almost infinite, the narrative cohesion is non-existent in places and is often abandoned in favor of lists of facts, and the tone seems to indicate that the author thinks he understands history better than anyone else, in the wake of one extremely popular and successful book. Because of that, I personally did not find 1493 to be entertaining, enlightening, or respectful of the subject matter, and I really cannot recommend it.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.

~ Ana Mardoll

Recommends: Liking Women

I really, really, really, really, really recommend everyone go read this.

Even most feminist women have to make a habit of liking women, of rewriting that entrainment to reflexively see other women in negative terms, and replacing it with a spirit of sisterhood. A lot of women exceptionalize the women in their lives in the same way men do. My group of female friends having fun at this bar is awesome; that other group of female friends having fun at this bar is a bunch of skanks. That is the way we are all socialized to view women—their individual value determined by proximity and affiliation, rather than merit.

I have been feminist for a long time, but it wasn't until I found fat acceptance that it really clicked for me that feminism requires Liking Women and Trusting Women, and that anything less is just another packaged form of patriarchy.

I like women. I don't judge them for being thin or fat, for being pretty or plain, for dressing up or down, for sharing my tastes or not, regardless of their religion, their political affiliation, their culture, their country, their family dynamics. I don't fantasize about about being exceptional or better or above all those other women, and I don't enjoy fantasies about women being put in their place while I rise to the top like the creme de la creme.

But thanks to the patriarchal narratives I grew up with, it took me a long time to get to this place.

Feminism: Female Science Fiction Authors

Female Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Still Encouraged to Use Male Pseudonyms.

Studies still show that while women will read books by male authors, men won't read books by female authors — and this might be especially true in some areas of genre fiction.

My favorite part of the article may be the comments, where someone falsely equivalences Romance as a genre (which is not the same thing for many reasons, not the least being Nicolas Sparks) and where someone else states that he doesn't buy scifi if the author sounds female, but it's totally not a gender bias on his part. Of course it isn't!

Open Thread: Pets and Children

How many of you Ramblites have pets, children, or small furry dependent things in your homes? Are they cute all the time or just most of the time? On a level of one to eight-billion, how much do they disrupt your sleep schedule?

Open Threads are meant to foster chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note.

Open Thread: Getting To Know You

How long have you been reading at Ramblings? Do you comment often or mostly lurk? Say hello to your fellow readers and have some cake, if you like.

Open Threads are meant to foster chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note.

Open Thread: Monday Break

Ramblites, I was ill for the last week of November and the first week of December, and wasn't able to write at my usual pace to keep up with my advance posting schedule. We need a week of Open Threads in order for me to catch up, and between this week (in which my family has Family Christmas in advance and I have about eight billion things left to do to prepare) and next week (which is relatively quiet), I've chosen this week on the grounds that I won't have time to moderate threads anyway.

Which is a long way of saying: this week is going to be unmoderated open threads every day. I apologize for the interruption in posting; please talk about anything and everything, and post links to amusing, clever, insightful, hilarious stuff as the spirit moves. Thank you!



ETA: I am also considering adding an Author to the blog, as someone who has the time and is willing to pre-post Open Threads for Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays -- i.e., the three times a week when I usually don't have anything scheduled -- since several of you have indicated a wish for more and more-regular open threading. And this would help in keeping other threads on topic, if I was able to say "take it to the open thread" without people being genuinely confused where to find the last one.

Open Threads take about 10-20 minutes to create and basically involve opening a post in blogger, loading in an image from a free stock image site or including a conversation-opening question, setting the scheduler and the appropriate post tags, and then hitting publish. But a 10-20 minute task repeated over 3 days a week for 52 weeks in a year is still 26-52 hours worth of work that I'm asking from someone, which I realize is a lot. And I'd like to have each week posted in advance so that illness and other hiccups don't interrupt the board routine, which means now I'm being picky as well.

If someone is willing and able to do this, send me an email. Depending on some Real Life stuff on this end, we'll decide how to proceed. Thanks. 

Metapost: Ch-ch-ch-changes

I'm going to be making some changes to the board over the next week or so.

The big, obvious stuff I have in mind is that I want to add a "safe space / advanced feminism" link list in addition to the Blog Bounce. Right now the Blog Bounce is basically open to anyone who wants in, and that's all well and good, but several of our new readers have asked me by email where they can find other Advanced Feminism sites to educate them or participate in, and so I'm compiling a link list of stuff I recommend.

(Side note: Who is using the Blog Bounce as is right now? I ask because it takes a relatively long time to load, so I'm wondering how many people are receiving benefit from it.)

The other thing I have on my list of things to do is to finally fiddle around with a mobile version of the site, for folks accessing the site by phone. Right now, you can view the site from a mobile device, but there are fewer Disqus options available -- mobile viewers can't "like" posts, for example. So stay tuned to that.



A third thing I am grappling with is the idea of installing a moderation team. But I'm of a couple of minds on that front and I'm not sure what the right answer is.

On the pro side, I'm a member of the Shakesville moderating team, and I really do believe that a crackerjack team of mods is essential to running a genuinely Safe Space board. Over here on Ramblings, we're getting 150,000 page views a month and ~75 comments per thread. Really popular threads like the Hogfather one can hit 200 comments before being closed. I genuinely do not have the resources to correct all ableist terminology, to nudge people on group generalizations, and to shut down flamewars-in-the-making. A moderation team would mean less stress on me and more time to actually create content. It would also mean that I wouldn't have to make every moderation call on my own judgment.

