Creative Destruction

December 31, 2006

A Vocabulary for Feminist Criticism

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Daran @ 9:48 am

I was gratified to see my co-blogger on ‘Darain Man’, Hugh Ristik, refer in his last post to the “Odious Comparison“, one of a several phrases I’ve coined to describe some of the objectionable aspects of feminism. Just as feminism has its own vocabulary, including such terms of art as “Patriarchy” and “Rape Culture”, so we Feminist Critics need a vocabulary of our own. Ideally each concept should be described by a memorable word or two word phrase. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Some of these terms I have been using for a while; others, so far, have existed only in my head; still others I’ve coined even as I drafted this post.

Gendersphere: The entire field of philosophy, discourse, and activism that attends to gender, including, but not limited to feminism, antifeminism, Men’s Rights Activism, and Feminist Criticism.

Feminism: A self-defining segment of the Gendersphere. A feminist is a person who is recognised as a feminist by other feminists.

Pro-feminism: Men who are unwilling to call themselves feminists (or who are not recognised as such by some feminists) because they are male, even though their views are indistinguishable from feminism.

Contrafeminism: That part of the gendersphere that is broadly in disagreement with or opposition to feminism.

Antifeminism: Extreme contrafeminism. An essentially oppositionist stance.

Men’s Rights Activism: A movement devoted to improving the position of men in society. While this is basically a positive stance, the movement is infested with antifeminism.

Feminist Criticism: My term for my own philosophical position, and for the similar views of other people. The phrase is deliberately ambiguous: A feminist critic could be a critic of feminism or a feminist who criticises. I want to carve out a position within gendersphere independent of of the other -isms, overlapping with both feminism and MRA, and critical of both. Arguably the phrase “feminist criticism” is obnoxiously gendered (see below), because feminist critics are also critics of antifeminism, however given the hegemonic position of feminism within the gendersphere I think it is justified. The word “criticism” should be taken in its constructive sense, there are many aspects of feminism that feminist critics will agree with. Feminist Critics accept the tools of feminism (gender analysis, etc.,) and apply them to feminism itself.

Typical: I use this word as a term of art, meaning behaviour, etc., which (a) is common among feminists (or some other group), (b) is unlikely to be challenged by other feminists, (c) if someone with otherwise good feminist credentials does challenge it, they are likely to have their status as feminists challenged by other feminists, and (d) those without feminist credentials who challenge it are likely to be regarded as antifeminists/MRAs (or the equivalent opposition group). Typical behaviours within a group are likely to be perceived by outsiders as representative of it.

The ‘Bird in your Garden’ Test: A test for typicality. If all you need do to see a particular kind of bird is look out the window, that’s an indication that those birds are typical of where you live. If you have to travel 200 miles to visit a nature reserve to see them, then they’re not typical. Similarly if you can easily find an example of a particular argument or behaviour passing unchallenged among the usual suspects within the blogosphere, then that’s an indication that it is typical. If you can’t, then it probably isn’t.

Obnoxious Gendering: Refers to the typical feminist practice of equating maleness and masculinity with bad, and femaleness (though not femininity) with good. At its most obnoxious, it refers to the practice of never letting men forget just how lousy they are: “It’s male violence, committed by men, who are male. Just in case you didn’t get that, it’s men who are doing this, etc., etc., ad nauseum“. Obnoxious Gendering has a more subtle aspect in the use of gendered terms like “feminism” and “patriarchy” to refer to things which (in the view of the feminist) are good and bad respectively.

Self-flagellation Obnoxious Gendering applied to oneself. Typical behaviour of pro-feminist men. (Thanks to Hugh for the phrase.)

The Avuncular Arm: A typical pro-feminist response to male victimisation. An avuncular arm slides around the survivor’s shoulder, and he is invited to “consider how we oppress women”. A collective form of self-flagellation, this is victim-blaming at its worst because it casts the survivor into the role of perp. It is one of the reasons why feminism is toxic to many male survivors.

The Odious Comparison: Typical feminist practice of unjustifiably or inappropriately comparing male oppression, suffering, etc., unfavourably with female suffering. If a feminist or pro-feminist wishes to discuss male oppression etc., within feminism, then it is de rigueur to genuflect to the Odious Comparison.

Selective Focus: Typical feminist practice of looking only at those oppressions which (according to the feminist) affect women worse, in order to justify the Odious Comparison. For example, in a discussion about violence, only sexual and domestic violence will be considered. (Note that I do not object to a focus upon these issues. It is the exclusive and frequently innappropriate focus which is problematic.)

