tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)

I'm trying to write a thing about stereotypes, but it's hard because I haven't been writing for a while. While procrastiresearching, I started asking my (non-Latina) girlfriend whether she thought "Mexicans love Morrissey" was a stereotype. She had never heard anything like that. She wanted to know, in response, whether "Mexicans love Mariachi music" was a stereotype.

What I'm trying to get at (in the other piece, the one I'm still not writing) is the way in which stereotypes aren't generalizations, but ideological statements that justify the hierarchical positions of different social groups. "Mexicans are lazy" and "Mexicans are hard-working" are contradictory, but each works to justify Latin@s being stuck in labor-intensive jobs without promotional paths in the United States. But "Mexicans love Mariachi music" doesn't quite get at that directly.

What I wanted to say didn't quite crystallize until I saw Bankuei's post/tweets:

Marginalized folks are punished for their cultural markers, appropriators are rewarded for using other folk’s cultural markers.

It really doesn’t even matter WHAT the thing is being appropriated, it’s really about appropriating as a means of reinforcing the power structure about WHO is allowed to take and WHO is expected to be taken from.

"Cultural marker" was precisely the concept I was looking for. It's not just that Mariachi is a form of music from Mexico, it's that it's one of the cultural markers used in the United States to stand in for "Mexican/Latin@/Spanish-Speaking Brown Person", along with "cactus," "sombrero," "poncho," "tequila," "mustache," and "Cinco de Mayo." In fact, if you're looking for the cultural markers for Latin@, just go to a "Cinco de Mayo" "celebration" by white people, and you'll see "Mexican" neatly packaged. Identifying any of those trite markers is a reminder of how Mexican culture is marginalized by its differences, and various other Latino cultures are erased through homogenization. "Mexicans love Morrissey" doesn't fit anywhere on that ideological map of the dominant group.

But "Mexicans love Morrissey" still feels kind of stereotypy to me; why would that be? Well, looking at my own definition, it must have an ideological grounding that resonates with me. Perhaps that's because I'm also a Mexican-American who also likes Morrissey and listened to him in high school.(It also clearly resonates with others, like Rio Yañez, whose graphic is at the top of this post, and has used Morrissey as a muse several times.) And it is ideological, it runs counter to (or at least parallel to) the status quo.

I don't know that there's quite a word for that kind of non-dominant stereotype. They're around, but they don't get reproduced by the dominant culture in the same way, and you're not going to hear about them unless you're part of a group, or at least have actual positive interaction with that group. "Black don't crack" strikes me as one as well (with revolutionary messages of both beauty and resilience).

I don't have an ending, so here's a clip of Matt Smith comparing a Japanese fighter to Eeyore and Morrissey.

Rio Yañez draws Matt Smith imagining Eeyore and Morrissey with a sword.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)

STEPHEN GREENBLATT: When I was writing the glosses for the Norton Shakespeare, I remember doing the glosses for Much Ado About Nothing and I came to the line in which Claudio says, I would marry her "were she an Ethiope." So I had to explain what "were she an Ethiope" meant, and I said in the marginal gloss, "Ethiope, i.e., black and therefore, according to the racist Elizabethan stereotype, ugly."

Now, someone criticized me for being too politically correct by saying "racist stereotype." But if you're actually faced with the practical question of how you're going to gloss the thing, you have to say "Ethiope, i.e., Ethiopian, i.e., black," that is clear. But if you're saying I'd marry her "were she an Ethiope," you have to explain what that means, and you could say "i.e., black and therefore ugly," but what does that mean if you're writing a book for a contemporary audience? You have to acknowledge that the values have drastically shifted.

You could also point out, if you were doing a fuller account, that Claudio was actually a very unpleasant character and that happens to therefore qualify this, but it isn't the whole story. The whole story definitely involves a broader, not just the defects of Claudio's character, but a certain set of broader Elizabethan understandings that Shakespeare routinely draws upon, often to make paradoxical effects. He loves this black mistress, the dark lady, and he makes much of the fact that he loves her despite the fact that she's dark and therefore violates the canons of beauty. But you can't begin to understand this if you don't understand something about the values of Shakespeare's time and also recognize that they're not necessarily our values.

Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing comes out tonight, and I wanted to quote this passage because this very racist line is included in the film. It didn't have to be, filming or staging Shakespeare means cutting a lot of dialogue (unless you're Kenneth Branagh and want a movie with an intermission). What's more,an anti-semitic line in the film was pointed cut (Benedick saying, of Beatrice, "If I do not love her, then I am a Jew").

