Thursday, July 23, 2015

If I Were King mini-review, no spoilers

I think Ronald Colman's not as famous as Errol Flynn because his name's boring. Names are important in popular history—I suspect the Gunfight at the OK Corral  would not be as famous if it had been Bob Schmidt, his brothers Tom and Jack, and a doctor named Peabody fighting the Smith Gang near O'Neal's Stable. But maybe it's just that fame is fickle, so Colman's not as well remembered as his swashbuckling peers, for all that he was every bit as good as them.

If I Were King is limited by the technology of 1938, so you don't watch it for spectacle. You watch it for charm. All the acting is a little broad, but the story's broad, so that doesn't offend. The surprising performance comes from Basil Rathbone, who I might not have recognized if I hadn't been expecting him to appear. Preston Sturges did the script, which has some nice lines and a populist subtext—the word "bourgeois" appears once, as part of an insult. The plot is simple—a king, Rathbone, decides to reward and punish a man, Colman, who both helped and opposed him—and our hero soon learns that the punishment will be greater than he had thought, if he doesn't find a way out.

The movie doesn't seem to be streaming anywhere. I got a DVD from the library. (It is on Youtube, but the sound is a couple of seconds off, which is unbearable.)

Recommended for fans of '30s historical adventure. Will-Bob gives it a B+ for charm, though it prob'ly deserves a B.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A quote everyone should know before going online

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journals

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Facebook needs to fire a lot of Asians to become racially proportionate?

I keep running into people who're obsessed with racial proportionality at the bottom of the economic pile who ignore it at the top, where, as groups, Jewish, Asian, and Hindu Americans are more economically privileged than ethnically Christian white Americans. This is especially noticeable at internet tech companies. Remembering that Asian Americans are 5.6% of the US's population:

Status update: Facebook not so diverse:
Nearly 70% of Facebook employees are men and 57% are white. Asians make up 34% of employees.

But Hispanics represent just 4% and African Americans are just 2% of Facebook's workforce.

When it comes to technical employees, the numbers are even more grim. Eighty-five percent are male, 53% white and 41% Asian. Hispanics make up just 3% and African Americans just 1% of the workforce.

At the top of the company, the statistics are no better. Seventy-seven percent of senior level employees are men, 74% are white and 19% are Asian. Hispanics account for 4% and African Americans for 2% of employees in high level positions.
While the gender balance is not equal, Facebook's white employees are actually under-represented overall in a country where 62% of the population is non-Hispanic white. It's a shame those statistics don't include a breakdown for Jews (2% of the US population) or Hindus (.4% of the US population).

Related:: For anyone who thinks Jews were not always white in the US

Why identitarians are offended by discussing the whiteness of Jews

US wealth by religion (click to embiggenize):

Friday, July 17, 2015

How I would script doctor Ant-Man

Previously: Ant-Man mini-review, no spoilers

Warning: Here be spoilers.

Note: As a script doctor, my fixes are purely about the script. So while I would've cast a black or Hispanic guy as Ant-Man, that's not part of the job here.

Minor fixes:

1. Cut the Russian and the black comic-relief sidekicks.

2. Give the Hispanic sidekick some serious, competent moments so he deserves to be the hero's buddy.

3. Make both the hero and the sidekick want to go straight after prison, so the hero has to convince the sidekick to help pull the heist.

Major fix:

4. In the third act, when the bad guy is getting away with the Yellowjacket suit, Hope van Dyne should start to go after them, and her father realizes it's time to do the right thing: he reveals the Wasp costume, and together, Ant-man and the Wasp defeat Yellowjacket.

ETA: Regarding #4, this wouldn't just let us have some female superhero buttkicking, it would do two emotional things: it would establish that Hank Pym no longer thinks Scott Lang is expendable, and it would show that he realizes he has to let people he loves make their own decisions about danger.

ETA 2: Regarding #3, this would do two things:

1. There's currently the implication that only middle-class white men want to go straight after prison.

2. Our hero's story arc would be greater if he was more willing to take shortcuts at the beginning of the movie—it's the same reason why Han Solo should shoot first.

Ant-Man mini-review, no spoilers

This is a fun movie, but it is not a smart movie. It went through two directors and four writers and who knows how many other hands, and the result is a pleasant, visually enjoyable, and surprisingly naive movie. Its racial casting is straight out of the 1970s, and so is its handling of gender.

Near-spoiler: there's a scene with the Falcon that's fun. That and some in-jokes pleased the fanboy in me.

Verdict: I did not regret going, but I would've waited for it to hit a second-run house if I'd known what I was going to get. This is a trailer movie: if you like the trailer, you won't be disappointed with what you get if you don't expect more.  Will-Bob gives it a B, and that's only because he's a fanboy. It probably deserves a B-.

Could it be fixed? See my next post, How I would script doctor Ant-Man.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A suggestion for an article by a lover of fantasy

I just read Jane Yolen's answer to how she came to write Briar Rose and realized someone should do an article on books that began with a notion by Terri Windling. War for the Oaks is among them. So is the Liavek series—Terri knew of our group of writers and thought we could have fun doing a shared-world anthology like Thieves' World with more of a high fantasy take.

ETA: To be clear, War for the Oaks didn't begin as an idea by Terri. Emma was working on Falcon when she mentioned her notion for War for the Oaks to Terri. Terri told Emma that if she put Falcon aside and started War for the Oaks immediately, Terri would give her a contract. Being a wise beginning writer, Emma did just that.