Rape Trivialisation: Typical feminist practice of defining rape so broadly that it encompasses the trivial, in some cases even sexual activity considered fully consensual by the person purportedly raped. (Note that this is not to be confused the the antifeminist objection to Koss’s rape study, that many of the raped women did not define their experience as “rape”, but whose experiences were nevertheless rape according to a non-trivialised definition.)

Rape Privilege: The practice of elevating rape and other sexual assaults “the worst”. A particular instance of the Odious Comparison. (This is a typical mainstream discourse. Feminists typically selectively focus on rape, but they do not typically privilege it in this way, in my experience.)

Denial, Dismissal, Minimisation, and ignoring of male oppression, suffering, etc.: I really need a catchy phrase to describe this quadrumvirate of discourses. (The ‘four discourses’?) Note that this is not limited to feminism, but is characteristic of the mainstream. Hence it is an example of feminism embracing and extending a previously existing gendered discourse.

Subordination: The typical feminist practice of presenting men’s oppression and suffering as subordinate to women’s. A fifth discourse related to the previous four.

The Three Techniques, also Displacement, Incidentalisation, and Exclusion: Mainstream rhetorical techniques used to minimise male victimisation, described by Dr. Jones in his paper “Effacing the Male“.

Lachrymosity: The tendency within both feminism and mainstream media to use tearjerkingly emotive language to describe female suffering and comparatively perfunctory language to describe male suffering. Arguably a fourth technique on a par with the three described by Dr. Jones.

Instanciation Not to be confused with “incidentalisation, which would be a better word for it, which is already taken. By “instanciation” I mean to portray instances of male victimisation as incidents rather than as systems of oppression.

Hidden Victimisation also The Other Side of the Mountain, and, in extreme cases, Holocaust Denial: How male victims and male oppression are rendered invisible by these techniques and discourses.

Comments and criticisms welcome, in particular, better terms for some of these phenomena would be greatly appreciated. Clearly many of the terms fall short of the “memorable one or two-word phrase” criterion. Is there anything I should add? Any good “Bird in your Garden” examples of each type of typical behaviour?

Crossposted between Creative Destruction and Darain Man.

Cory Maye Motion for Retrial Denied

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Current Events — Robert @ 2:40 am

The motion of Cory Maye, the young Mississippi man facing life in prison for shooting a police officer raiding his home, for a new trial has been denied.

A retrial would have been the fairest outcome for Maye. The next logical step for Maye supporters is probably to petition the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, for executive clemency. I imagine that Radley Balko (see the link), who has been doing yeoman work on this case for at least a couple of years now, will have information on how and when that effort will take place.

Citizens have a right to defend themselves in their homes, and – speaking as easily the most law-and-order type around these parts – the cops had damn well better make sure that they identify themselves as cops before they go busting down doors in the middle of the night. It is tragic that a police officer lost his life in this raid, but the tragedy isn’t Maye’s fault and the blame lies squarely on the police who conducted the raid.

December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein Dead by Hanging

Filed under: Current Events,War — Brutus @ 4:58 am

I went to Wikipedia to look for something and there is already a lengthy article on Saddam Hussein’s execution, which occurred just under 5 hours ago (see this CNN article). Hard to believe how fast things sometimes happen. (There is a new feature — at least I think it’s new — called “Wiki news.”)

I happened to be discussing this with an acquaintance, who was happy that Saddam would be getting “the necktie treatment” so soon. Although my acquaintance was partially being funny, I remarked how easily we become vengeful. Although I don’t regret the decision to punish Saddam Hussein via the death penalty, I don’t revel in it, either. Nor do I consider it fodder for glib jokes. Maybe it’s quaint of me, but as with going to war, it seems to me a decision and action to be taken soberly, with the utmost seriousness, and as the last reasonable alternative to other better alternatives.

December 29, 2006

Heh. Indeed.

Filed under: Humor — Off Colfax @ 3:33 pm

The Onion:

“If Earth’s species were meant to change over successive generations through physical modifications resulting from the adaptation to environmental challenges, then God would have given them the genetic predisposition to select mates and reproduce based on their favorable heritable traits and their ability to thrive under changing conditions so that these advantageous qualities would be passed down and eventually encoded into the DNA of each generation of offspring,” Olathe public school teacher and creationist Joyce Eckhardt said. “It’s just not natural.”

