tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
I saw Maxine Waters on Saturday, and started a writeup on Sunday, and I came back to finish it on Wednesday, and it all seems so quaint.

It was going to be matter-of-fact and informational, but I can't even deal with that now.

On Friday, I was feeling super stressed about politics, and getting out into the community and hearing my new Congressperson talk frankly about the appalling nature of the current administration, including calls for investigation and impeachment, was heartening.

I was really hoping for that feeling to last for at least a workweek, but nope.

Anyway, the Town Hall was held in Inglewood, representing the core of Waters' district demographic: mostly Black, with some Latino. There were less than a handful of pro-Trump protestors, who got loud and then quickly left, presumably after they got the shot they felt they needed for their YouTube video. The session was mostly informational, with an extremely limited Q&A at the end.

Key points were healthcare, housing, and the incompetence of the administration. Most of the healthcare stuff I knew, but I hadn't been aware of all of the ways federal funding affected local efforts to combat the housing shortage in Los Angeles. Waters also brought a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board to discuss the paper's recent series Our Dishonest President, and she spent time detailing the unqualifications of several administration members and cabinet appointees, including racism, sexism, inexperience, and foreign influence.

I know that Waters has been getting national attention for having a consistent anti-Trump message since the primaries, as I've been seeing her in tweets and comments from friends far away from the district. In her closing speech, she seemed not only cognizant of the issues facing young Americans of color, but excited to help amplify those concerns.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I can't yet say all I want to say, but I learned this morning that [personal profile] tam_nonlinear is dead.

I knew her from LJ from over a decade ago, but like many LJ/DW contacts, I wasn't in touch as much for a while. I would occasionally see the updates on DW about her garden, her cats, and her clinic-escort volunteering. She was one of the people I was hoping to get in contact with again.

Her family has asked for donations to be made to the Washington Area Clinic-Defense Task Force.
tablesaw: Benito Juarez holds up a neon sign that says "GET OUTTA MY COUNTRY ARCHDICK" (Archdick)
I remember the 1995-96 shutdown fairly clearly because I was dealing with college admissions, and the offer I would eventually accept was from GW in DC. The shutdown corresponded with massive snowfall in the capital, which prevented many people from returning to work, even after the agreement was finally reached (and also prevented the admissions officers from returning to the office and answering voicemail messages about thick envelopes).

I've been trying to come up with a way of thinking about the current shutdown, but I've become a bit too goal-oriented to think about the morality of actions independent of the reasons for them. Would liberals/Democrats be willing to shut down the federal government over an issue of abortion/women's rights? (I mean, would they be willing to today, because the Democrats did it in the '70s, even though they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress at the time).

I think the problem with the current shutdown is this: The Republican House has already tipped its hand about what it wants, which is to stop the Affordable Care Act from being implemented, but they don't have the political clout to make that happen. All they have is enough clout to do is wreck the place up a bit. But ultimately, nobody's going to negotiate with them based on the size of the damage they can do. Everyone can still count the votes, and the votes say that they've exceeded their grasp.

I was listening to commentary on the way in that said that Obama and the Senate are going to let the House twist in the wind for a bit because they don't have a strategy. And it really looks like that's the case. It's wasn't one of several negotiating ploys, it was a ploy to maybe have negotiation happen, and ultimately a gamble on where the public disapproval would fall. Enough representatives have staked so much on undoing the ACA that for them the risk of not getting a concession is equal to or greater than the risk of being responsible for the shutdown. But if we have to wait for an already divided party to come up with a strategy even before any sort of compromise can be worked toward, it's going to be a long time coming.
tablesaw: Paul, who is a ghost, declares this to be "Booooring!" (Booooring)
At my birthday bar thing/dinner I was tipped off to the fact that there's a reasonably close movie theater in North Hollywood that shows second-run movies for three dollars, or a buck fifty on Sundays. So [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I took a trip on Sunday to see Wreck-It Ralph. It was fun, and I'm glad I saw it because everyone else I know has seen it already. And I don't know if you've heard, but it's about videogames.

I wanted to review it here, because I'm committed to doing more reviewing of things, but I can barely bring myself to care enough to think of something to say. I enjoyed myself enough when I was watching it, but by the time I was home my enjoyment had all drained away.

There's no problem that can't be solved in the scope of a two-hour movie, as [profile] joshroby once pointed out, but that doesn't mean that all stories can be told in that scope. In the undoubtedly worked and reworked and re-reworked plot of Wreck-It Ralph, there isn't much room for the stories of characters outside of a precoded series of checkpoints, an inevitable grind until leveling up (but not changing classes).

Perhaps there's something to say here about Wreck-It Ralph's ultimate message that it's better to be happy with your crappy job than to fight the system: the heroes are rewarded for maintaining or restoring the status quo. But, hey, it's a Disney movie with Bowser and Q-Bert in it. It's too big to fail, right?