On the con side, the people who I would most want to be moderators are people who I consider to be valuable commenters and familiar with safe space guidelines, and I really don't want to burn them out on moderating and lose them as commenters. Some of these people also have involvement with other blogs, and I hesitate to ask them to take on more responsibility and burden here. There's also the question of whether we would retain the site-name "Ana Mardoll's Ramblings" if we grew to a group blog with a moderation team greater than one and, potentially, more deconstructions than just the ones I write. When I picked a site-name based on my name, I wasn't intending to make the site All About Me so much as just, meh, pick-a-name-and-get-writing.

Anyway, these are the thoughts going through my head at the moment. If stuff starts looking a bit different, that's why.

Musings: Quirks

I have strange little quirks that don't really harm me in any way and are only of passing interest but which will really come in handy if Husband ever has to use useless knowledge to pick me out of a secret lineup in some form of game show. One of these quirks is that I always blub uncontrollably through this otherwise very happy song, for no reason that I can explain to anyone. (So I guess we can't use that one on the game show now that everyone knows. I HAVE BACKUP QUIRKS.)

What's an funny / odd / unusual quirk that you have?

Monday Musings are meant to open the week with chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note. If this is your first time at Monday Musings, you really should say 'hi' so that we can give you lurker cookies! Thank you.

Feminism: Nice Guy Rapists and Manpain

This is so the worst thing you're going to read all day: a piece about a man who raped an unconscious woman and then had to deal with the soul-crushing pain of being an "accidental" rapist. Because not giving a shit about getting the consent of your sex partner is an "accident" now. Like forgetting to turn the house lights off when you go to work, really! WHOOPS, MY BAD!

I can't decide what I like best about the article. On the one hand, I really enjoy how it completely eclipses the pain of being raped by someone you liked and trusted in order to concentrate on the real pain of being a rapist when you're deep down inside a really nice guy who just doesn't know better than to fuck sleeping women:

To some of you, it may sound ridiculous when I say that my friend is a really sweet guy. He was devastated at the allegation of rape, and even more so at my confirmation that it was rape. We spent a week or so exploring how this could have happened. Not excusing it, but trying to understand it. With him, the conversations were painful and beautiful, and he understood.

Painful and beautiful, ya'll! Why, he's practically an Anne Rice vampire. I'll bet his soul is the color of rainbows and his farts smell like puppy breath. 

On the other hand, there's gems like this:
Within the community at large, there were much harder discussions centering on how it was that he thought penetrating her while she was asleep was okay, but any discussion of her behavior leading up to it was taboo. Any suggestion that her behavior may have led to -- NOT JUSTIFIED OR EXCUSED -- the rape was met with screams of “victim blaming” and “rape apology.”

That's us hysterical womb-driving feminists, always screaming shit like how women's actions don't lead to their rape and that any suggestion otherwise is victim-blaming bullshit that puts the focus on the poor signal-misunderstanding rapist who genuinely thought that being passed out dead-drunk on a bed next to him was an obviously signal that the woman wanted to be fucked in her sleep without giving any prior consent to do so. MEA CULPA, I GUESS.

Metapost: Medication

Quick question: Has anyone here been on Norco* before, even temporarily? If so, did it make you dizzy and, if so, did you find any mitigating techniques? Food before or after isn't helping.

* Apparently also known as Anexsia, Co-Gesic, Hycet, Liquicet, Lorcet, Lorcet Plus, Lortab, Maxidone, Norco, Polygesic, Stagesic, Vicodin, Xodol, Zamicet, Zolvit, and Zydone.

Deals: Neal Gaiman Audiobooks

Today's Daily Deal on Audible are all the Neil Gaiman books, 50% off their usual list price for members.

Open Thread: Friday Thoughts

1. Every time we watch Fullmetal Alchemist, I want to rush off to the tattoo parlor and gain esoteric power through lettering on my body. Then I remember that the show is fiction and I have a disappoint. Also: every time we watch Fullmetal Alchemist, Husband falls asleep. This is why we're taking so long to finish Fullmetal Alchemist.

2. The concept of bug-out bags puzzles me. I like the idea, but it seems like they would suffer from a seemingly infinite scenarios where one would be needed. A zombie apocalypse bug-out bag, for example, would need a significant store of bottled water. Whereas a bug-out bag for the CIA accidentally suspecting you of terrorism while you have to go on the lam to save your kidnapped spouse would seemingly need less bottled water and more artificial hair color. And most, if not all, of the bug-out bags I've seen online are significantly lacking in garlic and wooden stakes.

Disability: Disabled Enough

[Content Note: Description of Rape, Rape Culture, Disability Invisibling]

An opinion piece by a disabled person.

One of the favorite arguments of rape apologists is that there really isn't that much rape in our culture.

They justify this statement by pointing at studies that show that some women who have experienced rape will describe the experience without using the word "rape" (in much the same way that some men who have committed rape will describe the experience without using the word "rape"). The rape apologist therefore argues that if women don't call their experiences "rape", then it can't have been rape, and therefore the real problem is with iffy categorization by the powers that be, like when the CDC redefined obesity so that they could say that 35.4 million Americans were suddenly heavier than they'd been the day before.

Open Thread: Deconstruction Slush Thread

Talk among yourselves about all things Twilight, Narnia, Discworld, Buffy, Firefly, or whatever else. Unmoderated and spoilerific.

Deals: LWW Audiobook

Note that The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is today's Audible Daily Deal -- $5.95 for members.

The entire series seems to be narrated by a different person for each book, which I find weird. But if you can get past that, you may be delighted to note that narrators include Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart.

Feminism: Safe Sex in a Locked Safe

A reader sent me this picture yesterday:


The picture is of a locked grocery store case, containing the store's collection of condoms, pregnancy tests, and lubricants. The reader assures me that there is not an age minimum or legal restriction on buying such things in hir area, and that a number of similar grocers in the area do not lock up this sort of merchandise. But this one does.