Ayup. Of course, I have to wonder why the news organization with the most cutting commentary happens to be full of thingst hat are completely made up. Nary a fact to be found, and everything just fits so well with the view of reality…

It’s like the reverse of Fox News.

Cool!

Filed under: Blog Status — Daran @ 9:18 am

Try mouse-hovering over any random link from a wordpress.com blog post (Those in the headers, footers, and sidebar don’t work). This one, for example. Be patient, it may take a few seconds, (or perhaps longer if you have a slow connection).

Tuesday and Thursday Bad; MWF Good

Filed under: Geekery — Robert @ 8:28 am

Because of this and this.

Warning: severe geek levels. But funny as all get out – particularly the LOTR/D&D combo.

Republican Prospective Candidate tries to Falsify College Record

Filed under: Politics — Daran @ 3:10 am

Congressional aide fired after trying to hire hackers

I did something that’s greatly out of character for me…

It always is, Mr. Shriber, it always is.

December 28, 2006

Film Review: The Remains of the Day

Filed under: Art — Daran @ 3:30 pm

Warning: Spoilers.

I don’t have television, so I don’t get to see films except when visiting others, or on the rare occasion I visit the cinema. This Christmas I went home to my parents, and was able to watch some of the films that were part of the seasonal offering.

“The Remains of the Day”, (IMDB, Wikipedia), a 1993 film based upon the 1989 Booker Prize winning novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, depicts the life of an emotionally repressed Butler, Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), who worked for an English Lord in the run-up to the Second World War. The story is told in flashback, in parallel with a journey he took 20 years later to visit the former housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), in the hope of persuading her to return to service in the house.
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December 27, 2006

The Calculus of Christmas

Filed under: Content-lite,Economics,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 2:26 pm

Is gift giving primarily a demonstration of warm, fuzzy sentiment for family and others, or is it primarily an economic activity? To judge from the aftermath of Christmas, it’s far more calculated than it is emotional. Most of us are familiar with news reports at the onset of the Christmas season, which trumpet the increase or decrease in spending on the weekend following Thanksgiving over the previous year or years as though that were valuable news. Perhaps the media can be forgiven such a misplaced focus, since there is no way to report a change in public sentiment or mood. Similarly, perhaps the childhood obsession with reporting to friends the Christmas haul is forgivable. I know I did that when I was younger.

Less forgivable is the coldly impersonal discussion of Christmas gift-buying habits such as this one by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker. His utterly charmless analysis concludes that gift cards may be a better choice than a “real” gift at least partly because the cost of a real gift to the giver is often greater than what the recipient would have paid for it — a phenomenon called “deadweight loss.” This is related to the emotional cost of a poorly chosen gift, which almost everyone has experienced on one side of the exchange or another. Although Surowiecki (who is apparently out of touch with the Christmas spirit or the spirit of giving) doesn’t mention children, parents of a typical two-year-old are likely to be familiar with the child’s simple, unbounded elation ripping through wrapping paper and opening boxes, overlooking or oblivious to the gift object inside. It’s hard not to take pleasure in such simple joy, though adults are oblivious if no two-year-old is on hand. Surowiecki’s argument, if Christmas is analyzed purely as economics, also suggests that there is a better return on investment (ROI) for less expensive gifts as compared to more expensive gifts, eliminating the “waste” of deadweight loss. An even better solution is the gift card, which ensures that there is no unwanted gift, since the recipient makes his/her own choices. Taken to its logical conclusion, we will soon all be giving gift cards to each other, which are in effect interest-free loans to merchants, rather than piles of cash. At the end of each Christmas season, we will then be able to calculate our profit/loss based on the value of gift cards purchased and received. Merchants will love it, because in addition to cash cards never redeemed, consumers generally add something over the amount of the gift card to obtain the card’s full value — a phenomenon called “uplift spending.” Kinda makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

 

Heel, Liberty

Filed under: Current Events,History — Robert @ 2:52 am

President Gerald Ford, dead at 93.

It’s almost alien to our experience of politics now, but Ford – an unassuming and by all accounts decent man – was viewed with such relief by most Americans after the Nixon debacle that gentle parodies such as this one were viewed as somewhat unfair and hitting below the belt. He lacked stature as a policy leader, but he brought the country back together and did so with humility and grace.

In speaking to the country following Nixon’s self-exile, he told America “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.” He was denied the former accolade when put to the test, but none can doubt that the latter request was fulfilled.

God bless you, President Ford, and thank you.