I did really like Alan Tudyk's amazing performance as King Candy, though. I'd say it was an ok use of two hours and $1.50.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
I'm back in LA, and recent evidence confirms that Portland may be quirky, but Southern California is weird, the kind of Capital-W Weird that encompasses Lovecraftian-level Weirdness.
  • There was an earthquake in Los Angeles last night. It wasn't big (magnatitude 3.7, below the 4.0 threshold for most Angelenos to care about), but it was centered in a populated area (I was playing board games less than a mile from there only three hours earlier). It also managed to move through most of the LA Basin without losing much strength; it woke me up sixteen miles away, wondering if this was the beginning of a large quake, tensing to leap out of bed and prepare for coming chaos. Instead I fell right back to sleep, and when I woke up, I couldn't remember why I was looking at the clock at 3:18.

  • The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical-marijuana dispensaries within city limits. This puts city law at odds with the state law which is at odds with federal law. (The LA law is also at odds with federal law since it affirms the right to "grow and share marijuana in groups of three people or fewer.") I love this quote:
    "The best course of action is to ban dispensaries, allow patients to have access under state law," [Councilperson Jose Huizar, who proposed the bill,] said. "Let's wait to see what the state Supreme Court decides and then we will be in a much better position to draft an ordinance that makes sense."
    Because when the law is unclear, the best thing to do is take the most drastic action possible while waiting for a final result.

  • I just recently learned about a wonderful blog series running on the KCET website: Laws that Shaped L.A. One was nominated by gaming buddy Mark Valliantos: "The Roots of Sprawl: Why We Don't Live Where We Work." It's about the 1908 zoning laws (the Residence District Ordinance and the Industrial District Ordinance) of Los Angeles, and how they were designed by the first Progressives who were trying to use the laws to create a more ordered and virtuous city.
    "People had a sense that when it came to land use of the city, we could spread out, we could avoid some of the problems of the East Coast industrial cities," he says. "But in the end, it's a shame. We went too far in the other direction, too much toward cars, too much toward sprawl. We're still repairing that today."
    My other favorite so far is on the Laws of the Indies enacted by King Philip II of Spain in 1573, which explains why Los Angeles isn't centered near the port (where Long Beach is) and why downtown LA's grid clashes with the areas around it (a story continued in an article on Thomas Jefferson's 1785 Land Ordinance.)

  • Occupy LA was an odd moment in our police history, when the LAPD (the L.A.P.D.!) was calmly letting Occupy do their thing. And yet, when folks take chalk to the streets, someone I know (don't know if I should reveal their identity) got caught in a MacArthur Park–like cleansing of the area, which resulted in getting beaten with a nightstick when trying to leave. It wasn't until after the police had begun firing rubber bullets into the crowd that a different officer let them through with the advice, "Run and hide."

  • And now there's Anaheim where the police seem to be going on a killing spree aimed at driving toward a 1965-style riot. Local radio station KPCC compared the situation to the one described in a 1963 report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. The local nickname "Klanaheim" was earned in the '20s when the Ku Klux Klan briefly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) took over the city government. But resident OC Mexican Gustavo Arellano
    Wonder why Orange County trembles whenever its Mexicans protest? Welcome to the Citrus War of 1936, the most important event in Orange County history you've never heard of.
    His article about the Citrus War of 1936 details an extended racialized labor struggle in which
    Orange County Sheriff Logan Jackson deputized citrus orchard guards and provided them with steel helmets, shotguns and ax handles. The newly minted cops began arresting [mostly Mexican] strikers en masse, more than 250 by strike's end. When that didn't stop the strike, they reported workers to federal immigration authorities. When that didn't work, out came the guns and clubs. Tear gas blossomed in the groves. Mobs of citrus farmers and their supporters attacked under cover of darkness.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
I mentioned Quora in my last post. It's a weird site, and I'm going to post about my experiences with it.

It's not a site that I would have really gone to on my own, but a friend has been raving about it, so I've been trying it out. It has a "real names" policy (not clearly defined, but presumably on par with Google Plus, from which I am still banned). However they do allow one to make certain actions anonymously, so I am making anonymous actions, to which I sign my name Tablesaw. All this to say that if you are on, or go to Quora, you won't find me as a user (and please don't look for my "real name" profile, if you happen to know my government-ID name).


My friend Kat posted this in response to the question, "What are the most civilized things about civilization?" It reads in part:
The worst thing about civilization, then is the blind drive to preserve the civilization regardless of the cost. We're currently facing the possibility of the collapse of the oceanic ecosystem, and meanwhile, time is wasted squabbling over profit and political gain. We argue about precepts set down during a long bygone age, and about insults in the manner of address and commerce and privilege between our subdivisions. I am as guilty of this as any other.
It inspired this on chat:

I think I just undermined myself:


I just declared that all Social Justice and discussion about food and anything else pales in importance compared to global ecological crisis.