In the film, this line is framed very pointedly. As Claudio speaks it, a black woman is framed in the background, making it particularly clear who is being slurred. This deliberate shot is abrupt and unsettling, which contributes to it becoming a laugh line for most audiences. (The audience I saw this with was mostly white; I don't know the makeup of other preview audiences that have reported laughter.) In defending this shot, Whedon has compared this to something that might happen in The Office (interview)

But while it might seem similar on the surface (close enough to encourage laughter by recognizing the form) there are some very important differences. The Office features several characters of different races, all of whom are characterized as having complex lives that overturn the tokenism that American corporate bureaucracy (as embodied by Michael Scott) wants to reduce them to. In contrast, all of the speaking roles and a wide majority of the extras in Much Ado are white. The black woman in this shot isn't seen before or after, and isn't particularly in focus while Claudio speaks either. She exists only to be slurred by one of the leads.

Whedon is also struggling against the narrative of Shakespeare's original source, which wants to unite its opposing forces into honor and harmony. Whedon does a good job of showing Claudio's turn to the dark side, but by the time the slur comes around, Claudio has done his penance and is being redeemed. That's not a narrative that The Office generally worries about (outside of the Pam & Jim's story, which is a more traditional romantic comedy plot).

It creates a very pointed hierarchy. Shaming a white woman at a public wedding is a grievous sin that must be redeemed, but shaming a black woman at a public wedding, eh we'll just let that slide because she's not the bride (never the bride) and we're running out of time.

One reviewer argued that the message of The Office is “Yes, racism still exists, but you are not alone.” But what we see in that moment of Much Ado About Nothing is that the black woman is completely alone; she is isolated, out of focus, denied a voice, in that shot, and in the rest of the movie as well. But for the cast of white characters, well, it's a bit awkward, but hey, you know, Claudio's a good guy. He was really sad at that funeral. Besides, do you even know who that woman is? I mean, are you sure she was invited, because I haven't talked to her.

I don't know what other people think when they see that shot. I suspect that many feel, without even thinking about it, that with the tension of the moment, and the similarity to other, better, comedies about race, laughter was necessary and appropriate. But I know that what I was thinking was that woman probably spent a long time getting ready, choosing her dress, getting her hair made up, feeling really pretty, and then suddenly everyone was looking at her while the groom said black women are ugly and terrible.

I didn't laugh.

Crossposted on Tumblr)

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: 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: A twenty-sided die glows with the power of the Great Old Ones. (Cthulhu Icosahedron)
I've been avoiding Community because, well, what [personal profile] mswyrr said. But I also know a lot of people who really enjoy it, and I kept seeing fun vids focusing on Troy and Abed. So today, after running through my queue of Daily Show and Colbert Report, when Hulu suggested that my next show be the most recent episode of Community, my first thought was no.

When I saw the title was "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," my second thought was maybe.

When I realized the teaser image was one of the characters in Drow Blackface, I was in morbid curiosity mode.

And then . . . it was good?

I still don't know how I feel about the Drow Blackface issue. It was clearly called out and the defense was noted as hypocritical, but it was superfluous, which I always wonder about. I leave it to someone more experienced to read.

And the show seems to have moved away from privileged white guy being the star to focusing on the ensemble? Maybe? If anyone wants to campaign for or against, I'm all ears.

But what struck me the most was that instead of a parade of geek references, the episode actually plumbed the depth of the social aspect of games. And I think the fact that most of the characters weren't gamers, it made it easier to cut through the cruft of references. Instead of owlbears and beholders, there was a fundamental breakdown of the social contract and conflict over the role of the DM. There's powergaming through metagaming. There's a conflict over role-playing versus roll-playing. There are hooks and callbacks. There's a struggle over the purpose of the game. And it generally seems to give anyone watching a sense of why they might be interested in playing a game like this.

Although the game they were playing was actually in the show was (loosely interpreted) first- or second-edition AD&D, it seemed to be tracing the steps of Forge theory.

The writing staff seems to be mostly ignorant of gaming, which might be the point. Telling a funny story with a role-playing game is different than telling a funny story about a role-playing game.
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
Next week, my desktop turns eight, which explains why it's all creaky crappy doing anything at all.

I'm going to need a new one soon, and I may possibly get one on Friday, again. I have no idea what I'm looking for anymore, though. Tips appreciated.

A happy holiday for everyone. Stay safe, and remember the truth about our history.
tablesaw: Walt Besa, Junior Associate at Wolfram & Hart, Competition and Anti-Trust. (Portrayed by James Roday) (Walt Besa)
"Gus, don't be the only black male lead on cable television."

Nice one, Psych.
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"
tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)
I guess it's time to boycott Arizona. Again.
A bitch supports the idea of a boycott mostly because I think people should be warned that their family trip could turn into an apartheid experience quicker than flies gather on shit.
—Angry Black Bitch, "On Arizona's new law..."

