Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I don't teach HEL (History of the English Language) anymore since we hired a Medievalist here at our tiny little U, but finding this sort of thing (over at Language Log) makes me long for the days when I did.

Back when I did teach the class, I would struggle to explain what hypocristics where, and how Australians loved to do them, and why they were so cool.  If I still taught the class, I could just load up YouTube and set this commercial running.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

You Trap A Woman in An Elevator....

Over at PZ Myers' place, he notes the amazing wrong-headedness of this ad campaign.

It really has to be seen to be believed.

It 2013, someone (white, male, and privileged) thought this was funny.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Was Nineteen

Here is a first-hand account of the liberation of Buchenwald, written by Harry Herder, who was nineteen years old at the time.

It's fairly horrifying, but absolutely worth the read.

On one tray was a skull partially burned through, with a hole in the top; other trays held partially disintegrated arms and legs. It appeared that those trays could hold three bodies at a time. And the odor, my God, the odor.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Problem Of Religion

Long time readers of this blog know I'm an atheist.

I've been an atheist since I can remember, and I mean that literally.  My mama sent me to a Lutheran kindergarten, because New Orleans in those days did not have public kindergartens: I remember standing during the religious portion of the school day (we had to stand while we got preached at) standing giving my classmates the side-eye, wondering if the rest of them really believed any of this, and being convinced that none of them truly did.

The Teacher: "Jesus knows whether you believe in Him or not."

Five year old delagar, standing at her bench in her little uniform, in her little braids, hands behind her back, frowning. Looks sidelong at Guy, a red-headed boy with adorable curls, who looks earnest and terrified.

The Teacher: "You can say you Believe all you like.  But Jesus sees INTO YOUR HEART.  Jesus KNOWS."

Five year old delagar looks the other way, at the dark haired girl who also has braids, who gets in trouble with delagar frequently for talking during naps.  She doesn't look worried, just bored.  She's chewing on the end of her braid.

The Teacher: "Jesus can see EVERYTHING.  Jesus knows EVERYTHING."

Five year old delagar frowns at the teacher: she is pretty certain not even the teacher believes this crap, since this is the same voice the teacher uses when she says things like now we will all be on our best behavior for this field trip won't we.

It took me a long time to be convinced that some people actually believe God exists. Sometimes I am still not convinced, frankly.  I mean, I know people think they believe God exists.  But it seems obvious to me that they're believing it for the same reason kids believe in Santa -- for the presents, or because they're too scared not to. But then I think about some few of my students, who are intelligent and good at heart, and who sincerely and legitimately believe in God, and I have to admit that people can believe in God who are not idiots and not fools.

Also, while I was watching the documentary Eyes on the Prize, about the Civil Rights Movement, people involved in that movement -- intelligent, good-hearted people, people who were not idiots or fools, people who were obviously not lying and not afraid -- spoke of how God let them do what they did. So that showed me that some people do, in fact, actually legitimately believe in God.

My point: I'm not a particularly militant atheist.

I don't (for the most part) go around arguing with those who are religious, I don't try to get them to see how wrong-headed they are, or prove to them that God doesn't exist, or that their worldview is flawed.

If it gives people comfort to have these religious convictions, then go in peace, I say.


These religious convictions do have a downside -- do create problems, at times.

This is a self-evident truth, and at these times I do, occasionally, find myself wanting to argue with my students and with people on the internet and with people in my life: to show them the destruction they're causing in the world.

I try not to, even then, because people really aren't rational when it comes to their religion, but here is what I think.  Religion is destructive and a problem in these areas, in these particular ways.

The first and most obvious problem is when people use religion in a destructive way.  Take Doug Wilson, for instance, and Rod Dreher, and those like him: those who use religion to support their oppressive worldviews.

Rod isn't nearly as big a problem as Doug, but nevertheless: this sort uses their religion to support their belief that certain sorts of people can be legitimately discriminated against.  This sort once used religion to justify slavery and discrimination against people of color; now they use it to justify the oppression of women and LGBT people and the mistreatment of children. If they did not have religion to back their oppression, they would not feel nearly so justified; nor would they be taken as seriously.

So that's one problem.

But here's another, and possibly even a greater one: the time and the energy and the resources that are sunk into religion.