The way you framed it, yes. But actually considering your opinion, no.

Your answer posits a thing that is most important for civilization, but your previous examples suggest pinnacles of civilization come from rigorously pursuing a single goal.

Your concern also stems from the assumption that reaching your posited end goal is a straight line that will not require steps like reducing the influence of racialized social structures.

ahhh, nice.

Pity you can't comment anonymously. :P

(You'll have to post a separate answer and cross-reference mine if you want to remain anon)

I don't really care to for this, since I'm mostly responding to your private question about what you've said. Reframing for public consumption in Quora's framework is too tiresome.


If you'd like, I can link to the Quora answer, then share our brief chat transcript on DW.

PC World

Jan. 7th, 2012 05:12 pm
tablesaw: Benito Juarez holds up a neon sign that says "GET OUTTA MY COUNTRY ARCHDICK" (Archdick)
I was talking with [personal profile] trinker about political correctness and being "honest" about racism. It was inspired by her post in which she made this response to someone suggesting that they'd rather people expressed bigotry more openly.
Strongly disagree. (So strongly that I don't have enough words to express my vitriol toward the concept, and rely on words of calm and reason.)

Allowing expression in the name of "not being PC" defangs the entire structure of being able to confront the problem of -ism from its roots.

It puts the disprivileged in the position of swallowing the -ism "unless it's bad enough".

And "bad enough" tends to be a standard that becomes harder and harder to meet as one grasps for proof that it *is* -ism and not just some random ass being a random ass, such that the only thing one can complain about is if someone is dead and the body is marked in large clear letters with "I KILLED THIS PERSON BECAUSE THEY WERE $category".

I do not think this is what you intend.
I was thinking about a response, but then Trinker cornered me on IM, and I dumped out a lot of what I was thinking. With her permission:

I was just thinking that one of the main functions of "political correctness" as invoked by social conservatives, is to nullify the evidence of social change.

expand pls.

It's very similar to the color-blind narrative of affirmitive action. When we start to see non-white, non-male people hired into positions of power, the narrative becomes that they were hired because of "affirmitive action."

Since people take cues from social situations, this narrative tells people to discount this evidence because it has been coerced.

None of those people are getting these positions because they deserve them, or (heaven forbid) because they were more qualified than other applicants. There is always a white man who deserved it more, who's been deprived of his due because people are scared.

The same with "political correctness" and language.

ah. I am going to start a new counter-narrative, of the incompetent white guy who got in by nepotism...and suggest that people consider seeding those, to see if it helps the "PoC affirmative action" card.

You don't need to change anything about what your or thinking. Because even though everyone around you is changing the way the act, they only do it because of political correctness. They're scared of the PC police. They're obviously not saying what they really feel.

Or they're pandering to those people so that they can get something.

Either way, it's dishonest.

..but a person in that headspace is little inclined to believe that racist thoughts are no longer in vogue...

Well, I was mostly looking at the effect it had on other listeners.

But it's also a crucial step toward POC are the real racists, just like affirmative action is the real cause of inequality in the workplace.

so...kind of left stuck at what's possible.

In what sense?

is the only answer to encourage blatancy? is preferring "PC" constructions harmful?

There will never be true honesty in communications like this. I usually see "obvious racism" as a wish for the main ideology of racism to revert from color-blind racism back to Jim Crow racism. I don't think that's possible without a similar structural reversal. I think the nostalgia for that is either because of the increased privilege it held for white people, or because it is seen as a time, for POCs and allies, when threats were easier to identify and combat. But, of course, that's hindsight.

I think that encouraging blatant speech bolsters more racialized terrorism, and that discouraging it is shaving the iceberg...

I don't think that "blatancy" is much of a help either. Because most racism/microaggression comes out when people are not thinking, just following percevied sociological cues. These folks never actual think, in their heads, "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE." If there's a secret racism that is being masked, it's at a far deeper level, so encouraging honesty alone is not enough. One would have to encourage people to be more aware of how racist social structure bias their thought and opinions. And doing that doesn't really need any particular blatancy.

YES. thank you, that's the bit I was scrabbling for.

As for PC constructions, I think that, at best, they serve as an easily achievable benchmark. PC labels say, "I am grouping you based on racial and other societal structures because that is how our society still works, but I am going to use a somewhat negotiated neutral term to describe that label." I do think that this is a step forward, in general.

It's extremely important for, for example, politicians or reporters who have to talk to and about generalized groups.

