tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)
Hey, let's restart the inventory. I've been putting this off, but can't for much longer. You see, last season, Hulu kept five shows on backlog, and so I would write these to catch up with the episodes disappearing from the cite. But the new season is coming, so Hulu's about to take them down, so I've got to finish this off fast.

Let's see, how did this work . . .

An explanation of 'Full Inventory' )
Anyway, last time I promised to "look at the word missing from my icon and grapple with a form of oppression that I'm not very good with." If you look at the icon, and compare it to my inventory of the pilot, you'll see that there's a word missing: crazy. In between writing that post and making the icon, I read a post discussing the word and its relation to persons with disabilities. Don't remember what it was, but this similar post just popped up on FWD, so that's helpful.

But another issue, the one that resonated when I watched this episode, was the way that "crazy" becomes an umbrella term that labels all persons with any type of mental disability as dangerous.
Lewis Caroll's Alice . . . was as mad as a hatter. And Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Caroll, was not writing books, he was chronicling this young woman's descent into a sociopathic madness in all of his books. He didn't write these books, these are warehouse fabrications.
It's not uncommon to read the Alice stories as referring to the view of a person with a mental disability, but that view doesn't correspond in any way with the Alice portrayed in the episode, except under the umbrella concepts of being "crazy," "mad," and "insane" to link one form of mental disability to another and then to criminality.

So, what about the stuffs:

Artifact: Studio 54 Disco Ball
What does it do? It represents "trapped desires refracted by light, sound, sex, mind-altering drugs into a disco ball." In the Warehouse, it reflects light in a sparkling pattern and plays "I Will Survive" (though the online version didn't get the rights to the song). In the wild, it "projects yearning and craving. . . . It imparts a grim stampeding inhumanity against anything decent."
Is it in any way accurate? A bit fanciful, but nothing out of the ordinary. One special note, though: as a stinger to the episode, Arite revelas that Steven Rubell, who was one of the co-founders of Studio 54, he considered calling his club "Wonderland." (We'll get to why that's apropos.) When I heard that, it had an urban legend too-good-to-verify feel to it. So of course I tried to verify it. I expected to find it everywhere, because it's that kind of interesting trivia, but instead it was nowhere. Apparently this factoid was made of whole cloth. If it spreads, remember that this is where it started.
Does it belong in America's Attic? Studio 54 was definitely in the United States.

Artifact: Chip from the Jubilee Grand
What does it do? Allows the holder to see for a brief period into the future. The experience is probably addictive, and repeated use causes burn damage to the holder.
Is it in any way accurate? The Jubilee Grand is a completely fictitious casino, but the Warehouse 13 wiki (which has bulked up a bit since I last wrote these) suggests that it's a reference to the fire at the MGM Grand Casino.
Does it belong in America's Attic? Nothing about the fictitious history suggests otherwise.

Artifact: Lewis Caroll's Looking-Glass
What does it—wait didn't we do this one already? Yes, we did. During the Full Inventory of "Resonance."
What . . . did it do? It allows a person to interact with a "double" of some sort, and lets objects pass through to the other side. This is useful for playing table tennis without a partner.
And now what does it do? It . . . I don't even know. The spirit of Alice Liddel is trapped inside it for some reason that is apparently not related to her knowing Caroll as a child. And when there's multiple mirrors, it can escape into the body of someone else, which gets trapped in the mirror.
Is it in any—what? I know, right? There's just nothing cohesive about it.
Seriously. But is it in any way accurate? Who even knows anymore?
Does it belong in America's Attic? Despite having been ripped to shreads narratively, I'm still going to go with the previous conclusion of no.
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.
tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)
I finally did it.
The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite>
The most fun thing was researching Mexican fonts. I used a Flickr group showing slides from Mexico: Forging the Character, a presentation by Isaías Loaiza Ramírez. I went with Luchita Payol, (though if it'd been free, I might've used Aztlán (PDF).
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An explanation of 'Full Inventory' )
When fans are confronted with the problematic and uncomfortable aspects of their favorite things, they often reflectively say, "Well, you're just looking for things to be offended by." This is not generally the case ("Pilot" and "Elements" were pretty offensive on their face), but with this episode, I have come to realize that I am in the place where I'm looking for things to be offended by, as evidenced by the fifteen minutes I spent freeze-framing my DVR to copy the list of possible artifacts on a blackboard in the background.