Friday, July 10, 2015

An amusing thing that OCR wanted to do to the Liavek ebook

I'm proof-reading Liavek stories in order to start releasing ebooks in the next week or two. Because the anthologies came out in the '80s, before publishers believed personal computers were here to stay, we don't have electronic files of the edited stories. So we sent paperbacks off to a cheap OCR service. The scans are pretty good, but things sneak by. Catching the typo I'm about to share means I'm not a completely inept proofreader, because my word processor's spell-checker merely said, yep, that's a word, and didn't flag it with squiggly lines.

The OCR has trouble with "rm" and "rn—it often interprets "burn" as "bum" and "turn" as "tum". But I could never have guessed what it would do to this sentence:
Birth magic tingled along her arms...
The OCR's version:
Birth magic tingled along her anus...
For a moment, I was tempted not to change it. It's not as impressive as the Wicked Bible's "Thou shalt commit adultery," but as typos go, it's decent—at least, if your sense of humor is as juvenile as mine. But while they say all publicity is good publicity, the story and its author deserve better, so I fixed it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The racial disproportionality in "hate crime" arrests looks like another stealth class issue

On Facebook, someone linked to Hate crime charges sought in July 4 beating and made a comment about how "hate crimes" are often charged against black folks. I commented,
Hmm. On the one hand, I hate "hate crime" laws: arrest people for their deeds. But if you're suggesting "hate crimes" disproportionately affect black folks, there's this from the FBI in 2014: "Of the reported 3,407 single-bias hate crime offenses that were racially motivated, 66.4 were motivated by anti-black or African-American bias, and 21.4 percent stemmed from anti-white bias." Hate crimes tend to be committed by poor folks, and there are twice as many white people as black in poverty in the US, so it suggests the hate crime laws are being administered more on the basis of class than race. Though I'd also like to know what percentage of hate crimes are urban, since black poverty is more urban than white and Hispanic poverty. And I realize correlation is not necessarily causation, so there may be other factors at work, of course.
My quote's from FBI — Latest Hate Crime Statistics Report Released.

That 2-to-1 ratio is not the perfect tool for seeing what may be more about class than race, of course, but it's often useful for understanding the racial imbalance of many things  in the US, including imprisonment and death row. I probably got the hint from Martin Luther King's declaration,
There are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

For us or against us? Contradictory Jesus quotes show how cultists and universalists disagree

The Biblical Jesus offers two incompatible takes on allies and opponents:
"whoever is not against us is for us" —Mark 9:40

"whoever is not with me is against me" —Matthew 12:30
Because the rationalizing animal can rationalize anything, many Christians rationalize this, but if you think the Bible is accurate, the only sensible explanation is Jesus couldn't make up his mind. No matter what your take, Luke 9:50 has him saying, "whoever is not against you is for you", so if he vacillated, he favored the idea that only those who oppose you are your opponents.

Most students of the mind would agree the outlooks in Mark and Luke are healthy ways to think of others, and the version in Matthew is paranoid—which is the version cults love. Matthew's take may be an accurate reflection of the writer and perhaps of his immediate community, while Mark and Luke were less afraid of the people around them, so I'm happy to think they all wrote what they believed Jesus said.

But I'll go with Mark and Luke.

ETA: Brother Will is a bad scholar: Luke has two versions of the saying. The second is at Luke 11:23: "Whoever is not with me is against me."

Friday, July 3, 2015

Best comment on Bernie Sanders and the Sheepdog Theory

Something two or three of you might find funny. Or infuriating. And the rest will go "Huh?", which may be best, but I'll give a short preface to try to explain this anyway:

US socialists can currently be divided into two camps, those who support Bernie Sanders and those who fear he's a "sheepdog" whose job is to get socialists to vote for Ms. Clinton after Sanders loses the nomination. I am in the first group. I have never seen any evidence to support the sheepdog theory, and I'm suspicious of it because I'll vote for another socialist if, as is most likely, the Dems push Sanders out.

Just now, I came across this comment on a Facebook post which I am passing along to both of the people who might appreciate it:

Julien Noah Devereux said, "Can't let Bernie sheepdog America's several dozen socialists into the Democratic Party when they would otherwise be starting the revolution. That's just common sense."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Malcolm X, "A very beautiful thing", Bahar Mustafa, and #KillAllWhiteMen

In 1962, while Malcolm X was still part of the Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, Air France Flight 007 crashed carrying 122 white art patrons from Athens, Georgia and ten crew members. All of the passengers and eight crew members were killed. Ann Uhry Abrams wrote that “the impact on the city in 1962 was comparable to New York of September 11." Out of respect for the mourners, Martin Luther King canceled a sit-in that had been planned to protest segregation.

But Malcolm X said, "I would like to announce a very beautiful thing that has happened...I got a wire from God today...well, all right, somebody came and told me that he really had answered our prayers over in France. He dropped an airplane out of the sky with over 120 white people on it because the Muslims believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But thanks to God, or Jehovah, or Allah, we will continue to pray, and we hope that every day another plane falls out of the sky."

This year, Bahar Mustafa, the diversity officer for Goldsmiths University, London, created an uproar for tweets with the label #killallwhitemen and called people "white trash", a term that manages to be simultaneously racist and classist because it means a white person is, to use the language of the Old South, "lower than a nigger". But since Ms. Mustafa is British, she may not have known the term's history. She may have only thought it referred to white people who disagreed with her.

Lest her name make you think she is not privileged, she graduated in gender and media studies from the expensive school where she works, and she lives with her parents in a "£450,000 three-bedroom terrace". For Americans, that's a $700,000 condo.

In 1964, Malcolm X came back from Mecca with a new understanding of the world. He said, "I totally reject Elijah Muhammad's racist philosophy," and declared, "I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin."

Insh'allah, Ms. Bahar and her fellow identitarians will someday catch up to Malcolm half a century ago.

Related: Dear liberals, please stop appropriating Malcolm X