(Here is a post that touches on the enormous resources devoted to the worship of this imaginary being. But that's hardly even scraping the surface -- think of the billions devoted to building churches, paying preachers, funding proselytizing, all funds that could be otherwise more profitably spent.)

On FB, I watch my otherwise intelligent students spend hours arguing the most bizarre and ridiculous questions -- whether the world is 4000 or 7000 or 9000 years old, based on the interpretation of some verse in Exodus; whether women braiding their hair is a sin or not; what exactly this specific verse in Revelation means. This is enormous intellectual energy which could be spent doing something useful in the world, wasted on what is -- frankly -- nonsense.

(See this site for another example.)

That's not even counting the occasions when the nonsense is actively destructive -- as it often is.

(Not to mention misogynistic -- as it often is.  See also here.  And here.)

True, it's a free country.

True, if they didn't have religion they would probably just be arguing about baseball statistics or which fishing lure was the best instead.

But I can't help thinking that religion siphons off wealth and intellect and energy, diverting it toward chimera, smoke, and mirrors -- wasting it, in fact: wealth and intellect and energy that could be used to improve this planet, this life, this world here, which is, in fact, the only world that actually exists.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Vaughan and Staples Saga: Review

Though usually I don't read graphic novels, due to my weird inability to handle pictures and texts at the same time, a few years ago I got hooked on Y: The Last Man, Brian Vaughan's SF work about a world where every mammal with a Y-chromosome (including human males) dies, planet-wide, within a few moments, except for one man, Yorick Brown, and his monkey.

Now Vaughan is working with Fiona Staples on another graphic novel, Saga, which is shaping up to be even better than Y.

We're only two volumes into Saga -- the next issue is due in October -- so this can only be a preliminary review.  But I'm all thumbs up so far.

We've got an archetypal story: two kids from two cultures that have been at war for centuries who fall in love when one of them is guarding the other, who has been taken prisoner.

In my favorite bit, Alana, the guard, falls in love mostly because of a book she has been reading, which convinces her that the enemy is human too -- and that love is the best response to an enemy.

It's a trope about the power of literature to alter our worldview, to change our lives; it goes as far back as Chaucer (in Troilus and Criseyde, Criseyde is convinced by a song Antigone sings that love is a worthwhile enterprise); it is a major function of literature and art; and yet we don't often see it used in literature itself.

The characters too are excellent -- my favorite might be the Lying Cat, which is a giant cat, partner to a mercenary named The Will, who can tell when anyone is lying.  Lying Cat prowls around and says, when you are lying, "LYING."  If you aren't lying, Lying Cat just says, "Mpf."  In a kind of disgruntled way.

The Will is also great.

And our heroes, Marco and Alana, have a baby, from whose POV the story is being told -- and this baby has a ghost babysitter, a child who has been killed in the endless war.  Well.  Half a ghost.  Because she was blown up in a landmine.

When this ghost kid showed up was one of the first best plot twists in a novel which is (apparently) going to be filled with great plot twists.

And the art is also great.  The kid, who as you know does art, expostulated on it at length, explaining to me exactly what was great about it.  She says it was done digitally (I think that's what she said) and also something about the lines, which I can't remember.  But she's very impressed, I remember that.

In conclusion: I highly recommend, and can't wait for the next one.

Update: io9 on Saga.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Evolutionary Psychology: What it is, how it works, what it says

Over at Cheese and Responsibility, Tree of Knowledge links this Skepchick post, which has both a video and a transcription of scientists and others talking about Evolutionary Psychology (and other coolness).

Among other things, this is interesting due to what it says about how the human brain works (two of the speakers, P.Z. Myers and Indre Viskontas, are neuroscientists).

But I'm also interested due to what it says about the whole male brains are different from female brains narrative that is so common on the Right these days -- one of the tools they use to justify their belief that women should be subordinate to men.

And what it says is what those of us who read in this area, even as non-neuroscientists, more or less understand: male brains and female brains are not, in fact, innately different, despite what your high school biology teacher or your preacher or whoever might have told you is so.

A couple of interesting passages:

GL: I know from my own reading and research that there are systems of behavior–complicated systems of behavior in which a set of outcomes over here [gestures with right hand] are obtained and a set of outcomes over here [gestures with left hand] are obtained, but the things that cause those outcomes are distinctly different.

