Jun. 5th, 2017

dmilewski: (Default)
This weekend was the annual church retreat to West River. The weather cooperated marvelously, giving us two wonderful day. With my daughter now being old enough, I could simply ignore what she was up to, trusting that she'd wind up in the right places at the right time.

I used my free time to wrap up the edits on Pabi 2. Yay. It's almost in the bag. Meanwhile, I've switch my wife to editing Pabi 1. Pabi 3 needs its ending rewritten.

I also worked on a son for the Saturday night variety show. I learned "Junk Food Junkie" from 1976. Well, I sorta learned the song. I needed the words held up, and the actual performance was something of a rolling train wreck, but the audience laughed, so it wasn't all bad. I found that whoever did the chords was smoking pot, and I had to redo them. Also, the words of the song were rather challenging as they didn't necessarily respect the musical beats. Yeesh. 

Jenny and DesignGirl, along with the Mansons, did a "Little People" performance. That's where the speaker is themselves, but their arms actually belong to somebody else. In this case, the kids provided the arms. It turned out catastrophically funny.

Jenny also sang "Life's Too Short to Fold Underwear" by Zoey Mulford.

In gardening news, Jenny put in a hoop and tulle system to protect our blueberries, which are now coming in. We got our first harvest on Sunday. The new system makes getting in under the tulle far easier than last year's system (which was just throwing tulle over the bushes). We're weighing down the tulle with short sand-filled garden hoses. 

dmilewski: (Default)
Bored of the Rings (1969) was a shameless, opportunistic, money-grubbing attempt to make money off the then-current Lord of the Rings craze. It says so right in the introduction. Created by Harvard Lampoon, the parody throws Tolkien's work into the mud, along with popular culture, some stray dogs, an itinerant card shark, and a frat full of drunk, oversexed men with beer goggles. The results is about as stupid as you'd expect, with unexpected moments of the sublime.

In short, this book is a good way to ditch a few hours and have a few laughs along the way.

Do expect the book to offend. That's its purpose. If you aren't offended, then they didn't do their job right.

The book follows the adventures of Frito and Spam, Goodgulf the wizard, and a variety of other brands and product placements that should have made the writers rich, but likely didn't because this was the era before product placements. Their goal is to destroy the Ring, and between here and there, have more interesting adventures that Tolkien's original book. At least they know how to get in, tell the joke, and get out. 

While most jokes are fully adolescent in their executions, a few rise to beautiful sublimity, such as the translations of the various elven songs.

The humor comes come densely packed and thorough, requiring your attention for every sentence. Almost every sentence contains humor, slapstick, or parody to some degree. You don't have to wait for the humor to begin in the least. In fact, the humor is more like the running of the jokes, filling the streets with every humor form known to man and elf.

While the book asserts that's its a masterpiece of parody, that's just it praising itself. As humor goes, its a good diversion, but rarely rises beyond the level of opportunistic. 
dmilewski: (Default)
I see a few tools used to show sexism in narrative. Used correctly, they can yield useful information, but used incorrectly, or maliciously, show sexism anywhere the user wants to put sexism.
 
The Bechdel test is sometimes used to show sexism, but it's there to show one particular form of sexism, that of assigning parts in motion pictures. The ultimate purpose of the test is to increase the frequency of women in film and provide more job opportunities. The basic assertion is that if women are 50% of the population, they should get 50% of the visual representation across the entire industry. It's not there to show that any one film is sexist, its there to show that Hollywood has a sexist bias in the way that roles are written and assigned.
 
Agency is also used to show sexism in stories. What sort of agency does a woman have? Used well, the question opens up interesting inquiries. Used poorly, it becomes a bludgeon, insensitive to the very goal that it was intends to support.
 
The primary problem with agency as a metric is that agency exists within the context of a story, while the analysis can happen outside the context. With a loss of context, the tool becomes unreliable.
 
The second and even greater issue is that lack of agency doesn't correlate with sexism. Agency is used as a tool in many stories, sliding about, to increase and decrease the emotions of the reader. In many action genres, agency boils down to heroes and villains, where even the heroes find their agency challenged. Without a firm idea of genre, without a firm counting of how many male characters vs. female characters lose agency, the question of agency is likely to mislead you.
 
Objectification can also mislead for the same reason. Out of context, objectification can be seen as separating out women, but in context, these characters may suffer the same fate that many other secondary and tertiary characters face.
 
The Smurfette principle fails when the user fails to account for the status and importance of a woman in a story. Only if a woman is a universal embodiment of generic femininity among an otherwise diverse male cast does the part rise to the status of Smurfette. Women that are distinct characters aren't Smurfettes, even if they are the only woman. One woman among men isn't necessarily sexist.
 
The biggest issue is that these tests exist to detect sexism against women. While a noble goal, the failure of these tools to detect other forms of sexism leaves any analysis weaker than it should be. It stands to reason that the more forms of sexism that you can show, the stronger your argument that sexism exists. In many films, the sexism against women is often the weakest and most difficult to show style of sexism, while the sexism by men against men is rampant and easily documented.
 
A focus only on women means that superficial changes can be applied to films that make the film seem less sexist, but really makes the situation worse. Such an approach has led to the rise of the "strong woman" in film, one who's functionally a bland and an otherwise forgettable character. Such a change is not a real improvement as strong woman are written to seem empowering but more importantly, they are written to avoid offense. In essence, one has changed one stock, interchangeable character for another. At least a stock, sexist woman gets to spout a different point of view containing a different ethic.
 

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