Ahh...pushback against PC is also the same as colorblindness valorization. Of course.
tablesaw: Supervillain Frita Kahlo says, 'Dolor!' (Que Dolor!)
I thought that a number of people might want to hear about this story from the Mexican presidential race: Josefina Vásquez Mota is the current favorite to be the nominee of the National Action Party (PAN) for the 2012 election. The current PAN president, Felipe Calderon, is hugely unpopular, and the current favorite for the race on the whole Enrique Peña Nieto, the recently confirmed nominee of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Peña Nieto, facing criticism and ridicule after several recent public fumbles, was asked in a separate interview to name the price of a kilo of tortillas, a standard food base in homes across Mexico, rich or poor. The PRI candidate replied, "I am not the lady of the house," or literally in Spanish, "No soy la señora de la casa."

The phrase was interpreted to mean "housewife" among social-media users and commentators who criticized Peña Nieto for what some called an example of Mexican machismo.

On Tuesday, [one of the country's most prominent female journalists, Carmen Aristegui asked Vazquez Mota, a 50-year-old married mother of three daughters, "Are you a señora de la casa?"

"I am a woman, and as a woman I am a housewife, I am a government official, I've been twice a government secretary, I've been leader of a parliamentary group, I am an economist," Vazquez Mota said.

"And indeed, all of that along with being a housewife, a housewife who knows what happens every day at the dining table and in the kitchen," she went on. "And although we may not be there for many hours, as is my case—and I'm sure your case and many others of us—every night we return to that space of the kitchen, return to check the refrigerator and see if everything is ready or what needs to be bought the next day."

Vazquez Mota also suggested that she stops at markets between public events if anything is needed in her household. Directly addressing Peña Nieto's statements, she characterized them as "pejorative."

"Regarding a price of something, we are not obligated to know everything, but what does seem precarious for me is this disdain, this pejorative attitude toward being a housewife," she said. "We have millions, Carmen, millions, that go out to take care of their children all alone."
Daniel Hernandez, "Woman candidate in Mexico says she comes home to check the fridge"
tablesaw: Benito Juarez holds up a neon sign that says "GET OUTTA MY COUNTRY ARCHDICK" (Archdick)
So, yeah, I axed my profile on Saturday. I hadn't intended to. I was going to see if I could get an NPL photo ID to submit, to see if that helped. And I was, actually, considering changing my name to something more culturally restrictive, though I wanted some actual guidance before I did so. (Tab LeSaw seemed the most likely.) But then I saw this:

An image of Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The text reads: 'LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. Google+ is an *identity service*, not a social network. The internet would be better if we knew you were a *real person* rather than a *dog* or a *fake person*. Some people are just *evil* and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward.'

The source is this post from NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin. Over the weekend and today, there have been follow-ups on this revelation, like this one at Forbes, or Gawker's wonderfully named "Watch Google Describe How It Could Exploit Your Name.

I really couldn't take it any more.

See, I and others have been pushing Google, asking why I couldn't be let into their social-networking site with my name. Apparently that was never going to happen because there was never a social-networking site to begin with. Just an identity-verification service with lots of flashy bait.

And with such a massive Trojan-horse/bait-and-switch campaign, I think it's time to directly interrogate that whole evilness thing. Because tying the social-network inextricably to the identification platform is pretty much essentially why people call Facebook evil. It's certainly the reason I didn't use Facebook until recently, and prefer not to use it at all. But, from my perspective, Google's generally been upfront about what it was doing when it rolled out a service.

When I deleted my profile, I also deleted "associate social content." I think it's pretty clear that for Google, "social" and "legally identified" are synonymous. So, you know, keep that in mind as you reconsider whether you want to use the social legally identified network Google Plus. Or whether you want to use the social legally identified RSS service Google Reader. Or whether you want to comment on a picture using the social legally identified aspects of Picasa. Remember it when Google reminds you that it wants to make it easier for you to be social legally identified on the internet.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
Here's a timeline of this morning with Google. Please note that although the times look precise, they are estimates; it's just that some events are packed close together, so I had to guesstimate some things with odd specificity.
  • 9:30 a.m. I have trouble posting to a friend's post on Google Plus. I send feedback for the issue, thinking it to be a bug.
  • 9:40 a.m. After reloading the page, and trying to add a comment in my stream and on the psot page, I only vaguely recall, from following this issue very closely, that this is the first symptom of profile suspension. I check my profile page, and my account has been suspended.
  • 10:02 a.m. I take a screencap and upload it to my Picasa.
  • 10:04 a.m. I post a screencap of my suspension to my Dreamwidth.
  • 10:05 a.m. I submit my profile for appeal.
  • 10:10 a.m. [personal profile] yomikoma posts my suspension on Google Plus. I receive a Google Plus notification of having it shared with me. I'm not sure how exactly this happened, since it shouldn't be strictly possible to "mention" a suspended user in a post. Regardless, feel free to share his post if you have it, or repost this on your own. ETA: Actually, if you want to share something on Google, share my earlier post, since it has my statement about my name, as well as my "Banned from Google" filk, which is now even more apropos.
So, some notes.