December 24, 2006

I, For One, Welcome Our New Me Overlord

Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 3:26 pm

Live in fear. And Merry Christmas and/or Happy Hannukah. (Time and a Half day is its own reward, and needs no encouragement.)

image capture

Link Farm & Open Thread #43

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 4:57 am

Hey, it’s the 24th. Merry Christmas, for those of you who do that sort of thing. (Me, I have my own way of celebrating Xmas – I call it “time and a half day”).

(I’m going to be traveling more or less nonstop for the next five or six days, by the way, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to check in on “Alas” in that time.)

Please feel free to use this thread to discuss anything, including posting links to anything you think is cool (including your own stuff – in fact, posting links to your own stuff is encouraged!).

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Augh! The Ears! The Burn!

Filed under: Content-lite — Off Colfax @ 3:51 am

Want to have a change of pace from all the gender-based gender-biased bickering?

Ever want to gouge your ears out? With a blender set to disintigrate?

No? Then you better not click this link.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[Turn Signal: Josh Marshall]

December 23, 2006

Kansas Court Throws Out Charges Against Late-Term Abortion Provider

Filed under: Reproductive Rights — Ampersand @ 11:05 am

From the LA Times:

Hours after the outgoing attorney general of Kansas charged one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers with illegally aborting viable fetuses, a judge dismissed the charges, ruling Friday that the attorney general had overstepped his authority. [….] Kline’s last-minute push to charge Tiller before he leaves office was dismissed on the grounds it violated a 19th century statute outlining the attorney general’s duties.

Kline, who is Operation Rescue’s “Man Of The Year” for 2006, was rejected by the voters at least in part because of his fanatical anti-abortion views. He’s not through making trouble; the article reports that he’s already planning to use his next gig, as a county-level district attorney, to harass a Planned Parenthood office.

Here’s the part of the article I found most interesting:

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Throwing Rocks at Boys, and Pushing Girls through Windows

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Daran @ 3:20 am

The latest flare up in the gender wars concerns a pair of T-shirts, which, so their respective critics complain, justify and encourage violence against males and against females. In addition, those on the Men’s Rights Activist Side have criticised feminists for failing to condemn the anti-boy shirt, while feminists in turn are questioning the motives of MRAs.

Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them!

Wikipedia (which also has a picture) summarises the controversy:

Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them! is a slogan on a popular T-shirt by Florida company David and Goliath. The slogan is printed next to a cartoon image of a boy running away from five stones flying in his direction.

In 2004, radio-host and men’s rights activist Glenn Sacks started a campaign against the misandrous T-shirts, which raised national attention and led to the removal of the shirts from several thousand retail outlets.

[…]

LA-based radio host and men’s rights activist Glenn Sacks initiated a campaign against the T-shirts in 2004. He claims that they are part of a general societal mood that stigmatizes and victimizes boys. The company says that their shirts are meant only to be humorous.

The campaign against the line received support from several men’s rights groups, such as the National Coalition of Free Men, but also from groups with broader agendas, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many critics of the T-shirts pointed out that similar slogans directed against girls or ethnic groups would be widely regarded as unacceptable. The Canadian Children’s Rights Council has termed the slogan hate speech. The campaign has led to the removal of the shirts by several retailers, including Bon-Macy’s, and Claire’s. Campaign organizers claim that they have been removed from more than 3000 retail outlets.

Some, including the National Organization for Women, generally discount the issue as unimportant and depict Sacks as hypocritical, as they claim he publicizes anti-women views in his radio broadcast. Others, like San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jane Ganahl have ridiculed Sacks’ efforts, arguing that the T-shirts are perceived as harmless fun by children and that sexism against women is a far more widespread and substantial problem in U.S. society.

Glenn Sacks has responded that this criticism is dismissive of the feelings of boys, that the idea that boys should laugh at the joke at their expense creates a double bind for boys.

Citations omitted. Note that the claim that NOW “generally discounts the issue as unimportant and depict Sacks as hypocritical…” is unsourced in Wikipedia. Certainly the quote “No, I don’t think the shirts are cute… But I spend every day on life-and-death issues and don’t have time for T-shirt campaigns.” attributed to Helen Grieco, executive direct of NOW, California chapter appears to be dismissive, but it is not clear that her remarks within the full context of her interview would have sounded so dismissive, nor as Ampersand point out, is it clear that Grieco was speaking on behalf of NOW. Nevertheless, in the light of the “Problem Solved” controversy her “I … don’t have time for T-shirt campaigns” remark may prove to be a petard on which her critics will ensure she is well and truly hoist.