One of the most dramatic examples I can think of is eating an antelope, killing and eating an antelope or a deer. In one system, wolves eat deer. In another system, humans domesticate dogs, and dogs do things to deer when you’re hunting. Only they’re not deer anymore. They’re now sheep, and the sheep are acting like prey animals, and therefore they can be herded by your domesticated wolves. In both cases, you sit down and you eat a steak, but in one case you’re using completely different sets animals are being [used].


GL: We know this, for example, that men and women test very differently on things that have to do with spatial relationships of objects until both males and females start growing up playing the same video games. And then they test the same way. So I think, yes, there are modules in our brains that are there that can be good at certain things, but I simply would argue that, for the most part, 90% of those modules emerge because of our experiential background, and 10% of genetic imperative or something, whereas the evolutionary psychologists would argue the opposite.


Audience question 2: I did. It’s more for Indre. Is the current position of where the evolutional brain is now as opposed to men and women. You can see that women are much better multitaskers, far better memory than men, stuff like that.

IV: No, you can’t. Absolutely not. There’s so much BS about female and male differences in the brain that it’s unbelievable.

Audience question 2: Well, we do our awards at college and stuff like that, and for the Phi Beta Kappa and stuff like that and consistency– The school has got the same amount of men and women, but five times more women than men are coming to the top of the scale of education. I’m just wondering whether you see that, that there’s some type of a difference between men and women, because clearly, what we’re seeing–

AM: Nobody denies that men and women are generally different. I mean, if they weren’t in our culture, you wouldn’t even be able to spot who was male and who was female on sight. But that’s not because of biology. A lot of that’s culture. I mean, why do women make different choices than men? Well, a lot of the time because that’s what is coded as female in our culture. 

And that is always adapting, so something like, you know, being bookish and spending a lot of time studying is something that, in the nineteenth century, was considered very masculine, and actually that women were not smart enough for that. Now our culture thinks women are kind of the smarter, more bookish sex because that’s something we associate with being kind of indoorsy, a little more personality submissive, whereas we encourage boys to run around and play.


PZ: Good studies, like I mentioned Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who’s got a whole book on, for instance, the maternal instinct and basically shows it’s a bunch of bunk, that women do not have any sort of maternal instinct–that didn’t make it into the press for some reason. Not a feel-good sort of story that fits into our notions of motherhood.

The whole thing is cool.  Go read!

Update: a further discussion of EV Psych over at PZ Myers' blog.  (Hat tip Athena Andreadis.  Thanks, Athena!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Love The Internets


They are made of cats, but also coolness

(When I posted this, it was 59 degrees and drizzling in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ender's Game V. Cyteen: Pictures of Gifted Children

Recently, as I may have mentioned, my kid read Ender's Game as part of her home-schooling curriculum. This meant I had to read it, too, since I'm her literature teacher.

One aspect of the book which both the kid and I noticed was how unrealistic Card's portrayal of the child characters was. I know other readers have liked his child characters, but especially in this book, when Ender is supposed to be six at its start, and Peter and Valentine only a few years older, his writing of these characters is just wildly unrealistic.

"I don't write children," Card claims. "I write humans."

Well, this is a problem.  Not because children aren't human, but because Card seems to think here, and when he writes other novels as well, that only one sort of human exists.  Having decided that, he writes every human the same, no matter what age they are, or where they are from, or what gender they are, for that matter, mostly.

So his six year old Ender talks exactly like his forty year old Hyrum Graff, who talks exactly like Mazar Rackam, who talks exactly like six year old Bean.

(Oh. Wait. Occasionally the students talk "slang." And say fart.  And call each other by racist nicknames.  But you know.  Other than that.)

I understand why readers of SF novels want to believe little kids talk like this.  They remember being smart kids, and they remember being treated like objects by the adults around them -- as though their ideas and their desires and their opinions did not matter -- and to see Card writing children as if they are the equal of adult humans, in intellect and vocabulary and wit and forethought, that soothes the wounds that still sting inside us all.

And yet.

No, even the smartest among us was did not have a fully-developed intellect at six.  Or ten, for that matter (or however old Ender is when he smites the buggers).  Being brilliant and having a fully realized intellect are not at all the same thing.

Which brings me to Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh, which by happenstance I re-read about a week after I read Ender's Game.

If you want a book which presents a realistic portrait of gifted children, here is your book.