Yeah, I'm looking for things. In my defense, the show seems to waver between wanting to reward viewers for knowing history and expecting viewers to know fuck all about history. I never know when I'm going to be pleasantly surprised and when I'm going to be pleasantly disgusted. The board was mostly fun, the MainGuffin made me yell at the screen.

'Saracen' Does Not Mean What You Think It Means )

Next week: a Samurai sword.
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
An explanation of 'Full Inventory' )
Remember how, earlier today, I was kind of impressed with the research and presentation of history in "Claudia"? Yeah, that's not going to happen again. "Elements" deals with several interconnected artifacts related to Native American culture, specifically, the Lenape tribe, also known as the Delaware. (It appears there are currently two tribes currently recognized by the U.S. government.) And it goes about as well as you would expect when you're dealing with agents of the United States government trying to take control of native culture and keep it "safe" without any actual Native Americans involved. The best thing that can be said about this episode is that it looked like somebody read a book before writing all of this horribly wrong BS.

Spoilers for 'Elements' )

And, you know, if I'm going to keep doing these, I'm totally going to need an icon of the Crazy Mexican Murder Rock.
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
An explanation of 'Full Inventory' )
This is a short inventory, but it's remarkable for being the first episode where the show got more right historically than it got wrong, including striking a researched blow against heteronormativity in the popular concept of history.

Spoilers for 'Claudia' )
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
I'm going to go into a bit more detail about the appropriation and misrepresentation of culture and history by looking at the artifacts mentioned in episodes of Warehouse 13. For a brief overview of what I'm talking about in this series, read "An Extraordinary Rendition of History; Items in Warehouse 13 that Don't Belong in "America's Attic". I won't be going into too great detail of research; if I prove something horribly inaccurate, I do so using only minimal Googling. Corrections and clarifications are thus welcome.
I'm doing both together because they're relatively low on things and things to say about those things.

Spoilers for 'Resonance' )

Spoilers for 'Magentism' )
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
I was originally going to do this as part of the Pilot inventory, but they didn't play the credits in the pilot, so I decided to keep them separate. There was enough to say in that post anyway.
I'm going to go into a bit more detail about the appropriation and misrepresentation of culture and history by looking at the artifacts mentioned in episodes of Warehouse 13. For a brief overview of what I'm talking about in this series, read "An Extraordinary Rendition of History; Items in Warehouse 13 that Don't Belong in "America's Attic". I won't be going into too great detail of reasearch; if I prove something horribly inaccurate, I do so using only minimal Googling. Corrections and clarifications are thus welcome.
Since these items are in the credits sequence at the beginning of each show, I'm going to assume that they aren't spoilers. But on the other hand, because it's just the credits sequence, things are short and kind of sketchy. We only get a few seconds to look at the artifact, along with some associated images. The credits also feature the Tesla gun and the Pharnsworth from the Pilot.

ETA: An embedded video of the credits, from Hulu. (U.S. viewers only; how appropriate!)

Artifact: Egyptian Scarab Carving
What does it do? IT'S ALIVE! We don't see it doing anything else.
Is it in any way accurate? It looks accurate enough to me entirely untrained eye.
Does it belong in America's Attic? Egypt's been demanding the Rosetta Stone and other Egyptian antiquities for quite some time. I imagine they'd also want to take a look at the living stone that's flying out of their past.

Artifact: East-Asian Sword (probably Japanese)
What does it do? No idea. All we see is a photograph that appears to me to be Japan, then there's a sword, being swordy.
Is it in any way accurate? I couldn't begin to tell.
Does it belong in America's Attic? The image seems to situate it in a non-U.S. culture and history, so no.
Update: This sword appears to be the Honjo Masamune featured in "Implosion." You can find a lot more information about it in that entry.