Assuming that the decision to lock this case was made to reduce thefts of these items (as opposed to actively trying to make it difficult to buy these items because sex-shaming), and assuming that the concern about thefts of these items was based on actual data collected over time rather than an unfounded assumption that the sorts of people buying condoms are more likely to be thieves than the sorts of people buying Tylenol...

...assuming all that, it occurs to me that if we lived in a society that didn't treat sex as dirty and bad and inherently damaging and didn't treat sexually active people (especially sexually active teenagers) as public property to be shamed and audited and lectured, then maybe we wouldn't also live in a society where some people are willing to steal a two dollar box of condoms rather than letting the cashier and the people in line see them purchase such a thing.

Just a thought.

Metapost: Comment Policy Reminder

People, I know it's the holidays and a lot of us are feeling bouncy as fuck, but I've just had three threads go majorly not-safe-space this week, and I'm feeling deeply stretched trying to maintain a safe space here for myself and others. I was already planning to take next week off because of my illness, and this latest spate of bouncy castle unsafe comments is not helping.

Here is a reminder post about the blog policies and how not to make my life harder, that I expect to be taken to heart. 

On policies: The comment policy is required reading to post here.

On receiving moderation: If I have to call you out for breach of the comment policy because you made a poor word choice or were temporarily possessed by internet demons or posted before coffee or made a genuine mistake like we all do sometimes or whatever, the right thing to do is acknowledge the correction and do better. The wrong thing to do is grind the thread to a halt to defend yourself into the ground, gripe about how awful it is that I assumed the worst of you, and complain that I don't hand out benefit-of-the-doubt cookies on a board with over 1,000+ uniquely named commenters. I expect and demand good behavior here, and when I point out that you fucked up, you have the decision about whether to accept the correction and do better or to argue the point into the ground and take up all my spoons for the day.

On posting: Post responsibly. Accusing people of logical fallacies or of insincerity or insinuating that they don't know what they are talking about is going to be taken by a lot of people as fighting words, and should be avoided if what you really mean is just a plain ol' I-don't-like-that-opinion. If you disagree with an opinion on the board, try offering your own opinion onto the pile and see if it convinces anyone to change their point of view, rather than accidentally engineering a flamewar with accusatory words. I spend a good deal of time on choosing my words carefully, and I expect others to do the same.

On framing: Posts on this board are not "attacks" on authors or characters. Authors and characters do not need to be "defended". Moderation decisions are not me being annoyed or emotional or hysterical or angry. Statements about authorial intent must be tempered with the knowledge that Intent Is Not Magic and that Death of the Author is a valid deconstruction approach.

On pressuring: Speaking of, do not tell people how they should think or how they should write or how they should approach the literary texts on this board. YOU can share how YOU approach texts and what works for YOU and why it works for YOU, but the minute you start pushing your approach on other people is the minute that you're crossing a line.

On language: Points can and should be made about fictional characters without reaching for marginalizing language against commonly marginalized groups. If I can't tell that you're using the term deconstructively, then we have a language issue that needs resolution. When in doubt, discuss the offending behavior rather than reaching for name-calling as a conversational shorthand.

On binaries: Please refrain from characterizing complex discussions into two discrete buckets: your side and everyone else's (whose side you are now going to helpfully summarize for everyone reading along). This is the LaHayean fallacy, where atheists and Wiccans are identical because we both don't believe in Jesus, and it's also silencing when you interpret other people's opinion for them.

On mind-reading: Speaking of which: do not tell people what they think or how they view things. Responding to people's words is engaging; telling them what they think based on your interpretation of their words is silencing. There is pretty much never a need to sum up another person's position on an discussion before adding your own to the fray (see "addressing comments" below).

On addressing comments: When possible, try to address the thread at large instead of the OP writer in specific, and try to write comments that don't request a response from the OP writer. (Like, "How do you explain...?" or "What do you think of...?" or "How does this compare to your book where...?") Instead, contribute to the discussion by making I-statements. ("I explain it this way...", "I think of it this way...", "I see a parallel between...")

People on this board, myself included, have a limited amount of time to respond to specific questions, and are up against strong cultural conditioning that says that "ignoring" direct questions makes for a rude person. Whenever possible, please respect others' time and spoon-budget by allowing them to decide if they want to respond to your comment rather than asking them to do so directly. 

---

Please do unto others here as you would have them do unto you, and don't make me brush off the banhammer over the yuletide holidays. Thanks.

Buffy: Friendships and Feminism

I haven't written about Buffy in awhile, partly because we've tailed off a little on watching the show. This wasn't by a spoken arrangement, and I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm honestly starting to find the show very depressing, and Husband keeps genuinely asking me things like "Why is Cordelia even there when they talk to her like that?" and "Why does Buffy stick around these people?" because just about every episode seems to involve people being terrible to Buffy and Cordelia, and I don't honestly know what to tell him because I'm wondering the same things. (And also I find it problematic that the answer to why Cordelia weathers continual emotional abuse from the boyfriend who broke her heart is because she wants to be around Wesley. Because fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.)

Last night we tried a new episode -- Earshot -- and I seriously wanted to cry when we hit this exchange early into the show:

BUFFY: It's just I'm scared, Will. There's this thing in me and I can't find it. I can't stop it. What if it changes me? Not just the way I look. All of a sudden I could be something that's not me anymore.

WILLOW: Yeah, woo hoo!...sorry, they spelled Percy, and, and, I have to show support-he's needy. But I heard what you were saying, really. And I would be frightened too, but I'm sure you're gonna be okay. 

I've mentioned before in Twilight posts how much it bothers me that S. Meyer crafted a world without female friendships, but if possible this bothers me more. Willow is a terrible friend; Buffy is genuinely and legitimately terrified about turning into a demon, and Willow can't be bothered to pretend even the slightest amount of support because she's too interested in her teaching projects. (And I will not even touch on the fact that Willow's interest in teaching Percy in this episode reads way too much like Willow is interested in Percy sexually. Because obviously women can only be interested in men in sexual ways, and the power dynamics between student and teacher should totally be combined with sexual overtones. Because fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.)