Cherryh is ten times the writer Card is, so she's got an advantage over him to begin with.  And probably at least twice as smart as he is.  Also, her characters and the situation she is writing about are inherently more interesting.  So, all that.

But let me focus on her gifted children.  She writes about several, but the three main ones in Cyteen are Ariane Emory, Catlin, and Florian.

Ariane is the center of the book -- a genius ( a special, as the book has it) who has been cloned and is being recreated (psychogenesis) so that she can take over the running of her predecessor's company, Cyteen.

Florian and Catlin are her two bodyguards: also clones, also recreations, but azis, which is to say, slaves, more or less. (It's complicated, because Cherryh is always complicated, which is why she's so interesting.) Florian and Catlin are also alphas.

Azis come in different categories, a la in Brave New World: alphas, betas, gammas, and so on.  Alphas are the smartest, geniuses, but tend to instability if not socialized and given to the control of a qualified supervisor. (Supervisor of course translates from the Latin as overseer.  I do love Cherryh.)

I could talk about this book forever, as it is one of my favorites, but the point is -- and I do have one -- about half the book concerns the cloned Ariane and the cloned Florian and Catlin growing up, first separately and then together.

We get lots of scenes, inside their heads, of them reacting and thinking and talking and handling situations, from the time they are all about six and onwards.  And Cherryh clearly actually understands how brilliant children act.

That is to say, Ariane knows well enough from the time she's very young that something is up: that she is being betrayed by someone. (She doesn't know who for a very long time.) She knows she is surrounded by dangers, that her world is a risky and scary place.  She doesn't have the language or the worldview to handle everything she suspects or understands; she resorts to the sort of language gifted children will use.

She kept getting this upset feeling, no matter how hard she tried to be cheerful. It was not a Mad, either. She tried to figure out what it was...
Hell with Them, maman would say. Meaning Them that messed things up.

Catlin and Florian also have this half-invented, private language: Olders can be real dangerous, they tell Ari when she wants to find out who is betraying her.  You have to be careful, because they know so much more. Though, as Catlin adds, "If he's not expecting it, anyone can be Got."

Here, Ariane explains human behavior to Florian and Catlin, who, being Azi and raised in the barracks, don't really understand it:

"CITs have connections," she said.  She felt uneasy telling them.  It was like telling them how to Work someone. She explained, making a hook out of two fingers to hook together. "To each other, like you to Catlin, and Catlin to you, and both of you to me. Sometimes not so strong.  Sometimes real, real strong. And CITs do things for each other, sometimes because it feels good, sometimes because they're Working each other, sometimes to Get each other. A lot of times it's to protect themselves."

Wide, attentive stares. Anxious stares.  Even from Catlin.

"So you can Work someone to make them do something if you tell him you'll hurt him or hurt somebody he's connected to. Like if somebody was to hurt me, you'd react."  While she was saying this, she thought, So it's maman they want something out of, because maman is important.

It couldn't be the other way around.  They haven't told me they'd hurt maman.

But they're Olders, like Florian says. They always know more and they don't always tell you everything you need.

This is how smart, gifted kids talk and think.  These are actual kids, not 25 year olds in tiny little bodies.  And as Ariane and her tiny bodyguards grow up, their thinking, language, and worldview grows with them -- that is also something Cherryh does well.  (Whereas Ender Wiggins at 45 sounds exactly like Ender Wiggins at six, frankly.)

I guess I don't have to say that I highly recommend Cyteen if you're looking for a good book about not just smart kids, but smart ideas. No easy answers, though.  That's something Cherryh never does supply.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wow. People Who Have Sex Are The Barbarians At The GATE.

This, from Rod Dreher, I have to admit just made me laugh a little at first.

Once upon a time, it was thought that feminism would make men less rough. It appears to have made women more coarse. From the NYT:
At 11 on a weeknight earlier this year, her work finished, a slim, pretty junior at the University of Pennsylvania did what she often does when she has a little free time. She texted her regular hookup — the guy she is sleeping with but not dating. What was he up to? He texted back: Come over. So she did. They watched a little TV, had sex and went to sleep.
Their relationship, she noted, is not about the meeting of two souls.

Good Lord. That’s monstrous. If I raise a daughter who thinks and behaves like this, I will have been a failure as a father. If I raise sons who think and behave like this, or who bring home women like this, I will have been a failure as a father.
The times are evil. 

