Friday, May 27, 2016

How Julian Fellowes' Doctor Thorne spoilers itself; a spoiler-free review that addresses point of view

I have not read Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne, so I don't know if the main weakness of Fellowes' adaptation comes from it. I hope so, because if not, Fellowes has done Trollope an enormous disservice.

But before I get to that, a few quick observations:

1. If you like BBC tales of the 19th century, you'll like this. The actors and settings are all fine.

2. The director is barely competent. There are too many cuts and close-ups, perhaps because he was told to shoot for TV rather than the big screen, and some of the group shots are not as effectively composed as tbey might be.

3. The production's not quite historically accurate. Emma thinks they overdid the flowers in women's hair, and there's one scene that must not be from the book in which a gentleman and a lady behave on a public street in a way no one of the time would have.

On to my realization:

The story gives us all the background for what happens in a way that makes the plot seem weak: we know who must die and when they must die for the story to reach the conclusion it promises us, and sure enough, they do.

The problem is not with the plot. Dickens and Wilkie would've taken the same story and revealed the important truth at the end. The details of the story would not have to change a bit: Doctor Thorne's niece learns the important things exactly when we, the audience, should learn them. But because the story's point of view is generally with Doctor Thorne instead of Mary Thorne, we learn the facts much too soon for any dramatic effect. The result's like watching a story that's been spoilered—we know what will happen, so the only pleasure left is in watching how things happen, a pleasure that should be left for the second viewing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Captain America is not a Hydra agent, and Superman didn't blow up Krypton

Yes, I think the idea of retconning Captain America as a Hydra agent is high on the list of stupidest ideas comic book people have had. But I'm not upset, because it's just a stupid comic book, and a smart writer will easily retcon it in turn. If I was in charge, it would be explained as a bad dream that a Marvel editor had.

Captain America being a Hydra agent makes as much sense as:

1. Kal-El blew up Krypton.

2. Wonder Woman was Hitler's lover.

3. Bruce Wayne's parents faked their death to escape being prosecuted for tax evasion.

4. Tony Stark pretended he had heart problems to make women feel sorry for him.

5. Peter Parker's Uncle Ben was a child molester who was not killed by a burglar, but by one of his victims.

6. Reed Richards went into space to prove the Earth is flat.

Okay, maybe #5 would make a decent story, but the original version is still better.

Please note that I'm not opposed to retconning. Alan Moore's retcon of Swamp Thing was brilliant. But Captain America's story is beautifully simple: an idealistic kid gets the chance to become the hero he wants to be. To change it is to deny that there are idealistic kids who manage to become good adults.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dividing my blogs yet again

I want to make my main blog a place for art, but I can't ignore politics, so I'm dividing my blogging once again. It's All One Thing will only be political when the politics are part of art—see my previous post for an example. From now on, explicitly political posts will be found at Another Thing Is Still the Same Thing.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Ones Who Stay and Fight in Omelas

The Ones Who Stay and Fight in Omelas

An Answer Tale by Will Shetterly

The ones who walk away from Omelas will tell you of the glorious city built on the suffering of a child who lives in hunger and darkness. Their words are beautiful because they were taught at the great universities of Omelas. Their bodies are beautiful because they were treated at the great hospitals of Omelas. They come into the world beyond Omelas as the ones who walked away from Omelas, and they are praised for walking away when they could have stayed.

The ones who walk away from Omelas rarely speak of the city they left. When they do, a sadness settles lightly on their beautiful faces that makes them more beautiful. They know all they have left. Part of them will always wish they could have accepted the comforts of Omelas without accepting the cost.

But the ones who walk away from Omelas will not tell you of the ones who stay and fight in Omelas. When the ones who walk away are alone, some will whisper in tones of sad, wise beauty, What is won by fighting when you cannot win?

But once in a rare while in the hunger and darkness at the heart of Omelas, a child smiles, thinking, Somewhere are the ones who stay and fight in Omelas. Someday they will win.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why "progressive" has become meaningless

Watching the Clinton camp fight over the idea that she's progressive, I realized the word has lost its meaning. My impression, which I have not bothered to research, is that as conservatives made "liberal" and "leftist" into bad words several decades ago, Democrats switched over to being "progressives".

But because the rebranding was vague, progressives never bothered to define what they were progressing toward. They left that for the voters. Are you a Blue Dog Democrat who wants progress toward the center-right? You're a progressive! Are you a democratic socialist who wants progress toward an economically egalitarian society? You're a progressive!

The word is less meaningful than liberal, neoliberal, or socialist because it's been claimed by people in each of those camps. It's less meaningful than leftist because it includes neoliberals who are only leftists if viewed from the furthest right. It's as meaningless as "cool"—it's something many people want to be perceived as because it's believed to be a desirable trait, but if you try to grasp what's there, you're left holding air.

I've stopped using it. I'm a democratic socialist. One of the things I love about Sanders is he's made it easy for most people to understand what that means: I want to progress toward socialism using the democratic process at every step. Capitalists think socialism is not progressive. Why should I waste time arguing with them? There are words I will fight for, but "progressive" is not one. Everyone wants to progress toward something. If you don't ask about the destination, you will be led to a place you'ill regret.