This is the same Willow who tore Buffy a new one because Buffy isn't constantly available to listen to every little problem that Willow wants to get off her chest. Which means that Willow requires Buffy to actively listen to Willow talk about the complexities of dating a werewolf, but Buffy can fuck right off if she needs to confide her fears about slayer side-effects to someone. And this is also the same Willow whose first thought upon hearing Buffy can read minds is to be upset because Buffy won't "need" Willow for schoolwork anymore and then to be even more upset because now Buffy will understand Oz better than Willow does.

Great! What a great portrayal of healthy female friendships, otherwise so very lacking in our popular media! I love it when female friendships revolve entirely around dependence and boys, because that is absolutely a very accurate portrayal of my friendships with other women. I use 'em when they need me, and I make damn sure they don't get too close to my man. Because fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

*sigh*

Other pros about last night's episode: it was genuinely funny that Cordelia's thoughts are the same as her words. Cons about last night's episode: it was genuinely unsurprising that of course all of Cordelia's thoughts are selfish and shallow, despite it being repeatedly demonstrated throughout this show that she's a lot deeper than that. Because forget consistent characterization when we have a chance to shame a woman, because fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Also super great: the episode starts with Buffy et. al. being really super duper mega concerned because they still don't know what the Mayor has planning. They know it's big, and they know it's bad, but they don't know what it is exactly because ultimately Faith didn't know and therefore couldn't spill the beans during the betrayal gambit. So naturally when Buffy learns she can read minds, she ... rushes off to Angel's in an attempt to make sure he didn't really enjoy kissing Faith, because one can never be too sure about boyfriends and their wandering cocks. No one even mentions trying to get Buffy close to the Mayor in order to pick up world-saving information, because WHAT DO YOU MEAN ANGEL'S PANTSFEELINGS AREN'T THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THIS SHOW? That's just silly talk.

So! Instead of a Buffy update, here is a three-part article on Buffy, Firefly, and Dollhouse that I found interesting. It's spoilery, and I'm not sure I agree with it 100%, but I found it thought-provoking and worthy of reading. So go read and be provoked (if you're into that sort of thing).

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Part 2!) Movie Review

So I went to see Breaking Dawn, Part 2 on the day after the day-after-Thanksgiving. I'm not sure what that's called, the day after Black Friday: maybe "Grey Saturday"? But anyway, I went to the theater fully intending to tweet the movie as I went through, much like I did with Part 1. However, about half of you are chortling happily at my plan because you have already realized how foolish it was: the theater was packed to the seams, and if I'd tried to fiddle with my phone during the movie, I would have been beaten unconscious with my own popcorn tub. So I took notes in the dark instead.

Honestly, it was probably just as well that my twitter plan fell through, though, because I found that I didn't really have anything witty to say about Breaking Dawn. It's not that it was bad -- though I did find it surprisingly slow, given that I'd heard this was the actiony part of the Twilight Saga -- but I feel as though maybe I've reached some sort of outrage fatigue when it comes to Twilight as a film series. There's really only so many times I can watch the series' handling of Ye Olde Ethnic People before I start feeling a little tired and barfy and in dire need of some chicken noodle soup, Sprite, and a nap.

That last paragraph got away from me a little.

I went into Breaking Dawn having not read the book. This has been a thing with me since the beginning of the deconstruction, actually: I don't mind spoilers, but I've wanted to take the books "as is" without casting too far ahead into the future. I like to point out problems when they happen, not three books later when they've been retconned into totally-not-problems anymore. And funnily enough, I think going into Breaking Dawn without having read the book is wise ... but we'll get to that in a bit. Hold that thought.

The movie starts with a credit roll, and my notes remind me that vampire blood turns serif fonts into sans serif ones, which means that the vampires really are on the side of angels. The effect is spoiled, though, because the sans serif letters don't line up with the serif ones they are replacing, so it came off looking inelegant to me. It's a nit; I picked it.

We start with Bella waking up and her having a moment alone with Edward, and we get the revelation that Bella is stronger than Edward now. In fact, Bella is the strongest person in the household, and can sweep the floor with Emmett if she so chooses. I think this is technically a "newborn" thing; I'm pretty sure it was established in an earlier movie when the Newborn Army was gunning for the Cullens, but it plays nicely in with the fact that this movie is Bella's debutante ball, as it were: she's going to be the prettiest, sparkliest, fastest, strongest, self-controlledest, cleverest, shieldiest, bestest vampire there ever was.

And I'm kind of two minds on that. On the one hand, can you spell M-a-r-y-S-u-e. On the other hand, it seems churlish to complain about Bella being strong and self-sufficient and awesome when the alternative is/was human!Bella who trips over her own feet specifically so that all the sexy man meat can carry her around like she's permanently on the cover of a series of romance novels.

Click to embiggen.

After a brief hunting scene, where it is established that Bella has the Best Self-Control Ever, we get to see baby Reneesmee. And it strikes me that the appeal of Reneesmee for a mother, particularly a hypothetical teen mother, is potentially very strong. Not only does the child fast-grow in such a way that Bella can still experience all the exciting "firsts" without them getting tedious and draggy, and not only does Bella have a cadre of volunteer caretakers at her beck and call, but very crucially, Reneesmee knows who her mother is and what she has been through to protect Reneesmee. And, what's more, she appreciates it.

Bella will never have to exclaim in exasperation "I went through ten hours of labor with you, you realize that?" to try to get through to her daughter that the world existed before she was born and her mother had to make sacrifices to bring her into it. Bella doesn't have to say that because Reneesmee remembers being born. She's aware of the pain she brought Bella. She's appropriately grateful to her mother. How many infants can you say that about? My guess is, not too many.