Read the whole thing -- Rod quotes extensively from the NYTimes story which reveals the shocking, shocking truth that some women have sex outside of marriage, and even with guys they aren't madly in love with.  (I know! Right?)

This is apparently a revelation to Rod.  (What can you expect from someone whose parents were so tone-deaf as to name him Rod, I guess?)

As I said, at first it just cracked me up.  Because, wow.  Where have you been living, Rod?  A cave?  Do you really think people just started having sex-without-eternal love last week?  Or -- you know-- last millennia?

But then I thought longer, and it occurs to me that his outrage has a deeper meaning, a blind spot even. He's not just scandalized by the notion that people -- well, women, for all his hasty addition of "sons" in his penultimate sentence -- are having sex outside of marriage, and sex outside of love.  He's furious about it.  He calls them monsters.

In other words, from Rod's point of view (and a number of those in his comment stream agree), women who have sex without being in a long-term loving relationship -- outside of marriage, essentially, or the prelude to marriage -- are monsters.  Are Others.  Are evil.

That's a giant cultural difference, one I can't really bridge.

What I mean to say here, is I can't fathom what sort of mind looks at the act of having sex that way; or especially at those who have sex that way.

I mean, I'm in a long-term loving relationship, obviously; but I know lots of people who aren't, and who have sex outside those relationships.  They're not monsters.  They're people who have sex with other people in consensual ways.

You know who are monsters?  Rapists.  Child molesters.  People who deny other people their human rights.

Grown-up people having consensual sex with other grown-up people from time to time isn't monstrous -- that's just human behavior.  If we're smart, we use protection, and we try not to frighten to horses, but other than that, why the outrage?  I am mystified.

I kid, I kid.  I do understand why Rod's so overcome, really.  It's women having sex without being in bondage that's got him appalled.  How dare a woman act like she owns her body? How dare she go out and have sex with whoever she wants? No permission? No guilt?

Obviously we are in the End Times, people.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How Same-Sex Marriage Will Destroy The Patriarchy

Ah. This post by Clio clears it up for me.

Marriage equality is a threat to those who do not believe in EQUALITY between the sexes in general.  

the conservative/traditional view of marriage is grounded not in the pursuit of personal freedom or individual happiness or rights, but in gender essentialism – in the belief that the purpose of marriage is procreation and that woman’s highest role is as wife and mother. 

Same-sex marriage makes a lie of the very foundation of traditional gender roles.  Same-sex marriages say that a woman can run a household, or that a man can raise a child. This does not square with those whose lives and beliefs and relationships depend on upholding and living their lives based on differences between the sexes.

The real problem with SSM is not that it's icky, per se.

It's that it threatens the patriarchy. This makes a lot more sense now.

SSM denies gender essentialism. That is, it says that there's no such *thing* as one kind of man, one kind of woman. If that's true (and it is), then there's no such thing as one kind of marriage. And if *that* is true, then why should all those women stuck in those horrible marriages keep submitting to their horrible husbands?

THAT, my friends, is how SSM will harm traditional marriage.

The root of their argument revealed.

The problem, of course, is that those making this argument don't want to admit that the patriarchy exists, or that they are oppressing women, so they can't MAKE this argument. Ha. A neat trap.

But If You Stop Being Oppressed That's Oppressing ME!

So I watched Spike Lee's Malcolm X yesterday, which I had somehow missed seeing before.

At three hours and 33 minutes, it's an extremely long movie, but excellent -- even essential -- watching.  This isn't a review of the film, though.

No, I want to talk about one scene, which appears in the last hour of the movie.

Malcolm X the man is vilified by many, especially those on the Right, for statements he made about black Nationalism, and about white people's actions and behaviors (some of which statements he recanted later in life). He was dogged by the (white) media of the time, though, which found one thing he had said especially egregious: his insistence that black people ought to defend themselves when they were attacked: that black people should fight back, with violence, if necessary.

This went contrary to the ethos of the time; and indeed it goes contrary to the ethos of our time. White people are allowed and in fact are lauded for defending themselves against scary black people (see Trayvon Martin et al); but if a black person even raises their voice, they're scary, dangerous thugs.

During the Civil Rights Movement, non-violent resistance was hugely instrumental in gaining the attention and the approval of the whites who held power.  See?  These black people aren't scary.  They don't fight back no matter what we do to them. See?  They preach love no matter how much we hurt them.  See? I guess we can give them a few rights...maybe.