Problem Solved

Pandagon has a picture which Abyss2hope describes (Update: Alas is down at the moment, but Marcella’s updated post can be found here.) Italics are quoted from Kennebec Journal:

The T-shirt depicts two panels of stick figures, with a male figure pushing a female figure out of a box.

In the first frame the girl stick figure is jumping up in excitement while the boy stick figure appears to be frowning at her with his hands at his waist. Underneath that frame is the word Problem.

In the second frame the boy figure is smirking and has one arm fully extended toward where the girl was, but now there is now only empty space beside him. The far wall of the second frame has been shattered sending bits of the frame wall out. Two lines show the path of the girl’s descent and she is shown falling head first. Underneath the second frame is the word Solved.

Her crash landing is left to the imagination. Which makes sense since what happens to her isn’t relevant to this boy’s problem and his solution.

This attitude T-shirt is unintentionally educational.

In only 2 frames it captures the dynamics of a common and sometimes deadly form of interpersonal violence that happens in the real world. It perfectly illustrates the imbalance between the stimulus and the response. She annoys him and he shoves her through a wall. He’s left with a feeling of satisfied power and that’s all that matters.

To me it looks like the girl in the first frame is jumping up and down in anger, rather than exitement, and screaming at him. In the second, I see her pushed through a window, (though a wall is possible, this being cartoon land), from at least the 2nd (UK) or 3rd (US) floor of the building.

Marcella goes on to say:

…many people don’t understand why the dynamic captured in this T-shirt is offensive. They think nobody should make a fuss about this because it’s a cartoon. Those who do make a fuss must be missing a funny bone.

This isn’t satire or humor. It is reality in stick-figure form. And it makes some people smile or laugh.

That’s the real problem.

I agree with her entirely. The irony is that this is exactly what MRAs have been saying about the “Throw rocks at them” T-shirt.

Comparing the two

In the comments, curiousgyrl thinks it a joke to even suggest that they be considered together (Update: curiousgyrl disagrees with my interpretation of her comment.):

But Marcella! Why didnt you mentinon the t-shirts about throwing rocks at boys?

Just kidding.

Marcella Replies:

curiousgyrl, I’m glad you brought up that other T-shirt design. Here’s why I don’t have the same reaction to that T-shirt:

That message doesn’t elevate a current trend in criminal behavior into good clean fun. As far as I know there have been no recent cases of girls stoning boys to death. If that T-shirt had said: Homeless Men Are Stupid, Throw Rocks At Them, it would elevate a current trend in criminal behavior in the same troubling way as this Problem Solved T-shirt does.

Marcella is mistakenI do not agree with Marcella’s assessment. I’m not aware of any “trend”1 in boys pushing girls through walls or closed windows. Though I dare say it happens, I see very few windows or walls with girl-shaped holes in them, at least in my neighbourhood. Of course, Marcella is not suggesting this. Rather she construes the cartoon more broadly as endorsing, not just pushing girls through walls, but male on female domestic violence in general.

By contrast her construction of the “throw stones at them” cartoon is actually narrower than what the cartoon depicts. Marcella assumes that it is girls throwing the stones, but there is nothing in the cartoon to indicate this. Only the boy is identified by sex. We are told that they are stupid and that we should throw rocks at them. Giving the same broad interpretation to this cartoon as Marcella does to “Problem solved”, would mean viewing it as endorsing, not just throwing stones at boys, but violence against males in general. And there most certainly is a current “trend” in such violence, as a quick comparison of the figures for violent victimisation (including murder) of men and of women will show.

A further irony is that the revised version of the cartoon (Problem, Solved, Justice) also depicts a “trend”: the overwhelmingly one-sided application of the death penalty to men.

1 If by “trend” she means that domestic violence against women is increasing, then I would like to see her cite this. Certainly domestic murders of women have fallen dramatically over the past few decades. For the purpose of this post I have interpreted “trend” to refer to the continuing prevalence of the problem.

Crossposted between Creative Destruction and DaRain Man

Edited to strike unnecessarily sharp characterisation of Marcella’s opinion, and to clarify the footnote.

December 21, 2006

Oregon Bleg

Filed under: Content-lite — Robert @ 5:41 pm

Anybody live in Oregon? Have opinions about the place? What’s it like to live there, climate, culture, different areas of the state, etc. – any information appreciated.

Another Milestone

Filed under: Blog Status,Content-lite — Daran @ 3:11 pm

Within the next few hours, we should have our 100,000th page view.