Then Bella beats up Jacob (and Seth) in retaliation for Jacob imprinting on Reneesmee. And while I'm opposed to violence in general, I can kind of see Bella's point. It was pretty tasteless for the Powers That Be to have Bella's suitor imprint on her infant daughter, and it was additionally quite rude to have Bella's romantic feelings for Jacob all turn out to be the yearnings of one the eggs in her ovaries. The clan moves past this; after enjoying the sight of their Local Ethnic Person being beaten up and told that he's smelly, they come to a group consensus that Jacob can come in and sleep on the couch. Apparently the Cullens don't have a guest bedroom, and I guess it's not like Edward can give up his bedroom for the night. Because then where would Edward sleep? Oh, wait.

Bella asks Rosalie where Reneesmee sleeps and Rosalie chirrups "In my arms!" (Or Jacob's. Or Edward's. Or Esme's, she adds.) And all I can think is that this family is apparently not big on teaching Reneesmee boundaries and private space and personal time. But I don't have babies, so the hell do I know. And then everyone decides that they need to move away to keep Charlie from investigating Bella's soon-to-be-announced death. So basically the gorgeous cottage that Alice just gifted to Bella can only be enjoyed for about five minutes. Whoops, future-teller! But, wait! Jacob doesn't want the clan to leave, so he brings Charlie around. And it strikes me that this doesn't make sense.

The Cullens moved into town, what? One year ago? Two years ago? And started acting all creepy and weird. Billy Black, Charlie's longest and bestest friend, made a stink about their moving into town and refused to visit the hospital anymore Because Ancient Mystical Reasons. Immediately after Bella moved up to Forks, she and Edward started dating, and then she began to act erratically. She ran away from home. She suffered a serious injury and was hospitalized. The Cullens left town abruptly and she spiraled into depression. The Cullens moved back, just as abruptly, and Edward and Bella married straight out of high school. Then Bella went on a secretive honeymoon, and never saw her father again. She picked up a mysterious illness and refused to come home. Then all contact was cut entirely.

Charlie Swan, the Forks Chief of Police, has not even driven over to the Cullen house and looked in those huge floor-to-ceiling windows to see if they were hiding Bella on the property. He hasn't filed a missing person report. He hasn't served the Cullens with a warrant to search their house. He hasn't, apparently, done anything to investigate Bella's strange and worrisome disappearance other than mope about the house chopping wood. Under different circumstances this might make some sense, but Charlie has about as much privilege as he can have in this situation: he's a born-and-raised resident of this small town, a respected member of society, and the chief of police in the area. The Cullens are moneyed, yes, but they're also highly unpopular -- it was mentioned in Twilight that Charlie is about the only person in town who thinks of them fondly -- and have acted highly erratically. I mean, they're a family of adopted children who date each other, for gods' sakes. Yet Charlie either can't or won't try to challenge them on the whole "sorry you haven't seen your daughter since her teen wedding" thing. That's strange to me.

Anyway. The Charlie situation gets resolved. Bella beats Emmett at arm-wrestling. She sparkles, and says her line about how she was "born to be a vampire". A local vampire spots Nessie and jumps to conclusions, before rushing off to tattle to the Volturi. Bella and Edward take Nessie to meet the other local vampires and to prove that Nessie isn't a vampire-child (bad!) but rather a vampire-human-hybrid (good!). Nessie uses her magical convincing powers, and I have to say I like the theory that she's not just showing but rather she's also compelling. And Carlisle starts gathering "witnesses": approximately 27 vampires in all to stand against the Volturi. Jacob points out that a lot of the allies are human-eaters, and Bella says "they agreed not to hunt in the area". Jacob points out that they will still be hunting somewhere, though.

The movie brushes past this, which is something of a shame because it's an interesting moral quandary. The Cullens -- and, presumably, Bella -- believe that vampires have to stick together, whether they're trying to be vegetarian or not. Jacob believes that the moral decision to Not Murder People is more important than sticking with people just because they have a similar nature. Of course, to really test his beliefs, we'd have to apply it to a member of his wolf-pack: would they shun a werewolf who was hunting and killing humans? But let's assume that Jacob is acting in good faith here and isn't just lashing out at the vampires: is he right or wrong? I can see both sides of the coin, honestly, but I think it would have been interesting to explore it more fully. I don't begrudge the Cullens for seeking what companionship they can, and I think they probably see their companionship as a way to "witness" to the human-eaters. On the other hand, I see Jacob's point as well, and understand his reticence to be chummy with mass-murderers.

While we're discussing the vampire allies, I suppose now is as good a time as any to direct a heavy sigh at the movie's treatment of Ye Olde Ethnic People. Every single vampire in this movie is from a non-American region, and of course they don't all wear blue jeans and sweatshirts like the American and European vampires. Instead, the vampires from the Really Ethnic Regions show up wearing clothes like this:


Later, when Replacement Goldfish (for when mortal Jacob dies and immortal Reneesmee does not) vampire-human-hybrid Nahuel shows up, he turns up in the middle of the Forks mountains in a bare chest and an Ethnic Costume because presumably we might otherwise fail to notice that he is Ethnic.

And here is the thing, okay? I was being sarcastic just now. This is complicated. Different cultures have different clothing, and some people from those cultures chose to wear different clothing. There's nothing wrong with that, and there's perhaps nothing wrong with Hollywood acknowledging that the entire world isn't jeans and t-shirts. But. At the same time, people from different cultures do not automatically wear different clothing from our own. And there seems to be some people in Hollywood who do not understand that, people who assume that if one were to go to another country, one would immediately stand out from the crowd on account of being the only one not dressed in animal skins or something.