The boycott was supported by Arizona congressman Raúl Grijalva back on Thursday (when there was still a chance of the governor vetoing the bill).
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., closed down his Tucson and Yuma district offices Friday afternoon, after a man called the Tucson office twice threatening to "come in there and blow everybody's head off," and then go to the U.S.-Mexico border to "shoot any Mexicans that try to come across," an aide says.
—Salon, "Rep. Raúl Grijalva closes Tucson office after death threats"

Which raises the question, can I boycott a place that seems so intent on making sure that I come in the first place? I mean, when the elected official tells everyone that they really ought to stay away from the state they represent, it's not so much a boycott as critical advice.
We've grown accustomed to those travel warnings that the U.S. State Department issues every so often, advising U.S. citizens to "exercise extreme caution" when visiting parts of Mexico -- usually after some new shootout or gruesome slaying.

Now it's Mexico's turn to say: watch out. The Mexican government Tuesday issued its own travel warning, urging Mexican citizens to be careful in Arizona.

. . .

Although details on how the law will be enforced remain unclear, the [Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry] said, "it must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time."
—La Plaza, Mexico turns table on travel advisory, issues warning on trips to Arizona

On the other fronts, groups like MALDEF and the ACLU are preparing challenges, and and you can push Washington on Immigration Reform, as the issue takes itself off the back burner.

Moreover, Public Enemy.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Been feeling sick. Spent most of yesterday in bed and still didn't sleep well. I've got some sort of stomach bug that's keeping me sidelined. But I will not let it stop me from seeing double/triple features this week.

No RPG last week, and possibly none this week, but I did manage to get some boardgaming in with [ profile] cramerica and [ profile] ojouchan. Games played: Bang, Red November, Werewolf, and Roll through the Ages. I got hosed in Bang, by the cards as well as the players, but we squeaked out a win in the cooperative Red November. (One gnome died at the very end, but everyone else survived.) Werewolf was meh, which is usually my opinion. And I really enjoyed Roll through the Ages, which had a lot of nice strategy in a simple presentation.

Three weeks ago, we were talking about Bioshock during RPG gaming. Another players was working their way through it and was a bit behind me. Two weeks ago, the other guy had finished the game, and I'd advanced another level. WHUT?

Shamed, I've been trying to hurry my gameplaying, but I'm a naturally slow player. And that caution has taken its toll. I've got way too much money, and when I try to spend it, I usually find that I don't have any thing I need to buy. I think I'm pretty close to the end now, though.

A map of the Southwest United States. The state of Arizona is red, and the label has been replaced with 'Police.' Drawn by Lalo Alcaraz.

Holy shit, Arizona!

It looks like Brewer signed the bill on Friday hoping to bury it in the news cycle. Campaigns like Alto Arizona are still set up to leverage a veto, so it's not clear what's going to happen going forward. But there's a demonstration planned for tomorrow, so I imagine there'll be a new course of action come Monday morning.

In other racism takedowns:

Fourth place in an icon contest. Hey, Dan, want a Ratio Hornblower icon?

Ratio Hornblower, from Smile Time
tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
It must be a nice privilege to tell someone to overlook the oppressive elements of a program, because it was helpful to you.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, quoted in "The F Word: On Feminism, Being an Ally & Social Justice" by Dumi Lewis.

It's from a larger interview about dealing with privilege. I've been trying to keep that line close to me.

It's essentially what I've been trying to say about PUA defenders (most recently in [ profile] theferrett's journal). It also runs in nicely with [ profile] thete1's "'I know it's racist, Te, but the special effects look awesome!'"
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I am thankful for my family, the one I was born into and the one I'm marrying into.

Things to remember:

Deconstructing the Myth of the First Thanksgiving, and a number of good links at The Angry Black Woman Blog

The Mumbai Attacks, One Year Later (via [personal profile] deepad)
tablesaw: A trial sign ("This trail is OPEN") against a blue sky in Los Angeles's Griffith Park. (Hiking (Open Trails))
I'm running a game for [ profile] ojouchan, [ profile] cramerica, [personal profile] amythyst, and maybe [ profile] thefreak (who's will probably be working) and [ profile] pbchris (who hasn't let us know whether he's coming glare). Ojou asked for Call of Cthulhu, which I've run before, but I decided to switch to Trail of Cthulhu, which looked awesome and is nicely streamlined. I'm finishing up writing my notes now, which is good, because I still keep moving things around as I do it. But two things have been bouncing through my mind.

(There are no spoilers for the game in this post.)