Malcolm X said something else. He said black people shouldn't love the whites, because the white had done evil things. He said black people should hate the white people for what they had done to the black people. He said the black people should not try reconciliation, they should not ask for rights, they should take rights.

And he said they should fight back.  They should take up arms -- which was their right, under the Constitution -- and defend themselves when they were attacked. (As his family had been attacked by the KKK when he was a child; as he had seen black families attacked over and over, by police and by white mobs, all his life.) For this, he was called an extremist.

In the key scene in the movie, Malcolm X is asked whether he "still" argues that black people should arm themselves. Exasperated, he says that yes, they should use guns in defense of their homes and their families, the same way, he adds, any white person would if their home was under attack.

Yes, they should fight back.  Yes, by any means necessary.

In self-defense, he would always say: I mean in self-defense.  Just like your white compatriots would defend your homes if they were attacked.

"Then you're an extremist!" he is accused.

A black person who argues, who fights back, who raises his voices -- who acts like a white man -- is always accused of acting like a radical.  Getting out of line.  Going too far. Being just too dangerous.

Here is Fred Clark, over at Patheos, talking about why this reaction occurs among the oppressor -- why, that is, Malcolm X and people like him scare the people in power so much.

Fred argues that it is because the empowered know what they have been doing.  They know they have done, and are doing harm. They know they hate and resentment they would feel if someone had enslaved them and their people, robbed and beaten and raped them and their people, for all those centuries, been unjust to their people like that for all that time.

So they find it difficult to believe that all Malcolm X wants at this point, all that the LGBT people want, all the feminists want,  is a level playing field -- is justice.  Is to be left in peace to live our lives without their boot on our necks.

Fred argues that this is why the empowered are so terrified of taking the boot off the neck of those they're oppressing.  They KNOW they would -- if it were their boot under the neck -- be unable to keep from knocking their oppressor down and beating the crap out of him, and they cannot believe we won't do the same.

That we want justice alone?  That's not a thing they can believe in.

And -- since they have for so long run this world without justice, since they have never even dreamed of a just world -- you can see why that would be so.

(Edited for clarity).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In Case You Missed It

And because I'm too tech-stupid to figure out how to embed permanent sidebar links --

My bibliography page is here.  All my publications!  Some with hotlinks!

Yes!  Read delagar.fiction for free!

Drought, Maybe?

It hasn't rained in my bit of Arkansas in weeks, though some parts of NW Arkansas got some rain yesterday. This is doing the tiny garden we planted, not to mention our fig tree, no good, though I haul water to them both.  (Our slum of a house has no hose, of course.)

It clouded up while the kid and I were taking our walk yesterday, and while we were watching these clouds hopefully, trying to predict which direction they might drift (not towards us, turned out to be the answer), she asked, "Was the weather in Arkansas always like this?"

"Hot?  Miserable? Yes."

"No rain."

"Oh.  No.  Well.  There's always been droughts, sure.  But this kind of heat, and these kinds of weird droughts and weird violent wet summers -- you remember a couple summers ago when it rained non-stop and everyone's garden washed away? -- yeah, that's the climate change."

"I wish we could move somewhere else," she said glumly.

"Like some other planet?"

But then we talked about things people were doing to help with climate change, which cheered her up a little.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Reviewing The Heat: Why You Ladies Gotta Talk Like That?

So Dr. Skull and I went to see The Heat on the Fourth of July.

The theater was packed, which I honestly wasn't expecting.  I mean, we hear all this noise from Hollywood how no one will go see movies with girls in them.

"Who wants to see two women talking to each other?" I believe is the direct quotation.

Pretty much everyone if this crowd was any indication.  It was young and old and middle-aged, and everyone (including Dr. Skull and I) seemed to like it a lot, though, yeah, the plot had some holes, especially toward the end.  Though the pacing is such you frankly won't notice them -- it rips right along.

I've loved Sandra Bullock for years, and Melissa McCarthy, who plays the Boston cop Shannon Mullins, is just brilliant. It's a buddy film, so it does the buddy arc thing, where they start out hating each other and end up friends. And it's got that buddy film trope -- one of them is uptight / the other is a wild card.

But though it underplays its point, that's not all this film is doing.