And this is particularly noticeable when the characters in question are from Ethnic Places, i.e., South America or Africa or something rather than plain ol' Russia or Ireland or what have you. You know, the Ethnicy Places. Where the dark-skinned people come from and They Have Legends.

And it is also particularly noticeable when the people dressed in conspicuously different clothing are, say, sophisticated immortal vampires heavily invested in blending into their surroundings lest the Volturi charge them with not maintaining the masquerade.

And it is also also particularly noticeable when the dark-skinned Ethnically Dressed people are gathering to risk their life and limb in order to save an Innocent Little White Girl, here variously represented as Reneesmee, Bella, or Alice.

So now you know why I'm getting a bit fatigued on the whole movie franchise. Because I don't even know where to start deconstructing the Othering at this point. I just want to sort of point at the whole thing and say "pretty much all of it".

Anyway. So. But. Random observations from the notebook:

  • Edward cops to consistently underestimating Bella.
  • They have a pair of GIANT SCISSORS on their cottage wall as a decoration. 
  • Leah does not appear in this movie, outside of CGI wolf shots and the back of her hair, but she's credited on IMDB. Not sure what's going on there.

Moving on. Edward thanks Carlisle for the first time for the life he's given him, which I guess means he's finally given up on his sadfeels angst and decided to be cheerful, what with the immortality and the limitless wealth and the soulmate wife and the adorable moppet. But Edward loves his manpain and woobies that none of this impending bloodshed would have happened if he'd not fallen in love with a human, which, what? No. Shut the fuck up, Edward. It has been clearly established that the Volturi were going to do this sooner or later because they wanted to seize control of Alice. If anything, you're in a stronger position having this happen now, what with your Imprinted Wolfpack and your Magical Shield Wife, so hush up on your manpain.

Wait. Back up. I forgot to talk about the wolfpack, didn't I?

Well, not only are they going to fight and die for Reneesmee because of imprinting, they're also turning new wolves by the dozens because the Cullens are gathering so many new vampires. Jacob hunts down the newly turned and comforts them and teaches them. If anything, he seems pretty cheerful about having so many new recruits. And this ... makes me feel really uncomfortable. Maybe a lot of the werewolves like being werewolves, but we've also seen a lot of lives ruined over this whole business. Being a werewolf means furring-out at unexpected times and hurting or killing your loved ones by accident. It means having your emotions overridden by magical imprinting that forces you to leave one lover and take a new one. It means having your every thought shared with the wolves around you, whether you want it to be shared or not. It means being forced to submit to pack leadership if you want to stay in your home.

It's a life without control and without privacy. It's not a life that I think should be pushed onto people without their consent, but by gathering vampires to THIS home rather than to, say, their Alaskan one, they are doing precisely that. And this is presented as a good thing because it means that the Innocent Little White Girls have even more ethnic people to defend them.

Anyway. But. So.

Alice shows up and offers to "show" the Volturi why they shouldn't take and/or kill Reneesmee. The Volturi kidnap Alice regardless, and Carlisle breaks through the lines. He attacks the leader, and in a moment Carlisle's head has been torn off and his body burned. And this is what I mean about the movie being better if you haven't read the book, because my first thought was Holy shit! My next thought was I am going to wiki the heck out of this movie, because there's no way that's in the book. Meyer's perfect happy ending can't include Carlisle being six feet under. My delighted suspicions were enhanced when the Twilight fans sitting next to me gasped in shock and surprise and leaned forward into their seats. Then there is an Epic Battle with Lots of Casualties and I was wondering how they would get away with changing so much when ... Dallas! The whole thing was just Alice showing the Volturi why they shouldn't start anything.

I'd feel cheated -- our one action sequence for this entire five-movie franchise was a freaking dream -- but instead I just feel a sad premonition that Breaking Dawn The Book isn't going to be nearly as exciting as I'd hoped.

And everyone lives happily ever after. Bella has an Ethnic Person to take care of her baby-daughter whenever she feels that shagging her husband is more pressing than changing diapers, and the baby-daughter has that same diaper-changing Ethnic Person ready-and-waiting to be her adoring husband when she grows up in seven years time. And she also has an Auxiliary Backup Ethnic Person to be her husband after the first one dies from terminal mortality. (Assuming she doesn't make Jacob into a shiny white vampire. I'm guessing that werewolves are immune to that sort of thing.) And nobody even had to break a sweat or anything!

Oh, and also: Edward finally gets to read Bella's mind, because she wanted to be able to 'prove' her love to him as if everything that's been said and done so far somehow didn't count as proof. No comment at this time.

THE END.

Open Tread: Stray Cats

People, I am pissed off at myself.

When I left work today, there was a stray cat in the concrete tundra that is my work parking lot. (Seriously, there is nothing but concrete as far as the eye can see.) I managed to coax her into butting her head into my hand, but then I had to make a judgment call whether to try to build more trust capital before picking her up, or to just go for it then and there.

She looked super-skittish and I didn't think I had time to lose, so I picked her up. She responded badly; when I put my hands on either side of her to lift her, she bit me hard enough that I reflexively let her go. (I don't mind being bitten, but I let my cats go when they bite because that's them saying Mom, I don't want to be picked up. Stupid muscle memory.) She got under a row of cars; I was able to track her for several minutes before I lost her and couldn't pick up the trail again. So now I am angry at self and also my knees are killing me.

The only 'good' spot in this (if you can call it that) is that Husband swears she's been in the parking lot for years, so she's apparently not in imminent danger of starving to death tonight.

Is there anything I can do better next time? I'm pretty sure if I approach her with a big cat carrier, she'll dart off at full speed, so I think it will have to be hand-catching. And she was a slippery little thing, so I don't think oven mitts to protect from the teeth will leave me with the necessary dexterity.