Earlier speculation suggested that Picasa would go down with a suspended Google Profile, now that the two were linked. If this was the case earlier in the field test, it does not appear to be true now, as my Picasa seems to be entirely intact and accessible. (There's some weirdness with photos that were shared on Google Plus first, but that's to be expected, and I'm going to look at that a bit more.)

(I know that Google Reader has been reported to go down, but I don't use it, so I can't verify. Same with Google Buzz.)

ETA: Also, basic functions like Gmail and Google Talk and all that are intact. I knew that they would be, based on previous reports of suspended accounts, but I realize that not everyone will have been keeping up with that.

On the other hand, in the wake of bad publicity on this issue, Google has said that they will be making changes to the way they suspend profiles:
We’ve noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing. So we’re currently making a number of improvements to this process - specifically regarding how we notify these users that they’re not in compliance with Google+ policies and how we communicate the remedies available to them.

These include:

- Giving these users a warning and a chance to correct their name in advance of any suspension. (Of course whenever we review a profile, if we determine that the account is violating other policies like spam or abuse we’ll suspend the account immediately.)
- At time of this notice, a clear indication of how the user can edit their name to conform to our community standards (​en&answer=1228271)
- Better expectation setting as to next steps and timeframes for users that are engaged in this process.
Please note that this post was made last week; given Google's timescale of betas and other testing, "currently making" could simply be Google weasel words for "it might happen someday probably." One week after this statement, my profile was suspended without warning, or even notification.

Moreover, I am not in violation of the policy as set out by Google in that:
  • I use a first and last name in a single language (though, seriously, there are some really, really fucked up, and frankly racist assumptions behind that "single language" clause).
  • My name contains no unusual characters (it never occurred to me to use a period to represent the generally mononymic "Tablesaw" as "Tablesaw .", which got users like Sai and Skud in trouble).
  • My profile and name represent one person (especially so, since "Tablesaw Tablesawsen" is unique while the name that my coworkers call me is not).
  • And I do not use the name of another individual (though, as above, if I used the namey name my coworkers call me, I would be doing so; I don't even need to run any type of search to verify this because I WAS NAMED AFTER MY FATHER)
So I'll keep y'all updated on what happens, but if you want a preview, you can check out these posts by [personal profile] skud (suspended twelve days and counting).
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
Made some posts today on Google+, in that they are contained in an about the service.

If you haven't been keeping track of Google Plus's rampant suspension of profiles that don't conform to mainstream Western standards, there are some good comprehensive links to check out. Google+ user Sai, whose account has been suspended multiple times because of his (legally documented) single name, posted a massive, collaboratively written account of the whole situation, including suggested policy changes.

In sharing it, I added:
"You're one of the very first people to use Gmail. Your input will help determine how it evolves, so we encourage you to send your feedback, suggestions and questions to us. But mostly, we hope you'll enjoy experimenting with Google's approach to email."

That's what Google e-mailed to me on June 11, 2004. The name on my account then was "Tablesaw Tablesawsen." It remained the name on my Gmail Account when my Gmail Account became a Google Account, and it was the name on my Google Account when my Google Account added a Google Profile. And when that Google Profile became a part of Google Plus (yes I activated it slightly in advance), Tablesaw Tablesawsen it remained.

Every e-mail since then--whether to friends, family, or businesses--has started with a "To" field of "Tablesaw Tablesawsen" and ended with the even more memorable .sig of "Tablesaw (It's the saw of the table!)." It's been the name on my Google Documents and my Picasa pictures.

Notwithstanding the fact that I'd been using the name Tablesaw since about the time that I started hearing about this "Google" thing that was so much better than AltaVista, these seven years of using this Google Account almost exclusively is what establishes it as a real name (one of a few, but no less real). Google should know that Tablesaw Tablesawsen is a real name since they've been sending mail to, and harvesting information from, this name for over seven years.

+Sai and others have written a detailed summary of this issue within Google Plus, including several links and policy suggestions. Per +Sai's request, this share is also being linked to +Natalie Villalobos, whom I'll be counting on to remember this testimonial, should my profile be friviolously suspended.
The other posts come from [personal profile] skud, a longstanding advocate for the benefits of pseudonymity, whose profile was suspended on Friday. (A second post with further notes was posted today.) In the comments to the first, Aahz said, "For anyone who knows Leslie Fish, just think 'Banned From Google' (sorry, haven't gotten any farther)..."

Well, I couldn't help myself:
When we signed up for Google Plus, the network of our dreams,
We all set out investigating circles, sparks, and streams.
We had high expectations for our pseudonymity,
But found too late it wasn't geared for users such as we.