ETA: An interesting attempt to define "progressive": Yet Another Political Compass | Where Worlds Collide

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Yes, Amanda Marcotte, Captain America is a libertarian—a left-libertarian

Nothing is as clickbaity as an article that's infuriating for one audience and choir-preaching for another. Amanda Marcotte has once again done both in Captain America’s a douchey libertarian now: Why did Marvel have to ruin Steve Rogers? Here's what I said in a Facebook discussion about whether the movie has an idiot plot:
I suspect I bought the emotional conflict because the fundamental argument is important to me: do we submit to authoritarianism when it's well-intended? A great many people on the left and right say yes. Amanda Marcotte wrote a stupid piece saying this movie made Captain America a libertarian and was upset because she thinks the only libertarians are right-libertarians, but Cap, given when and where he grew up, is at least a Roosevelt Democrat and may be a red—he's very much a left-libertarian. Whether Tony Stark is a neoliberal or a Republican doesn't matter—they're going to clash when the government says to jump.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Shadow Unit #6 ebook has a major update! Liavek #4 ebook is back at its original price.

A Shadow Unit reader (who I thank beyond measure!) noticed that the sixth ebook was missing an entire scene, the first scene of the second act of Elizabeth Bear's "Wind-up Boogeyman". It has been fixed; you should be able to download the revised ebook from whoever sold the one you own. If not, let me know.

And I'd accidentally raised the price of Liavek 4: The Players of Luck. It's back at $2.99.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why meritocrats care about racism and sexism and don't give a damn about the white working class

Posted this on my Facebook before realizing something:
Sometimes I think I should deal with things in race reductionist ways because rich people don't give a damn if you point out that they're rich while so many are poor, but they hate being called racist.

Larry Wilmore undoubtedly knew his audience was not in that room. One small part of his audience was in front of my computer.
(Four minute cut of Larry Wilmore's White House speech here.)

Then I saw the reason some rich people care about racism and sexism even though they're indifferent to or dismissive of the working class in general: racism and sexism destroy the beautiful illusion of meritocracy. It's easy for humans to think they are better than people who look like them because those people who look like them must have failed somehow. But only racists and sexists can say an entire race or gender deserves to be kept down because another race or gender is better.

Monday, May 2, 2016

I'm a Zionist Shegetz?

I suppose I know as much about Zionism and Yiddish as most literate goys who've lived in Manhattan and had a Jewish fiancee, which is to say, more than most people who aren't Jewish and more than some Jews, but hardly enough to think I'm especially knowledgable about either Zionism or Yiddish. Today I learned two things.

1. In the eyes of at least one identitarian Jew, I'm a shegetz, a Yiddish word "from the Hebrew sheketz ("detestable," "abomination", "loathed", "blemish")." It "literally translates as "rascal", "scoundrel" or "varmint", its pejorative connotations range from negligible to severe, depending on the context." It's the male version of shiksa. I'd never run into it before, but I'm glad to add a new word to my vocabulary, and being called a shegetz inspired me to post this on Facebook:
I was just called a shegetz, which amused me, and more importantly, helped me see something that's obvious when written out: the first trait of racists is the use of insults that were created for the people they consider "other".

The second trait, of course, is the use of coded language to allude to their insults. So I was pleased that this person avoided code and went straight for shegetz.
2. I had not thought I was a Zionist, because although I know the meaning has always depended on the user and there were both conservative religious Zionists and socialist atheist Zionists in the early days of the movement, I'd thought the only modern sense was that used by rightwing Israeli and Christian Zionists who support dispossessing Palestinians as they pursue their dream of Greater Israel. But before I was called a shegetz, I was told I'm a Zionist because I'm in the first of three categories: Zionists believe Israel has a right to exist, neo-Zionists support the settlers and Israel's appropriation of land the UN never gave it, and post-Zionists believe "that Zionism has fulfilled its ideological mission with the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948, and that Zionist ideology should therefore be considered at an end...used by right-wing Jews to refer to the left wing of Israeli politics in light of the Oslo Accords."

I'm still hesitant to call myself a Zionist. Using the definitions above, I think I'm an anti-neo-Zionist. My take on Israel is that it was a well-intentioned project based on a flawed assumption. Religious states are a bad idea. Since Israel exists, the pragmatic solution is for the US to stop giving it billions of dollars every year until the one-state or the two-state solution has been realized and everyone within the land Israel currently controls has full citizenship in a viable nation.


Israel could reduce anti-Semitic violence by not calling itself the Jewish state, Finkelstein says – Mondoweiss

Finkelstein Breaks His Silence. Tells Holocaust-Mongers, "It is time to crawl back into your sewer!"

Noam Chomsky on BDS and How the Israeli Occupation is "Much Worse Than Apartheid" | Democracy Now!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Liavek 4: The Players of Luck is now available! Stories by Robin Hobb, Gregory Frost, Steven Brust, John M. Ford, and Emma Bull!


"Pot Luck" by Megan Lindholm (Robin Hobb)
"Show of Faith" by Gregory Frost
"An Act of Trust" by Steven Brust
"A Cup of Worrynot Tea" by John M. Ford
"The Well-Made Plan" by Emma Bull Liavek 4

Barnes & NobleLiavek 4

Smashwords – Liavek 4

These stories were originally included in Liavek: The Players of Luck, which has been out of print for many years.

Identitarian classism: Oxford student refuses to tip waitress because she is white

Oxford student behind Rhodes Must Fall campaign says he refused to tip waitress because she is white | Daily Mail Online

ETA: If you wonder whether Ntokozo Qwabe is a privileged Oxford student, the Obz Cafe doesn't look cheap. There's something especially obnoxious about rich kids not tipping the servants.

ETA 2: Tip the "Ntokozo Qwabe" Waitress by Ernst Shea-Kruger - GoFundMe Worth visiting just to read the privileged kid's version of the story.