Also, there is not going to be anyone at work who can be alerted for help, so that's out from the get-go. The people who would help (co-workers) won't be walking down to my car with me, and the people who should help (management, or security) wouldn't.

Thoughts?

Narnia Themes: Character Context

[Content Note: Spanking, Power Differentials Between Children and Adults]

Ana's Note: This is a follow-up post.

A recent post on the problems with the "know-it-all child" archetype (i.e., Eustace Scrubb) brought home to me an issue that I've been privately grappling with since the early days of our Twilight posts, that is that character context changes the meaning of character actions.

Character actions are the things that characters do and say and think out loud to the reader. Bella Swan accepting the offer to be gym partners with Mike Nelson is a character action. Eustace Scrubb refusing to believe in Narnia is a character action. Aaron Fidget telling Death-as-the-Hogfather that he doesn't exist is a character action. Edward Cullen dragging Bella to his car while she flails her arms uselessly in an attempt to get away is a character action. And so on.

Character context, in this post, refers to the cultural context surrounding the character and hir actions. The cultural context for Bella Swan is that she is a white woman, in a society where "white woman" is laden with a lot of cultural expectations, relative privileges, and significant marginalization. The cultural context for Eustace Scrubb and Aaron Fidget are that they are children, with the significant marginalization involved in that status, as well as (possibly) atheists in cultures that privilege religious belief. Edward Cullen's cultural context is that he is a wealthy, attractive, heterosexual, white man, with all the privileges that implies.

It is my firm belief that we cannot divorce character context from character actions. Eustace Scrubb, Bella Swan, and Edward Cullen could all perform identical words, thoughts, and deeds and I believe those actions would very likely mean very different things because of the differences in character context. To pick an example at semi-random, let us look at the character example of accepting food from the White Witch

If we look at the acceptance of this food on the part of Edmund Pevensie, we have to remember the context surrounding Edmund Pevensie. Edmund is a child; the White Witch is an adult. There is therefore automatically a vast gulf of power between them. Children are in some ways the most marginalized people on the planet: in countries like America, they have very few explicit legal rights to protect them from the adults who have power over them.

If you are an adult, think about your daily routine and how many choices you make every day. You choose when to wake up (though that "choice" may be guided by necessities, you still ultimately choose when to wake up in service to those necessities); you are not woken by another adult forcing you out of sleep because they've decided you've slept enough. Your grooming habits, clothing, shoes, hairstyle, and other morning rituals are yours to decide: crucial things like your body temperature for the rest of the day are a result of your choice to wear cotton or wool, rather than a choice someone else makes for you. The food you eat for breakfast is food that you have decided you want inside your body; if you have a food preference or a food intolerance, you can be reasonably certain there will be options for breakfast that accommodate you. And all this is before you leave the house for the day.

When you are a child -- at least in America, the country I am most familiar with -- you have very few explicit rights to make these decisions for yourself. Adults can dress you in clothing that is uncomfortable or allergenic. Adults can feed you food that is unpleasant or intolerant to your system. Adults can wake you whenever they please. Adults can spend the first eighteen years of your life using strong verbal, financial, psychological, and physical incentives to pressure children to conform to whatever religious, political, or social beliefs the adults maintain. In most places in the United States, adults have the legal right to commit various forms of physical assault on children -- I use the word "physical assault" here simply because that is what these actions would be if performed by one adult on another.

Children do not have a right to specific clothing or to choose their food. They do not have the ability to leave or avoid situations of verbal abuse. They do not have legal protection against certain kinds of physical trespasses on their bodies. An adult can force a child to receive body piercings before they are old enough to give meaningful consent; an adult can choose to style a child's hair and clothing however they choose and against the will of the child. Adults can physically move children wherever they please, and they can take away a child's possessions at any given moment. There is no legal right extended to children for liberty or property, nor is there freedom of speech or religious practice.

As a society, we tolerate this power differential between children and adults because we believe that it is in most cases necessary: very young children should probably not be allowed to eat nothing but spoonfuls of sugar every morning for breakfast, and though the importance of wearing warm clothes in the middle of winter may not be evident to the child when dressing in the warm house, the adults who care for the child have the requisite experience to understand that it is colder outside. We also tolerate this power differential because we believe that most adults care for children and do not wish to harm them; for those adults which deviate from this general rule, we try to intervene when necessary for the sake of the children. What I am saying is, these power differentials are not automatically bad or evil or lamentable. But they are there and it would be a mistake to forget they are there as a part of character context.

Most children grasp from a young age that adults have power over them, and that this power is both (a) present regardless of whether they like and/or understand it, and (b) supposed to be for the child's greater good. So when Edmund Pevensie accepts food from an adult, there is a context that is there, regardless of the author's intent, simply because Edmund is a child and this particular context exists for all children within the associated society. The only way to avoid this context would be to either make Edmund no longer a child (in which case he would be something else, with a new context entirely), or to make the surrounding society so different from our own that the author could assert new contexts as desired.

When Edmund Pevensie meets the White Witch, he does so as a child in a society that specifically and systemically disempowers children in relation to adults, and where disobedience to an adult can result in legal physical assault against the child.

If Bella Swan were to meet the White Witch, she would do so as a young woman in a society that undermines female agency in service to the idea that woman should "go along to get along" and subvert their individual desires in service to the greater social good.

Were Edward Cullen to meet the White Witch, he would do so as a man with a century's worth of experience and with the social standing to decline her offer without being viewed (and potentially socially punished) as insubordinate or impolite.

These are character contexts, and it's important to note that the same action -- taking candy from the Witch -- has different contexts when performed by different characters. This isn't to say that taking the candy would automatically have different results, nor is it to say that taking the candy might have different reasons: each one of the three characters above could be motivated by politeness or greed or any number of other motivations; each one of the three characters above could be attacked by the Witch for failure to comply or could be sentenced to execution by Aslan for their decision to partake.