And we're banned from Google; it's not just.
Banned from Google, you could say that we're nonplussed.
We'd love to give more feedback on a field test we adore,
But Google doesn’t want us any more

The ToS is simple, but the policy opaque
Behind how mods consider some names real and some names fake.
The Name Police keep coming for +aestetix, +Sai, and +Skud.
So please, folks, make some changes before Google’s name is Mud.

Since we're banned from Google, all of us.
Banned from Google, and we're kicking up a fuss.
We used to be evangelizers; now we're pretty sore.
We don't know if we'll Google any more.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
I used to do reviews of the Escape Artists podcasts. Maybe I should do that again. Recently, I've been meaning to post more, but the days slip by without me even noticing I haven't posted again. (On the other hand, my exercise is staying fairly regular, despite wisdom-tooth disruptions, so that's good.) But I really wanted to talk about one particular Podcastle episode I listened to last week. So I'll preface by saying that on the whole, the quality's been good from the shows that I was listening to (though I listen anywhere from a month to a year behind release, usually).

The story I was listening to on Monday was Podcastle 156, "Household Spirits" by C.S.E. Cooney (full text available at Strange Horizons, where it was originally published. I stopped listening halfway through.

Skipping episodes is actually common for me—due to audio issues, substandard performance, or stories that are simply not my cup of tea—not usually anything to remark upon. With "Household Spirits," though, I had to turn it off because of the relentless parade of tropes forwarding racism against Amerindians.

As I was listening to this story, I felt like I was ticking off a checklist, or filling in a bingo card, about how to use harmful racist imagery to not!Amerindians in science-fiction. I spent a while looking for such a checklist. I mean, there's got to be one, surely, what with Avatar, and all that. The best thing I could find actually wasn't related to speculative fiction, but was simply the criteria from How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children's Books for Anti-Indian Bias by Doris Seale, Beverly Slapin and Rosemary Gonzales, published online at

Let's take one section:
In these hills called Seven Quails by the Kilquuts, back in those days there still was Kilquuts. Our ghost don't talk much. When he does, it's to Jessemee.

I shouldn't say ghost. Jessemee says the better word (just like you with your better words) is genius or numen. I've heard other words too, by other settlers. Ghoulog. Scabby. Shadekin.

Got to tell you, Del, to me it just looks like a boy.

His name, so far as I can coax one, is Mimo.

I know I got that wrong. There are other sounds in between the ones I can hear, but that's close enough for letter writing. Mimo looks a bit like this old Kilquut farmhouse we bought sight unseen. Skinny and leaning, with dirt on it so thick I don't reckon a bunch of bachelors like us'll ever get it scrubbed clean.
What can we check off?
  • Are Native peoples portrayed as . . . simple tribal people, now extinct?
  • Are there insulting overtones to the language in the book? Are racist adjectives used to refer to Indian peoples?
  • Are Native cultures presented in a condescending manner? Are there paternalistic distinctions between "them" and "us"?
  • Are Native peoples discussed in the past tense only, supporting the "vanished Indian" myth? Is the past unconnected to the present?
Or how about this:
About ten years ago, the Kilquut elders had a sit-down at their meetinghouse (big ramble of a place the Gladstones have overrun), and said, They're coming. We can't fight them. We can't become them. We can't leave.

The Kilquut argument, what Jess calls "their focal tenet" (which puts me in mind of you, Del, and those radical ideas you call religion), is that it's always better to die than kill. Easy way to wipe out your species, I say. I told you that before.

So the Kilquuts gathered themselves in a valley. All but the young'uns, who the elders hoped might grow up with no memory of how things'd been. Then the Kilquuts spoke some words they all knew, and the green lightning came down and killed them. The sky opened and poured a month straight, filling up that valley of the dead.
In addition to some things we've already checked off:
  • Are Native Nations presented as being responsible for their own "disappearance?"
  • Does the story encourage children to believe that Native peoples accepted defeats passively?
Continuing on:
After making sure Mimo was okay and not puking anymore, he went outside and cut a switch, then came back in and explained to Mimo, let's see if I can remember the words . . .

"Son, those arrows weren't rightly yours to . . . to . . ." Dad pointed at the green fire but couldn't say burn. "And someday, Mimo, maybe not tomorrow, but someday in the future, if I don't show you right now how it's wrong to break other people's things, it'll go bad for you."
Let's check off:
  • In modern times, are Indian people portrayed as childlike and helpless? Does a white authority figure – pastor, social worker, teacher- know better than Native people themselves what is "good for them?"
And this is just in the first half of the story before I turned it off. And it's not even all that was in the part I listened to. And Oyate doesn't have anything on their list about being magical.