Artifact: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Pen
What does it do? I don't know, but I think it's covered in blood.
Is it in any way accurate? To the best of my knowledge, the Brothers Grimm did in fact use pens.
Does it belong in America's Attic? While "Grimm's Fairy Tales" forms a bedrock for much fantasy and children's literature in American, the Grimm brothers were German, as were the various storytellers who lent them their words. Another no.

Artifact: Camera with Native Americans Trapped Inside that Possibly Makes Them Disappear (see update below)
What does—wait, what did you say? Look, I don't know any more than you do, and I've been studying those three seconds of the credits for a while now. There's a camera, like it's from the nineteenth century. In the lens, you can see a photograph reflected. That photograph appears in the next frame, where you can see four Native Americans.
But what does that—what? I'm just telling you what I saw. There's a artifact camera that appears in another episode, but I have no idea if the two are supposed to be related or not.
Is it in any way accurate? If I had some sort of standard to judge accuracy, I might be able to tell you, but this thing is just a mess.
Does it belong in America's Attic? I have no idea, but you know what, I'm going to go with no just to be safe.
Update: [ profile] portnoyslp points out that one of the Native Americans in the picture is disappearing. Well, that's much better.

Artifact: Moon Rock
What does it do? Levitates, at least.
Is it in any way accurate? It certainly looks moony.
Does it belong in America's Attic? Either the moon rock has powers related to an American astronauts who collected it, or the moon just generally has weird powers like that. But since the moon is (to our knowledge) empty, I think it can probably stay.

Artifact: Mirror Ball
What does it do? Gets the party started! I guess.
Is it in any way accurate? Unless mirror balls were somehow different a few decades ago, I'd say it's accurate. The images seem to be evoking a - vibe.
Does it belong in America's Attic? There's definitely an issue of appropriation of disco into the White mainstream America, but without more knowledge about where this disco ball came from, I'm going to lean on it being a part of American history and culture.

There you have it; America == moon rocks and disco balls.
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
Following on with my previous posts, I'm going to go into a bit more detail about the appropriation and misrepresentation of culture and history by looking at the artifacts mentioned in episodes of Warehouse 13. For a brief overview of what I'm talking about in this series, read "An Extraordinary Rendition of History; Items in Warehouse 13 that Don't Belong in "America's Attic". I won't be going into too great detail of reasearch; if I prove something horribly inaccurate, I do so using only minimal Googling. Corrections and clarifications are thus welcome. This post obviously contains spoilers for the pilot.

Crazy Mexican Murder Rock, No! )

It's been pointed out that last night's episode includes a "Native American artifact" and "a sacred place that [Pete and Myka] deem worthy of protection."

There's no way that could possibly go wrong!
tablesaw: Weremerican! (Weremerican)
First, let's continue the series:And an explanation.

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

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

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

In short, these artifacts are history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An extraordinary rendition indeed.

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

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

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

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

I am at the beach now, and will be again tomorrow. So that will influence my posting.
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Lewis Caroll's lookingglass
Mary Queen of Scots' croquet mallet (implied)
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Warehouse 13 is the new original show on the channel formerly known as SciFi, although "original" might be a bit of a stretch. The whole premise is cribbed together from other places: the warehouse is from Indiana Jones, and the partners are a cross between X-Files and Bones. Speaking of Bones, the male lead is David Boreanaz lite, and the female lead looks like she's been cribbed from Fringe. And every week, I guess, they're going to go out and grab some crazy thing that's making crazy things happen.

And yet, there's enough actual originality to make the whole thing worthwhile. Saul Rubinek does an incredible job as Artie, who goes the extra mile in salesmanship. Whenever he's on screen, I actually start to believe what's going on, which is pretty amazing. And CCH Pounder's brief appearances as Frederick are fantastic too.

The art design is trying to show off the idea that this has been going on for over a hundred years, so there's some steampunk design is highlighted, even though it goes right alongside tech from more recent times as well.

There's some weird Americentrism going on (why does an "Aztec blood stone" (really?) belong in "America's Attic"?) and the interaction between the two leads still doesn't mesh well. Overall, I wouldn't particularly recommend it, but as a TV junkie, I'm probably going to keep enjoying it.


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