What it does mean, however, is that the underlying context surrounding the action matters.

Earlier today, I maintained that a child being rude to a mall Santa was different than an adult being rude to someone at the AT&T store. I felt then, and still do, that there is a different in context, that a child being brought to a store by a parent and made to go sit on the lap of a stranger and participate in a religious ritual the child doesn't believe in is fundamentally different from an adult choosing to get in their car, drive to a store, and harangue an employee as though their work at AT&T was an ideological choice rather than an economic necessity.

The action -- Rude to Employee -- might be the same, but the context surrounding those actions is entirely different. The child had no say in whether it was deposited in the situation or not; the adult made multiple decisions and actions in order to arrive at the situation. The child is in a position of marginalization in comparison to the employee and views them as complicit in the child's marginalization; the adult is in a position of power in comparison to the employee and views them as easy prey for an act of marginalization.

When an author forgets these contexts, then problems arise. An act of betrayal may be an act of betrayal regardless of who is making the action, but there is a difference between sentencing a traitorous adult to death and sentencing a traitorous child to death. It may be foolish to contribute to a fraught situation where an avoidable death is very likely, but there is a difference between the contributer who is a socially powerful man with one hundred years of experience and the contributer who is a socially disadvantaged young woman with a sheltered past an a potentially abusive family background.

Context matters, and it's important to remember the relative privileges and disadvantages meted out to fictional characters when analyzing their actions.

Narnia: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Author

[Content Note: Cruelty to Animals, Brief Mention of Depression]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are pulled into Narnia through a picture on the wall, along with their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

Ana's Note: Today's post is a short one, because I'm composing this whilst battling some kind of cold/flu. Consider this interesting filler material. 

I'm reading Terry Pratchett's Hogfather because while I'm not really sold on the Discworld series as a whole (I tend to avoid franchises with 30+ books, for reasons that I've never bothered to adequately suss out), I saw the movie and found it utterly delightful. Furthermore, it's getting nippy weather here finally and since I tend to find A Christmas Carol depressing, I can't bear It's a Wonderful Life, and I don't care for A Charlie Brown Christmas, that means that if I want yuletide entertainment, I have to reach for something a little non-traditional. And Hogfather fits that bill.

Review: Claymore, Vol. 21

Claymore, Vol. 21 (Claymore, #21)Claymore, Vol. 21
by Norihiro Yagi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Claymore, Vol. 21 / 978-1421548807

I'm a very devoted fan of both the Claymore anime and the manga. I love the crisp black-and-white artwork, and while I realize it's not for everyone I personally think it's a perfect style for graphic novels. I find the action easy to follow, and the faces and body language to be surprisingly emotive. The story is complex and compelling, and I'm all in until the series finally finishes. I own this volume as a Nook Book e-book, and I assume it will shortly be ported to other online stores for sale.

Volume 21 provides the following scenes:

Scene 114: Corpse of the Witch, Part 1
Scene 115: Corpse of the Witch, Part 2
Scene 116: Corpse of the Witch, Part 3
Scene 117: Corpse of the Witch, Part 4
Scene 118: Corpse of the Witch, Part 5
Scene 119: Corpse of the Witch, Part 5

Spoilers ahead!

This volume opens as the Claymore revolt against their handlers in the heart of the Organization. Miria is alive, and all the warriors -- as well as the trainees -- have joined her cause in solidarity to her conviction and in response to their own emotional turmoil after years of torture and suppression by their leaders.

The Organization responds swiftly. They first unleash an army of Abyss Feeders; these demon-zombies have not been primed with a target and instead unleash their hunger on the nearby Claymore forces. Meanwhile Raki is released from the dungeons of the Organization by the young trainees; he joins the young girls as a leader and helps them in their fight against the human handlers.

The Abyss Feeders are a formidable force, but they are just an advance force: Scientist Dae unleashes his resurrected Claymore, the deceased former Number 1s. They are all new characters to us: Hysteria the Elegant, Roxanne of Love and Hate, and Cassandra the Dusteater. Hysteria confronts Miria, and asks her if Miria knows who she is and why she has a memory of dying. Cassandra focuses on Number 3 Audrey and Number 5 Rachel. Roxanne easily subdues the young trainee twins who are being trained to be the new Alicia and Beth; she seems to be the only resurrected with any memory of who she was before.

We receive a long and fascinating interlude on the history of Roxanne and Cassandra; the scene doesn't contribute to the main storyline, but it *is* very interesting to read and surprisingly doesn't slow down the action at all. When we return to the battle, we see that all the Claymore are faring badly against the resurrected: Cassandra in particular is very close to defeating Audrey and Rachel, but Number 10 Rafutera intervenes from within the headquarters and uses her distraction technique to throw Cassandra off her game. The young trainees join arms around Rafutera to support her physically while Raki fights off the human attackers seeking to kill Rafutera and the young children.

Meanwhile, Miria is faring very badly against Hysteria. The two have similar fighting techniques, but Hysteria's is far superior. In desperation, Miria switches to a brutal fighting style based on collision damage, in which the survivor is left almost to chance. As Cassandra stops fighting and struggles to remember her identity, Rafutera is free to switch her attention to Roxanne in order to save the lives of the young trainee twins. Cassandra slowly comes to the realization that a power-hungry Roxanne deliberately provoked Cassandra into attacking, and used the Organization's warriors to murder Cassandra in cold blood. In a gust of rage, Cassandra is the first of the unstable resurrected to awaken: since Cassandra is/was ranked as Number 1, she is formally an Abyssal Creature, and very dangerous indeed.

...and that's the end of the series until the next installment comes out in 2013. Tenterhooks!

~ Ana Mardoll