December 20, 2006

Applicants “Out The Door” In Wake of INS Raid

Filed under: Immigration — Robert @ 5:20 pm

Presented without comment.

Bechdel’s “Fun Home” Is Time Magazine’s Book Of The Year

Filed under: Art,LGBT Issues,Popular Culture — Ampersand @ 4:30 pm

The top spot on Time Magazine’s “books of the year” list:

ALISON BECHDEL, FUN HOME
The unlikeliest literary success of 2006 is a stunning memoir about a girl growing up in a small town with her cryptic, perfectionist dad and slowly realizing that a) she is gay and b) he is too. Oh, and it’s a comic book: Bechdel’s breathtakingly smart commentary duets with eloquent line drawings. Forget genre and sexual orientation: this is a masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other.

I’m thrilled that Fun Home has been a huge success; not only is it a great book, but Alison Bechdel has been an obscure great cartoonist for too many years. I highly, highly recommend buying this book.

Two panels from Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home."

Above: a couple of panels from Fun Home. Picking out a sample of art from Fun Home isn’t easy, because Bechdel isn’t a show-offy cartoonist; she’s all about communicating the story and the moment, and usually she does it in the least obtrusive way possible. I love the two-panel sequence above for how well it communicates the emotional undercurrents; the body language and expressions of two people trying not to have any reaction to what they’re saying are perfect.

In 1999, when The Comics Journal put out a list of the “Top 100 English-Language Comics of the 20th Century,” based on voting by a group of critics, I argued on their message boards that two cartoonists whose works belonged on the list were missing. One was Dave Sim, whose omission was objected to by many, and who was left off the list because voters were split among several different works.

The other was Alison Bechdel, and as far as I know I was the only person to object to her omission. With Fun House, it has hopefully become more obvious to people that Bechdel is a major comics creator.

One reason Bechdel wasn’t on the top 100 list, in my opinion, is sexism. Not sexism as in “the Comics Journal critics hate women.” Rather, I think the critical culture in comics tends to dismiss female-dominated genres as fluff, while male-dominated genres — even extremely fluffy ones, like adventure comic strip and superhero comics — are taken more seriously (and were well-represented on the top 100 list). Before Fun Home, Bechdel’s major work was a soap opera comic strip; the fact that it was soap opera meant that few critics read it seriously (or at all). ((There are a few comic strips with soap elements on the top 100 list – Little Orphan Annie, Thimble Theatre (aka Popeye) and Lil’ Abner. All three are certified classics with male creators and a lot of “adventure” elements.))

I’ve spent today rereading the short stories that Bechdel publishes at the end of each “Dykes To Watch Out For” collection. Pre- Fun Home, these short stories were where Bechdel experimented with long-form comics, and she did a lot of great work with characterization, pacing, and tying together multiple narratives. I hope Bechdel is considering publishing a collection of her “Dykes” short stories; they stand on their own quite well, and publishing them as a group could help make more visible some of Bechdel’s best and least-read works.

Curtsy: Quirkybird.

Soft Drinks’ Effects as Stimulants

Filed under: Content-lite,Fat and fat acceptance — Brutus @ 2:08 pm

Here is a curious article called What Happens To Your Body If You Drink A Coke Right Now? The descriptions of metabolic processes lack context, so it’s unclear how normal or abnormal the body’s reaction to Coke is. Since I lack expertise in this area, I can’t offer an informed opinion on the effects of Coke vs. a Krispy Kreme donut or a spoonful of peanut butter. However, I don’t believe that the effects of any Coke-like beverage are any too good.

I pretty much stopped drinking the stuff a few years ago. When asked why, I usually respond that what amounts to sugar water no longer appeals to me. (It still tastes good to me, but it doesn’t help me to eat healthily.) And as the article says, buried down in the footnote:

Coke itself is not the enemy, here. It’s the dynamic combo of massive sugar doses combined with caffeine and phosphoric acid — things found in almost all soda.

I admit, though, that it’s hard to escape soft drinks in one’s diet. They’re bundled with meals, mixed with alcohol, and closely associated with a variety of activities and behaviors. For instance, I can hardly bring myself to see a movie in a theater without also getting a popcorn/soft drink combo. Those combos usually come with 32 oz. drinks and free refills. No wonder why everyone queues outside the restrooms after the movie lets out.