Shannon Mullins -- as we're shown from her family picture -- is the only girl in a Boston family of giant hulking brothers, all of whom her mother (obviously) favors over her, despite the fact that she is the only one in the family who has done well. At work, she's clearly competent and energetic, and yet is mocked by everyone: treated like a loser.

FBI Special Agent Ashburn, despite being excellent at her job, gets no respect, and no mentoring, and no support, from the men around her and above her.  Instead they mock her to her face and behind her back.

Mullins reacts with a little more hostility to this treatment than Ashburn does...well, okay, a lot more hostility.  But what's interesting to me is that the movie simply presents Mullins' reaction; it does not comment on it.

Why is Mullins like this?  It lets us draw (or maybe not draw) our own conclusions.

Here is a thing which happened.  About, oh, an hour into the movie. You'll remember people have been enjoying this movie a lot.  Laughing out loud, yelling in delight, really getting into it.

And I haven't said so, but the Mullins character, a Boston cop, cusses a great deal, and very inventively.  It's funny.  So Mullins says something, I don't remember what, but it's hilarious. Everyone is laughing, but this guy in the audience -- maybe mid-thirties from his voice, and white -- yells, with angry disapproval:  "That girl needs her mouth washed out with a bar of soap!"

I don't think too many people heard him.  The laughter was too wild.

Then as we were leaving, I was waiting for Dr. Skull, who was in the pisser, and this old guy, maybe 70, was waiting for his wife, and he kept looking at me and making exasperated sighs, like he wanted to strike up a conversation.  But I have lived in Fort Smith long enough that I have learned not to talk to old white guys.  So he had to wait for his wife to emerge so he could tell her what he thought which was this: "I have never heard the f-word said so many times in my life!"

Now, first, I have my doubts, because I doubt that is the first R-rated movie this old fella has been to.  Second, I suspect it is not the F-word, per se, that he is objecting to, but the gender of the mouth it is coming out of. Third, peep this review, where this charming gentleman objects to McCarthy's weight while she is cursing.

Is it fun to see the morbidly obese McCarthy curse like a sailor nonstop for two hours?  No.  

Perhaps if she had been slender and fit, he might have enjoyed the experience more?

I am dubious.

My point, and I have one: What Dippold and Feig are up to here is showing us women in a way we are not used to seeing them (and by we I mean yes, we women): this is women not from the male gaze.


  • the almost lack of tit shots (I counted two)
  • The almost total lack of women-they-bitches which is so standard in every other bit of media 
  • the almost total absence of women attacking women for being women
  • the use of men (rather than women) as objects of desire
  • the women's eye view of how men appear in the world (that scene of the men in the bar is lovely)
  • the refusal to see women who have a lot of sex as sluts
I spent some time today trolling around the internet, reading reviews.  It wasn't 100%, but in general, women (and some younger men) like this movie a lot; older men (and some older women) are furious or appalled or made deeply uneasy by it.  I'm pretty sure this is why. If you've never seen any film or read any book or consumed any media except through the male gaze, this film has got to be deeply disorientating.

And kind of cool, yes.

Obviously my Christian septagenarian did not take it that way.  Though I think maybe his wife did, from the half-hearted way she murmured her rejoinders. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Rod Dreher: Prime Example of Derp

As long-time readers of this blog might know, I like to wander around on the right side of the 'sphere from time to time.  Rod Dreher's blog is one of the least offensive of the Rightwing blogs, mainly because he draws comments from a mixed crowd, so that he gets push-back from time to time.

OTOH, he's a total Derp.

By which I mean, he is incapable of shifting his Prior.

He has a conviction about what the world is like -- black people in general are inferior because they come from a bad culture, and that's how it is -- and no matter how much evidence he is presented with from the actual world or from studies or factual accounts or from philosophical evidence to show him that he's wrong about that, his prior will not shift.  Derp.

He has a conviction that LGBT people are a corrupting influence on the world, that gay marriage is going to destroy America, that gay people are bad parents, and no matter how much evidence, etc, derp.

He is convinced that the liberal media ignored the Gosnell case because of its pro-abortion position, and though he was presented with tons of evidence (by his commenters) to the contrary, derp.

Now here he is again, going off on Wendy Davis, claiming the liberal media is making her a hero because they just love abortion so much, and being corrected by those in his comment stream, and will he hear anything?  Will he shift his prior upon learning new evidence?

Do I even need to say it?