It's not a new idea that there's a problem with speculative fiction writers who attempt to "subvert" or otherwise "neutralize" racist tropes by using their authorial control to make those tropes literally true in their world. So the Navi are literally connected to the earth. Patricia Wrede writes about pre-Columbian Americas that are literally "empty of people but full of dangerous animals, many of them magical." The beings that South Africa are subjecting to apartheid are literally insects. This is not subversion; this is entrenchment.

Finally, there's a general criterion on the Oyate list:
  • Is there anything in the story that would embarrass or hurt a Native child?
It's a question best answered by [personal profile] moniquill:

They hurt PEOPLE LIKE ME. The especially hurt CHILDEN LIKE ME. They hurt me because they are part of a cultural narrative that erases the reality of my existence. That claims that This is what NDNs were and Now they Are Gone isn't it Sad? But if our good readers had been there, OH IF ONLY THEY HAD BEEN THERE, they would have been some of the Good White People and would have Joined The Natives. Yes they would. Which neatly absolves them from having to think about the fact that their ancestors didn't and the lasting ramifications that has on native people living today. Everyone weeps cathartic tears and insists that they'd have helped the Na'vi fight to keep out the unobtamium miners, but precious few of them then go home and help the REAL FUCKING LIVE Dineh (Navajo, to those playing the white name game) fight the uranium miners TODAY in the REAL WORLD. And why should they? The story already absolved them.
Moniquill wrote this and much more because I bugged her about this story before I wrote up this post. As a result, she wrote a far more amazing response than I could hope to come up with, from which I took the above quote. She also subjected herself to the entire story, so if you want to get a taste of even worse things in the story (and even I was shocked at some of he quotes from later in the story), she's your person.


May. 5th, 2011 01:37 pm
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
Lotería Chicana sums up my antipathy toward the U.S.'s Cinco de Mayo in a positive way:
If Cinco de Mayo was a real holiday—instead of just an excuse to drink lots of tequila—there'd be some kind of gift giving or at least all Mexicans would get hugs. Even, better there'd be Cinco de Mayo miracles and claymation movies reenacting the Battle of Puebla. That would be neat and then maybe people would know the real reason for the season.
You can read her list of Cinco de Mayo wishes for General Zaragoza, as well.

Also, I would totally not mind hugs today.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
The Nigerian historian J.F. Afe Ajayi steers a sensible middle course between dramatization and trivialization of the effects of colonial rule: "Although the Europeans were generally masters of the colonial situation and had political sovereignty, they did not possess a monopoly of initiatve during the colonial period." We must therefore ask who held the historical initiative, as well as when and under what conditions. This approach throws into question the long-popular model of "impact and response," which held that the dynamic representatives of the "West" were those who acted, while the natives only had the option of reacting. In reality, the colonial situation is characterized by an ongoing struggle on the part of all concerned for opportunities to act. For the colonized this has also involved a struggle for human dignity.
—Jürgen Osterhammel, Colonialism
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
In a 1998 survey, three different groups of white people were asked whether they had black friends

One group was asked, "Are any of your good friends that you feel close to Black?" When asked directly, 42% of white people said they has good friends who are black.

The next group was asked three consecutive questions. First they were asked, "Do you have any good friends that you feel close to?" If they answered yes, they were asked "About how many good friends do you have?" Finally, they were asked, "How many of your good friends are Black?" When asked with this three-step approach, 24% of white people answered that one or more of those close friends was black.

The last group was asked, "Many people have some good friends they feel close to. Who are your good friends (other than your spouse)? Just tell me their first names. Is there anyone else?" Information was taken on the first five people mentioned, including race. When investigating social networks, only 6% of white people listed at least one black person among their five closest friends.

In contrast, when black people were asked the same question about white friends, the responses were 62%, 45%, and 15% respectively.
Why this happens. )
Tom W. Smith, "Measuring Inter-racial Friendships: Experimental Comparisons" [PDF]

While I was looking for this paper, I made this too:

A photograph of Stephen Colbert, smiling ecstatically and pointing at his 'black friend' Alan. Alan appears less than thrilled. Text reads: BBFF.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
I've been meaning to post this for a while, and I'm going to do so now, if for no other reason than I won't have to keep looking for it. I think Bonilla-Silva may have rephrased this more precisely in later revisions, but this is the version I have.
This argument [racialized social structures] clashes with social scientists' most popular policy prescription for "curing" racism, namely education. This "solution" is the logical outcome of defining racism as a belief. Most analysts regard racism as a matter of individuals subscribing to an irrational view, thus the cure is educating them to realize that racism is wrong. Education is also the choice "pill" prescribed by Marxists for healing workers from racism. The alternative theorization offered here implies that because the phenomenon has structural consequences for the races, the only way to "cure" society of racism is by eliminating its systemic roots. Whether this can be accomplished
democratically or only through revolutionary means is an open question, and one that depends on the particular racial structure of the society in question.
—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, "Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation.
tablesaw: Machete reveals his personal armory. "They just fucked with the wrong Mexican." (Wrong Mexican)
My ire was raised today reading [personal profile] kate_nepveu's writeup of her Arisia experience, specifically being on the panel of "Idols with Feet of Clay."