December 19, 2006

Defining Politics

Filed under: The World's Oldest Profession — Off Colfax @ 3:50 pm

From Kevin Drum:

I’ve heard people say a conservative is just a liberal who’s been mugged. Then maybe a liberal is just a conservative who suddenly got this [extremely high insurance premium rate hike] in the mail.

No.

A conservative is a liberal who just got mugged by a criminal.

A liberal is a conservative who just got mugged by a corporation.

A libertarian is a liberal who just got mugged by the government.

Which means all of Indiana’s toll-road traffic is about to be turned into liberals or libertarians, depending on the perception of who exactly is screwing who.

Milestone

Filed under: Blog Status,Content-lite — Daran @ 12:38 pm

The previous post was the 500th on Creative Destruction.

December 18, 2006

Six Points About NYC’s Banning Trans-Fats In Restaurants

Filed under: Current Events — Ampersand @ 12:04 pm

New York City has banned trans-fats in restaurants; restaurants have until July 2007 to get rid of the trans fats. ((Except for donut shops, which have until July 2008.))

1) I’m enough of a libertarian to think they should have just required restaurants to clearly label foods containing trans fats, and then let consumer preferences do the rest. ((The bill does require restaurants to provide calorie information, which is good.))

2) On the other hand, if this law really saves 500 lives a year (as ban proponents claim), I’m enough of a liberal to think that’s worth a tiny loss in freedom. But I’m skeptical about the 500 lives a year claim; I haven’t been able to find out how that figure was derived.

3) NYC Mayor Bloomburg says “We’re not trying to take away anybody’s ability to go out and have the kind of food they want in the quantities they want.” It must be nice to be that free of distressing reality. Next, Mayor Bloomburg will explain how speeding laws aren’t trying to take away anyone’s ability to drive as fast as they want.

4) Trans fat ban proponents often claim that there’s no taste difference between food prepared with trans fats and food prepared with other oils. But that isn’t true; many folks (but not all folks) can taste the difference. See the taste test at the bottom of this Willamette Week article, for instance. And no one knows how to make trans-fat-free donuts that taste as good.

5) Ironically, margarine — once billed as the healthier (and lousier-tasting) alternative to butter — is much higher in trans fats than butter, and is now considered less healthy than butter. Zig! cry the health mavens. Zag! they cry, ten years later. Yet their credibility never seems to go down.

6) Banning trans fats in restaurants, but not in grocery stores, doesn’t make sense. I guess the supermarket lobby is more powerful than the fast-food and donut lobby.

The Developing World: Why Women Need To Be Empowered Within Their Households

Filed under: Feminist Issues,International Politics — Ampersand @ 11:12 am

un_report_women.jpgI’ve been looking through the UN’s “State Of The World’s Children 2007” report (pdf link), which seems to concentrate mostly on children in the developing world. The entire report is well worth reading, or at least skimming the summaries included at the start of each chapter.

It’s clear the authors believe it’s impossible to discuss improving the state of the world’s children, without also discussing the state of the world’s mothers. The rest of this post is quoted from the summary of chapter two:

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December 17, 2006

Post-season Prognostications

Filed under: Uncategorized — Off Colfax @ 6:39 am

The majority of this post has been lifted from one of my various alter-egos throughout the www. This one is stuck in a password-protected forum, however, so I figure there’s few chances that any of you would accidentally stumble onto these words unless I copy-pasted them for you.

Those of you who don’t like football, or are dirty foreigners who can’t figure out why these pansy wimps need to rest in between plays (Much less why they can’t do anything without touching the ball with their hands, by Jove!), can ignore this post. For the rest of you, venture with me below the fold for some football wonkery.
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December 16, 2006

Link Farm & Open Thread #42

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 7:47 pm

Talk about anything you’d like. Also, if you have good links to share — either your own stuff, or someone else’s — don’t selfishly keep ’em to yourselves.

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Beauty: I don’t get it

Filed under: Content-lite — Ampersand @ 5:44 pm

A recent Miss America ((Katie Harmon, surgeon in training, classical singer, and proud Republican.)) is performing at my workplace all week, which has me thinking about a topic I usually don’t think about: beautiful women. I’ve gotta say: I just don’t get it.

Having seen someone who is Officially One Of The Most Beautiful Woman In The USA up close, I can report that she’s pretty. But I see don’t see anything that makes her prettier than other thin women with clear skin, big eyes and even features. ((“Thin, clear skin, big eyes and even features” seems to me to be the basic requirements of being conventionally pretty in our culture, for men and women. Edited to add: Actually, I guess big eyes aren’t manditory for men; David Boreanaz, for example, is considered unusually good-looking, but his eyes are if anything on the small side.)) Yet this person was officially certified the beautifulist of all (at least, among women). It this one of those things you have to be an expert on to be able to tell the difference?