One, it's awesome that the places that I walk to when I want to clear my head are exactly the setting of the game I'm writing. I live just a few blocks away from the old Krotona Colony. Krotona was a colony for Theosophy, an esoteric religion that still exists today. (So does the colony; it moved to Ojai in 1926.)

A regular feature in my walks is this stairway, which served as the southern entrance to the colony. I knew that several of the buildings up there were from the colony, but I didn't realize how many. A review of the architecture of the area (available as a PDF) has this to say:
Nearly all of Krotona's major and many of its minor buildings still stand occupied, though all have been to some extent remodeled and most changed dramatically in function. Together they comprise what may well be the largest coherent group of architecturally significant, Theosophical structures in the western hemisphere.
And sure enough, looking through the pictures, I kept recognizing the less flamboyant buildings as ones I walked past.

Tomorrow's adventure begins at this house, though not with its then owners, the parents of Mary Astor.

Second, I've always wondered the extent to which Cthulhu roleplaying games are fundamentally racist. Not in the sense of mechanically dealing with 1920s American race relations in roleplay. More in the sense of whether Lovecraft's stories structurally racist, whether they contain or foster or support ideas of the primacy of whiteness. There's no doubt that Lovecraft was a serious racist, even for the 1920s. (If you doubt it, read this; you can get the gist by looking at the title in the URL.) But the last time I ran the game, Ojou drew up a character that was essentially her grandmother, and it threatened to break the game. Not because of min-maxing or anything, just in having a view of the world that was not the WASP academic worldview that Lovecraft relies upon. That worldview is necessary for the horror to work, and as a result it supports it in the reader. Add a character that doesn't fit into that worldview (like a rich black woman withconnections to other African-American practitioners of Vodoun), and the story completely changes.

The role-playing games are very good at breaking down the stories of Lovecraft (and other Mythos writers), and examining them can give a sense of what's there structurally. There's definitely a sense of extended Terra Nullius. The Mythos contains a whole host of gods, creatures, and alien races that populated earth long before "humanity." And yet, non-White humans (like the native Tongva of Southern California, or ancient or even contemporary Africans) seem to have regular contact with this mentally toxic existence.

Trail of Cthulhu takes Call of Cthulhu's legendary "Sanity" stat and breaks it into Sanity and Stability. Stability is what many people consider to be "sanity"; it's the ability to hold yourself together when terrible things happen, whether they're natural or supernatural. Sanity is specifically tied to knowledge of the "Cthulhu Mythos." From the ToC manual:
Sanity is the ability to believe in, fear for, or care about any aspect of the world or humanity as we know it: religion, science, family, natural beauty, human dignity, even "normal" immorality. The horrible truth of the Mythos is that Sanity measures your ability to believe a comforting lie . . . . It is perhaps best understood as a long-term measure of how close you are to fully realizing the bleak and awful reality of the cosmos.
Given all this (and some other things), I start to see Lovecraft's take on horror as one in which Whiteness and its privileges is equivalent with "humanity." Horror comes from the threat to Whiteness, the comfortable (and comforting) lie that is threatened by incursion from or exposure to the Other, who are alien and unhuman. It's an attitude and analogy that does permeate the structure of Lovecraftian horror, and I'm trying to find ways to neutralize it.
tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)
An explanation of 'Full Inventory' )
When I first saw the previews for "Implosion" I was really excited. The featured line of dialogue was teasing that the Warehouse had "competition," the artifact in question was a Japanese sword, and I got the slight impression that the mysterious competitor attacking Myka and Pete with another Tesla might have been Asian. "Aha!" I thought, "perhaps Japan will be another nation with a Warehouse 13–like initiative. That could do a little bit to relieve the Americentrism of the show's concept."

It could. But it won't.

I'm not going to go into spoilery detail about the fucked-uppedness of what happened in the show, but here's a bit of casting news. Dennis Akayama, the Asian-Canadian actor featured in this week's episode, will not appear again, while the Welshman that married Kirstie Alley on Cheers will have a recurring role.

So, status quo it shall be.

This week's show spoilers are separated by an open letter . . . )
Dear Warehouse 13:

While it's odd for a geeky show such as yours to have so few people unable to spend a few minutes researching on the Internet, I understand that's mostly par for the course. However, your show seems to have a desperate need for someone who can do basic arithmetic. I graciously offer my services as someone with decades of experience subtracting numbers accurately. I will, of course, expect an exorbitant consulting fee.

. . . followed by more discussion of the show mimicking the history it denies. )

As a final note, it only just occurred to me, in thinking about this episode, that "samurai sword" is something said in English, but "knight sword" is not.

Next week: I look at the word missing from my icon and grapple with a form of oppression that I'm not very good with.

Also, Gloria Gaynor.


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