January 6th, 2013
|09:56 am - What happened in 2012|
I was just thinking that the biggest change I saw in 2012 is a kind of waking up about misogyny and sexual exploitation. Up until recently you just could not say that something (say a joke) was sexist or misogynist without being jeered at just for saying it. Suddenly it is something you can at least say sexism is bad in general conversation, even if people disagree with you. And I think - am I being optimistic - that some of the strategies misogynists use to shut down discussion are being recognised and named.
I have seen a similar change happen in my lifetime. Sometime about 1978 our whole culture woke up to racism in some way. What was acceptable in humour and drama just changed. I don't mean it suddenly all became lovely and harmonious and we all lived happily ever after but making 'Irish jokes' or 'Paki jokes' ceased to be respectable and normal almost overnight. Including one or two non-white faces in drama became expected (Blakes 7 is an example).
Also in the late 70s sexual exploitation of children became something that could be discussed. Actually, now I think about it, Blakes 7 is an example again. Again, a change in what was counted as 'funny' was a big part of it.
There have been serious issues raised in India and in the West about rape culture this year. I think an improvement can happen because it has happened before. That change in what can and can't be spoken, so that it is OK to complain, and not OK to condone.
December 24th, 2012
|12:54 pm - That Locus list|
I have stolen from nwhyte his list of the Locus poll of 'best' SF and fantasy novels of the 20th and 21st centuries. Bold means I have read it, italic means I didn't finish it.
Conclusion: I have read more SF than fantasy. Something has alienated me from mainstream SF over the past few years.
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|12:02 pm - Oxfam Christmas present|
Dear livejournal friends, I have bought you a Christmas present in lieu of sending cards. I donated to Oxfam 'train a teacher'. I could only send the e-card to one person so I have sent it to altariel because she introduced me to livejournal and Twitter.
But I think better than an e-card, here is the Oxfam video about the work they do under the train a teacher programme:
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December 21st, 2012
|10:04 pm - Gylfinir|
gylfinir has died. We spent one day together once and I have a scarf she made. I think about her quite often but I did not do enough to let her know.
December 8th, 2012
|12:12 pm - Seven Psychopaths|
This is why I have kept off livejournal, because once I start I can't stop posting. Damn. I haven't written one economically productive word this morning.
I went to see Seven Psychopaths, which is a film by the same guy who wrote and directed In Bruges. It is a great film. It's a comedy, but with quite a lot of violence in it, including against women. I feel I need to say that upfront, because some people might not want to see it for that reason.
It is a writerly film, with Colin Farrell as the writer's idealised alter ego, who is struggling to write the script to 'Seven Psychopaths'. I know self-referential films like that can be shit, but this one is good. It is clever and charismatic enough to carry through that dodgy premise. As well as Farrell it has Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson who are all funny and compelling.
I think the reduction of women to victimhood is a significant flaw in the film, and the authorial character being told off by Christopher Walken about it does not get him off the hook IMHO. Nevertheless I think it is one of the best films I have seen this year.
Films I would compare it to, apart from In Bruges of course, are Pulp Fiction and Big Lebowski and Repo Man. I wouldn't say it was as good as any of those, which are among my all-time best films, but it is good and within that intelligent dark comedy genre.
ETA Pete Bradshaw in the Guardian: wrong again about a genre film. He's a good critic but I think he lacks instinct in spotting the gold in mainstream films.
And back in September's Guardian Catherine Shoard gave it four stars:
Witty and inventive, cracklingly obscene and sheep-dunk bracing. And it suffers some of the same short-burn as a Tarantino flick, vividly impressive at the time, but all fireworks and no Aga, a film whose parts might be more than its sum. There are scenes of complete brilliance, Walken is better than he's been in years, cute plot loops and grace notes. Yet it doesn't quite cohere.
|11:37 am - The brutal experiment|
Here's an article in the New York Times expressing pity for the UK as the subject of a 'brutal' experiment to prove that austerity does not work. Anyone with any claim to economic savvy who said it might ever work should hang their head in shame.
It's ugly of me to say 'I told you so'. But it was very hard two years ago, being abused and condescended to by Lib Dems. One Lib Dem (the only person I have ever defriended on livejournal*) called me a 'Nazi' to my face. To my virtual face I mean. I do consider the evidence of the past two years shows that people like me who said it was a disaster coming, were right. We were bloody right. It is no consolation. It is literally no consolation at all.
I don't think what happened two years ago was merely a widespread intellectual error, like the geologists who disbelieved in continental drift. I think it shows that reason is a figleaf hiding murky emotional reaction. I actually think this disjunct between overt reason and hidden motive can be worst among atheist/ rationalist/ SF-Lovin'/ computer nerdy types. I know I am part of that group. I don't exclude myself.