But specifically, I want to address one particular argumentative tack, seen in Ian Randal Strock's own recounting of the con and the panel:
On the programming side, I was on five panels (I was scheduled for two more, but missed them due to traffic). The most lively was the first, "Idols with Feet of Clay". It was a discussion of the question: "Can you still read the works of someone with whom you are on opposite sides politically?" The panel write-up specifically mentioned James P. Hogan's Holocaust denial and Orson Scott Card's opposition to homosexuality. Of the five panelists, I was the only one who said one ought to be able to divorce the art from the artist, and read the fiction regardless of one's view of the writer.
(Emphasis mine.) The phrase "divorce [or separate] the art from the artist [or vice versa]" is pretty key in these debates, and it is singled out on both sides of the debate. For example, [personal profile] nojojojo responds
Naturally he would be shocked, shocked I tell you, that people who are harmed by bigotry might not be able to divorce art from its artist, or "artistic" bigotry from its real, dangerous effect on the zeitgeist and law.
Nojojojo also links to an old post by [personal profile] catvalente which sarcastically says:
Oh, but it should be about the art, shouldn't it? We should separate the art from the artist.
But here's the thing: I think the phrase is a smokescreen.

I mean, when I think of "The Death of the Author," I'm thinking of an outlook that is designed to fundamentally empower readers over authors. So when it comes to, as Yuki_Onna calls it, fuckmuppetry, why is this pulled out as a defense of authors?

Clearly, these writers aren't referencing the same theory I'm thinking of. In fact, they're calling back to New Criticism. New Criticism also plays with the idea of the Intentional Fallacy, but it couples this with the Affective Fallacy, which says that an individual's reader's impressions have no place in interpreting art. Thus interpretation of art is decoupled from both the author and the reader (and history and a whole host of other things) so that it can just be capital-A Art.

And thus the sleight of hand. When writers like Strock call for everyone to divorce the art from the artist, they're actually calling for everyone to divorce the reader from the art.

Now, one can argue that this is appropriate when constructing formal criticism (though, be careful if you do so here, because there are some pretty heavey hitters reading). But the real problem is that the context of all of these previous statements—and of various other discussions regarding social justice issues and author fuckmuppetry—is not of criticism but of reading. The actual physical act of reading, and of the concommitant decisions of what books to buy or request. Reading is not a context from which one can divorce the reader.

And so this is why I'm officially calling bullshit on the "separate the art from the artist" line in these discussions. And I call for others who agree with me to not buy into the framing of our opponents, and call this tactic what it really is: separating the reader from reading.

Am I being unfair to Strock in particular in this analysis? I don't think so. From later in Kate Nepveu's report:
And then—well, I'm pretty sure I didn't actually shout this time. But Strock said something about sensitivity training and how it's supposed to keep people from saying offensive things, and he thinks that maybe we should having training in how not to be offended at things people say, because it just gives the speaker the power to upset you, so why not just ignore it, why get upset.
I mean, this is just the logical extension of divorcing the reader from the reading—divorcing the listener from the listening. I mean, surely, there must be some sort of instruction that may be given such that, in communication, one may receive the communication without reacting to it. That's how the brain works, after all.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
That sounds like a very nice title, but this is not a nice post.

Yeah, it's about Elizabeth Moon, who said unbelievable wrong and harmful things about immigration, assimilatin, and most especially Islam. There once were hundreds of comments carefully picking out the threads of ignorance from the post and exposing them for what they were, but they're all gone now.
The point here is that in order to accept large numbers of immigrants, and maintain any social cohesion, acceptance by the receiving population is not the only requirement: immigrants must be willing and able to change, to merge with the receiving population.
If you want to look at the power imbalance in the way "assimilation" is framed in America, it's right there. The two cultures involved aren't given equal or reciprocal duties. It's the minority's duty to change, and it's the majority's duty to accept the changes of the minority. In practice, it translates to:
If you change, then we will accept you.

If you don't change (or don't change enough), then we no longer have to accept you.
Because for Moon (and so many others) "social cohesion" is the safety of continuity afforded by cultural dominance. If you want evidence of this, well you can look to the plethora of personal responses that have sprung up in response to Moon's ignorance. [personal profile] deepad has links and comments, [personal profile] karnythia also has links. Highly recommended is [ profile] shweta_narayan's "Dissimilation"


May. 10th, 2010 04:47 pm
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
Cary Grant being chased by a crop-dusting airplane in North by Northwest. Text: 'You catch more flies with INDUSTRIAL PESTICIDES'

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