tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
First, let's continue the series:And an explanation.

Warehouse 13 is a fluffy little show on the network formerly known as SciFi in which a team of Secret Service agents rundown "artifacts" with strange powers and store them in a massive warehouse in South Dakota. As I said before, it's a mishmash of very familiar ideas thrown together for some crazy-happenings-of-the-week adventures.

Artifacts can have various effects, on people and their surroundings; and it's not exactly clear how they have those effects. The pilot was deliberately (and endearingly) vague about how everything worked except to say that it does and it's very dangerous. In the most recent episode, "Claudia," there was a little bit more of an explanation: "Every artifact in this warehouse is an extension of a person."

But for whatever reason, artifacts don't just come from any person; they come from special persons, great persons—in most cases historical persons. And, this being a TV show, the artifacts often have a connection to the historical tidbit that the person is most known for. And when the particular person to whom an artifact is connected is unknown, the artifact corresponds to a culture and era in history (as with the "Aztec blood stone").

In short, these artifacts are history.

And the United States is intent on rooting out history, "neutralizing" it, and locking it away where nobody will ever find it.

That's a problem, for a lot of reasons.

For one, the United States often holds itself up as the pinnacle of civilization (which is, of course, Western civilization, because other civilizations aren't really civilized enough to count). As a result, Americans lay claim to pretty much anything they want to in Western civilization. We use psychiatry in America, right? And trigonometry? So the people who helped bring those things to the world obviously belong in America's cultural history.

Of course, Americans don't just take others' history wholesale. No, Americans take the best. (And anything that's left over, well they can keep that so that we can identify them if it comes to that.)

Warehouse 13 also treats the idea of history being powerful, dangerous, and relevant today as a crazy, fantastical notion. "Who would think that? Doesn't everyone know that the past is something we tear down and lock away in the attic to make room for the new?" Well, it turns out that not everybody does think that way. Especially people, like indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and other victims of imperialism throughout the world, who had their language and/or history and/or culture and/or lives forcibly removed by colonizing powers. A power like, say, the United States government.

And while the show often focuses on the "danger" posed by artifacts, that danger comes from their power. And the agents of Warehouse 13 (particularly Artie, the senior agent) do often use the artifacts. (Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod made an appearance as a tool in the most recent episode.) Some artifacts do seem to exist simply to sow chaos (at least, as far as the U.S. government is concerned), but others are just very useful tools. Why take those away? And do they even bother with the due compensation that would accompany an eminent-domain seizure?

And now that we've seen artifacts explicitly removed from other nations, we move further into politics. Why would agents of the United States government feel authorized to steal powerful aspects of culture directly from that culture? Is it, perhaps, because the United States is afraid of these artifacts, wielded by those who actually have a claim to them, being used against the United States?

If so, it's a startling extension of the Bush Doctrine. "Hey, guys, we think that your culture is a threat to us, so we're just going to go in and take it, and lock it away forever, for our own safety. We'll take very good care of it." Warehouse 13 is only a playful attic of imagination for the Americans who get to maintain it, for everyone else—including, most likely, many Americans—it's a cultural Gitmo where the United States government holds your history and uses it for their own ends, in secret and with no appeal.

An extraordinary rendition indeed.

And all of this really just scratches the surface of the many levels of wrong underneath Warehouse 13's affable surface. There's also a whole bunch of crazy inaccuracies as well; I'll have to write about what an "Aztec bloodstone" might be another time. In fact, I'm probably going to keep harping on Warehouse 13 for a while.

Why? Aside from all the fail, it's charismatic and affable on the surface, as long as you don't start to actually think about what's being shown. It's almost a pleasant show to viciously hate. (Is this what fans of Stargate Atlantis feel like?)

The majority of artifacts presented thus far have been either American (White American, to be specific) or European, so this may not appear to be related to [ profile] ibarw, but the concepts of cultural imperialism and Americentrism are very important to thinking about race. This also ties in with this year's optional theme "Global" (in an albeit faily way).

And you know, there's still the pilot and that "bloodstone" to deal with.
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
During my lunch, I created this icon to accompany a post about Warehouse 13. Then everything got really busy, and all I had was the icon.
So, yeah, here it is. It's taken from a comic strip by [ profile] stereotypist of Pictures for Sad Children ([syndicated profile] pfsc_feed/[ profile] pfsc).

I am at the beach now, and will be again tomorrow. So that will influence my posting.
tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
I've got Photoshop at work, now. So I've been spending downtime haphazardly learning how to use it. This is my first attempt at a Gaff icon. I may replace it, especially if I get a chance to take my own screencap.

[ profile] evilprodigy has a post about invoking the historical oppression of Irish-Americans, "[IBARW] It's Not The Same Thing (Or, Leave Your Irish Ancestors In Their Graves)." The comments touch on American assimilation, directly and cluelessly indirectly.