Irrational and cruel and destructive impulses slobber around in the subconscious and all the time we talk louder and louder about intellectual matters and books and university courses. Cleverness is being used to think up pretend reasons for actions which are rooted in unexamined impulses.
In this case I think the powerful desire to be brutal was much more significant than the flimsy theoretical idea that brutality would work.
* I should say, apart from two people who unfriended me first for saying rude things about the Bible and Science. That's not bad is it, three fallings-out in ten years.
November 11th, 2012
Sorry I have just had to put comments on friends-only because of spam. Hopefully not for long.
November 10th, 2012
|09:33 am - Television cinematography as art|
Can you tell this is my one time a week I allow myself to much about online? Back to work in a few moments.
Here is a beautiful video showcasing the Cinematography of Breaking Bad.
What I want from art of all kinds is to feel the beauty and horror of life, to wake up from the kind of dull trance we fall into (I fall into, I think other people do): as Wordsworth said 'Getting and Spending we lay waste our powers'.
I think that video works as a standalone.
There are clever things in particular camera shots. For example, sitting in front of the desert sunset you see Walt is eating a hoop-shaped thing. That is a 'FunYun', and he has mocked Jesse for eating them. Walt eating Jesse's food is a gentle sign of their reconciliation. In the next series, on the day they destroy the camper van, Walt sees a bag of FunYuns in the van, and he reconciles with Jesse. This kind of narrative thread adds a further layer to the shots. But I think the video stands alone as a piece of TV poetry.
|06:54 am - Tom Watson, please take special care|
I think the senior Tories caught up in this abuse scandal are horrible selfish people, but I don't think most of them are child abusers. I think Tom Watson MP is good to his core, and has done so many good things. But I think he is at risk of making an error.
It must be very difficult for him. He was told things which must have seemed almost impossible to credit, about phone hacking by newspapers, then about Jimmy Saville and so on. And all the allegations so far have been shown to be true, and there had been a massive establishment cover-up. What an emotional impact that must have had on him.
But now, in my opinion, unscrupulous or emotionally damaged people may have started to take advantage of him.
Here is what he wrote this week:
As I type this blog post, I’m half-smiling about how insane all this appears. It sounds like I’ve taken leave of my senses – just like they said I had during the early days of the hacking scandal. Maybe I have.
I don't believe he has taken leave of his senses. I think he is - quite understandably - overwhelmed by how many seemingly-impossible things have proved to be true, that it is hard for him to know what to credit. This does not make him bad or stupid. But it makes him vulnerable.
Many ordinary people have contacted me about suspicions they have had of a wider wrongdoing – in some cases so heinous it made me cry. They have talked of psychopaths marking children with Stanley knives to show “ownership”.
I think the knife thing is an urban legend. And I think there is a big risk that individual details like this will be proved false and people will use that to discredit the overall story. People want to restore the status quo. They want to believe it is all about specific individuals, who can be exposed once they are safely dead. People really, really want to believe that powerful people are basically benign. So Watson - a good, brave man - needs to be very careful this week.
|06:29 am - The Tory abuse allegations|
The Tory I didn't want to name the other day was Lord McAlpine. It now transpires that it was sensible to be cautious. It appears the abused children were told the person abusing them was McAlpine when he was actually some other rich old man. The BBC fucked up for the second time, which is tragic.
I also know at least two of the names that were given to David Cameron (on air by Philip Schofield) - and I don't believe these two men to be paedophiles. Although they are senior Tories whose policies I hate I think they are innocent of this. They were both part of an upper crust gay subculture in the 80s and 90s. I am pretty certain of that because a very affluent gay man I used to be close to was part of the same subculture. I have never made anything of that knowledge, because I don't believe in outing harmless sexual proclivities. One of the two is an affable enough chap, the other is a nasty piece of work in my opinion. It doesn't matter, I think they are both innocent.
On the subject of sexual abuse I stand by what I have been saying all week:
Obviously there are secrets - like who exactly did what and when - but secrecy is there to protect the incompetence and weakness of the powerful. It doesn't give politicians and their pet journalists special power or competence, quite the reverse, it allows them to be rubbish... The only thing that happens when details come out is that what has been frankly obvious to anyone with eyes can't be denied any longer - not the individuals but that attitude that some people are expendable, usable, less important. Although of course some people will bitterly continue to deny.
sheenaghpugh rightly responded that the names of individuals are important for prosecution. Yes, and I won't deny there is also a natural human tendency to want to know names and faces - that's how our mind's work.
But the overall issue doesn't change - which is that child abuse has been allowed to flourish by a culture which says rich white men are more important than all other types of human being. That their word is more reliable. That their sexual needs are the norm. That their pleasure is more important than the pain of children. A rape culture in other words.
What I am scared about is that people will focus on names, and when a particular name is shown to be false they will think this solves the problem. It does not. The names are - I won't say a red herring - but the insider knowledge is less important than what should be clear to all. Rape culture is evil and needs to be changed.