(She can really sing, by the way.)

December 13, 2006

Hey Guys…

Filed under: Blog Status,Content-lite — Daran @ 11:03 pm

We’re ranked at 53 on the WordPress.com Growing Blogs list.

Health Bleg

Filed under: Health Care — Robert @ 1:16 am

A few of you may be aware that I suffer from a chronic juvenile-onset rheumatoid condition.  Blood work has ruled out ordinary rheumatoid arthritis – of course, I can’t just have the disease that everybody gets, I have to be special.  I’ve seen a doctor about it; essentially, if I want to, I can spend thousands of dollars chasing from specialist to specialist and maybe eventually get a name attached to it, which will have no impact on the treatment options: anti-inflammatories and painkillers.  (Although in fairness to modern medicine, knowing which exact rheumatoid condition it is would probably let them give me the best possible scrip.)

Symptomatically, I go for days, weeks or even months without the slightest twinge, then I generally get a series of painful attacks in one or both ankles, feet and knees – thank you Jesus, so far not the hands – sometimes with a loss of range of motion but lately more often not. This intermittent status is problematic, because as a lazy  and short-sighted idiot, the long pain-free periods allow me to mentally justify blowing off taking the glucosamine/chondritin and such that would alleviate the condition over the long term. (“I feel fine – why choke down five enormous pills every day?”)

I know what to do long-term – take my supplements, get regular gentle exercise for the joints, and keep my weight down. One out of three isn’t bad! (It’s 33%, and thus an F. – Ed.)

Short-term, I’m pretty stumped. Ibuprofen helps a little bit. Aspirin helps a little bit. Prescription anti-inflammatories help a little bit. Physical-therapy type exercises help a little bit. Basically, lots of things help a little bit.

Unfortunately, a little bit translates to “a reduction from soul-searing please-kill-me pain to soul-burning please-knock-me-unconscious pain.” Not good enough, in other words. And while the pain is good for my soul, there are times when my soul is burnished enough, thanks, and could use a break.

And thus I turn to the blogosphere! Give me your nostrums, your patent remedies, your grandmotherly hand-me-downs yearning to be tried. I’m perfectly willing to give the placebo effect a shot, so don’t hold back on the irradiated-monkey-urine cures. (But I already know that copper bracelets don’t do squat, so I can’t get a placebo effect from that.) Basically, anything that you or someone you know has tried and found helpful, I’ll give a shot. General non-arthritis analgesics are very welcome, too. Nutritional advice is welcome. Go nuts.

If you like me, think of it as a chance to assign a debt of gratitude. If you hate me, think of it as your chance to poison a right-winger, with no possibility that you’ll be caught. Thanks!

December 12, 2006

Army Recruiting

Filed under: Content-lite,Personal Ramblings — Brutus @ 8:59 pm

I was at the mall earlier today and stopped by to speak with a couple Army recruiters. No one else was stepping up to speak with them, so I didn’t feel as though I would be intruding. The two fellows were young, probably late 20s, and quite respectful, calling me sir (though simultaneously scanning the crowd for eye contact or button-holing). Looking at me, I suspect they knew they would get no traction because I’m too old to enlist (I learned the cut-off age is 42, recently raised from 40).

They said they couldn’t speak for other branches of the military but insisted that in joining the Army, recruits could choose their own “jobs,” and as long as they passed through training without undue difficulty, would be happily ensconced in that role, presumably away from a vulnerable combat position. Helicopter pilot and military police were apparently the most sought after “jobs.” Interestingly, they reported that a fair number of interested young men couldn’t handle the skills necessary to obtain a fairly routine technical job, such as computer operator or aircraft maintenance specialist. At no point did they mention whether recruits who failed to qualify for safe “jobs” got recycled into the combat infantry pool, and I was too polite to ask the question directly.

I was also interested to learn that in the recruitment process, they have to be very clear that the Army isn’t like a video game where “players” get to go on a rampage and kill baddies. Apparently, there a fairly commonplace logical disconnect among a lot of young men that being in the Army gives you impunity to wreak mayhem and that that would be a cool thing to do.

I’m holding back on predictable (for me, anyway) spin and commentary and simply reporting what I learned in a brief encounter with Army recruiters. There was no controversy or rancor in my enchange with them, and I am not trolling for any now.

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