The extent to which "assimilation" is contingent on whiteness, or the acceptance of white supremacy, is rarely discussed during "melting pot" idealism. It reminded me of this passage:
A 1933 report submitted to the FHA by one of its consultants, Home Hoyt, reveals the FHA's assessment of racial worth and its acknowledgment of the fluid and contingent boundaries of white identity:
If the entrance of a colored family into a white neighborhood causes a general exodus of the white people it is reflected in property values. Except in the case of Negroes and Mexicans, however,these racial and national barriers disappear when the individuals of foreign nationality groups rise in the economic scale or conform to American standards of living. . . . While the ranking may be scientifically wrong from the standpoint of inherent racial characteristics, it registers an opinion or prejudice that is reflect in land values; it is the ranking of race and nationalities with respect to the beneficial effect upon land values. Those having the most favorable effect come first on the list and those exerting the most detrimental effect appear last:
  1. English, Germans, Scots, Irish, Scandinavians
  2. North Italians
  3. Bohemians or Czechoslovakians
  4. Poles
  5. Lithuanians
  6. Greeks
  7. Russian Jews of lower class
  8. South Italians
  9. Negroes
  10. Mexicans
Thus, FHA officials recognized the inherent instability of ethnic hierarchies, but remained vigilant toward racial distinctions between white and nonwhite. This recognition provided a material basis for the development of an inclusive white identity predicated on suburban home ownership, and in Southern California, where the FHA maintained a most vital role in shaping regional patterns of suburban development, the settlement of places such as Orange County and the San Fernando Valley created a space where a diverse array of whites and white ethnics could "conform to American standards of living."
—Eric Avila, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles

I believe the emphasis wasn't in the original. Of course, by the 30s, the Irish had clearly ascended to whiteness, but you can see the stratification of other groups whose status would change with the next World War. Except for those two groups at the bottom, of course. I wonder what they have in common.
tablesaw: Katsuhiko Jinnai, from El Hazard (Jinnai)
International Blog Against Racism Week has begun, and I am completely caught off guard.

One link: The Carl Brandon Society lays down some ground rules for discussing oppression within the SF community.
1) The use of racial slurs in public discourse is utterly unacceptable, whether as an insult, a provocation, or an attempt at humor. This includes both explicit use of slurs and referencing them via acronyms.

2) Any declaration of a marginalized identity in public is not a fit subject for mockery, contempt, or attack. Stating what, and who, you are is not “card playing.” It is a statement of pride. It is also a statement of fact that often must be made because it has bearing on discussions of race, gender, and social justice.

3) Expressing contempt for ongoing racial and gender discourse is unacceptable. Although particular discussions may become heated or unpleasant, discourse on racism and sexism is an essential part of antiracism and feminist activism and must be respected as such. There is no hard line between discourse and action in activism; contempt of the one too often leads to contempt of the whole.
[ profile] ibarw will be autoposting collected links every day, as well.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Well, [ profile] ibarw has ended, and I'm left with a bunch of half-finished posts. But as [ profile] oyceter says, "It's still International Blog Against Racism Week Month Year Unspecified Amount of Time," so I'll post them when I get a chance to finish them.

In other news, my previous post now has a response from both my father and my sister, if you're interested in what they have to say.

I had to work a ten-day stretch so this weekend was mostly about not working. [ profile] ojouchan was gone for Friday, so I got to spend this weekend without time-shifting, which was helped get a bit more sleep. I did spend a lot of time watching the Olympics, as promised. Because of my odd schedule, I'm behind on the "popular events" (the ones that NBC will only allow to be broadcast during American prime time). So I haven't been seeing as much swimming, diving or gymnastics. I have been watching handball, badminton, and weightlifting.

Speaking of wightlifting, new Olympic crush:
Marilou Dozois-Prévost
Marilou Dozois-Prévost, 10th place in the 48kg class (76, 90, 166)
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
I'm going to just start writing things for International Blog Against Racism Week ([ profile] ibarw), and hope it all comes out in the end.

I've been trying to say something about race for a while, but it's a bit difficult. See, I'm white, and my parents are both white. My mother's family is from Ireland, and my father's is from Mexico.

Very few people in the United States seem to have a problem anymore in considering the Irish to be white. There's a whole book about how that happened. But the idea of being white and Mexican is too much of a mindbender for a lot of people. Part of that has to do with the idea floating around the American consciousness (including among enlightened, urban liberals) that brown people who speak Spanish are Mexicans.1 As someone who is not brown and does not speak Spanish, I am usually assumed to be Italian, with some people going so far as to try to convince me that my last name is a common Italian family name (it's not).

It's hard to write about this because it's an issue I don't have a great handle on. I identify as white because, for better or for worse, it most accurately represents where I am in the racial power structure of the United States, my Mexican heritage notwithstanding. But when it comes to the complications to my identiy, I have a horribly obscured picture of the what and the how and the why.

Recently, my father, who plans to retire to Mexico soon, threatened to sneak into the house to teach my future children Spanish. It didn't explain why my father, who had studied Latin American history as an undergrad, had let the bilingualism of my sister and me end with the smattering of words on Sesame Street, or why our education was left to to the U.S.-centric textbooks in our schools.

I think that's a part of whiteness—the assumption that you don't have to do anything different. But however white my Mexican family is, being Mexican doesn't offer the same security in American whiteness.

I can still remember the time I heard a child—playing a game of looking at people and imagining what they were going to do—happily exclaiming , "Look at those Mexicans, they're probably going to get drunk!"

I mostly remember it because I said it; and because I remember the look on my mother's face (and my father's, in my memory, even though he was driving in the seat in front of me); and because I don't remember what they did to remedy the situation.

These are questions I've meant to ask before writing about it publicly, but what the hell: I know my dad has a blog, and I know he and my mom read this one, and IBARW is supposed to open dialogues. Why not use it to open one in my own family?

WedNYTX: 5:45; WedLATX: 6; WedNYS: 6:15.

1 In this usage, of course, "Mexicans" aren't necessarily from Mexico; they could be from anywhere south of the United States. They're named "Mexicans" not because of the country they're from, but because of the border they illegally crossed.


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