Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I love it when middle-aged right-wing dudes like NYT columnists David Brooks, and now the odious John Tierney, attempt to address gender issues. They always come off like spectacular doofuses, at least to those of us who've spent a lot of time in cultural studies.
Today, in the second of his massively unscientific columns about women's "innate" inability to compete, Tierney attempts to explain why Scrabble champions tend to be male, and why women wait in hotel lobbies looking for rock stars, as the product of very dubious evolutionary biology, without once examining cultural factors. He pretty much dismissed the role of socialization in his previous column.
While I'm not saying the brain has no role in our behavior, you absolutely cannot discuss gender without examining culture. Learned behavior is an umbrella that encompasses, and often overrides, whatever infrastructure we have in place. If some males are more competitive, Mr. Tierney, do you not think the intense fear of being a pussy that is drilled into them from Day One has anything to do with it?
I could yammer on about gender roles, but the point is, Tierney exemplifies the typical right-wing strategy of using pseudoscience to bolster their arguments, which invariably reinforce old stereotypes. To be at all scientific about human behavior, you have to consult sociologists and cultural anthropologists -- otherwise, you're just talking out your ass.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Much has been written about Newsweek and the Koran-in-the-toilet flap, so I won't go on a long harangue here. Blaming the riots on a little blip in a magazine and nothing else that might be going on makes you a world-class boob, hence the premise of this week's cartoon.
There are two things to keep in mind about the Newsweek story and others like it. First, reporting that is unflattering to the Bush government is not "liberal." The Brainwashed seem to think that any news that does not glorify their dear leader is automatically "biased."
Secondly, it is not the media's fault that the administration pursues asinine policies without taking into account how they will be perceived. Defiling Islam as an interrogation tactic? Oh, that could never backfire.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
I find Priscilla Owen, one of Bush's whackjob judicial appointees, a fascinating political phenomenon. I mean, this woman unabashedly tortures the law to rule against the little guy over and over. She has overturned "rulings in favor of a child born with birth defects, a worker injured on an oil rig, a nurse fired for blowing the whistle on a drug-dealing co-worker, a family with an interest in an oil field that had been drained by a nearby company, asbestos and breast implant plaintiffs..." (NYT). Yet many ordinary Americans embrace her ideology, which a supporter describes her as having a "frontier mentality" in which you "don't cry about your hardships."
The success of the radical right's marketing of legal powerlessness to ordinary Americans is remarkable. On its face, this "tough shit" ideology really isn't very appealing, which begs the question of why millions cling to it so dearly. There are many good explanations out there, involving the Protestant work ethic, the mythology of American individualism, the meritocracy narrative, and more recently, Lakoff's strict-father/nurturing-parent models. But at the core of their ideology is this: these people don't believe the tough shit rule will ever apply to them.
No, the tough shit rule is for those other people who don't work hard enough, who bring on their troubles themselves, who (in many of their minds) tend to be people of color.
But just wait until these people are on the wrong end of, say, an insurance dispute, where they're up against a giant company with far greater resources than they have. Oh, then they'll want theirs! Then they won't like a Priscilla Owen screwing them into the ground.
I'm reminded of something I saw recently, an e-mail from a co-worker who once wrote a letter to my local paper to complain that a cartoon of mine portrayed conservatives as stupid. (This same person is a devotee of Rush Limbaugh, who speaks so highly of "the liberals.") There's some question over the drinking water quality at work, so it's being tested. This person wrote a note of approval, encouraging the testing. But at the bottom of their e-mail message was a quote from Janice Rodgers Brown, another of Bush's whackjob judicial nominees deeply opposed to civil liberties, Social Security, etc.
Water quality and workplace safety are progressive issues. Without the work of progressives fighting corporate negligence over the years, things would be much, much worse. Right-wing judicial activists Owen and Brown stand diametrically opposed to such efforts. I find it funny how The Brainwashed swallow their sick ideology in the abstract, but when it comes to their own lives, the "tough shit" rule doesn't apply.
Monday, May 23, 2005
A "classic" Slowpoke this week -- though it's really more relevant than ever these days. The cartoonist is busy finding new digs (see earlier post). As the strip points out, democracy becomes a joke when people don't pay close attention to the news. Of course, whoever states this fact is often accused of "elitism," creating a neat rhetorical trap for those of us concerned about the problem.
So how about that new Star Wars movie? I'm not exactly a huge Star Wars geek (didn't bother to see the previous one), but overall the new one is pretty decent. I can only hope the message that "we have become what we've sought to destroy" sinks in a little.
I have to say, though, I'm really getting tired of CGI animation. Maybe it's because I work with graphics, but to me, CGI looks fake and soulless no matter how "realistic" it gets. I mean, Yoda looked SO much better when he was a little puppet than some vectorized simulacrum. Yes, I know the battle scenes are harder with a puppet... but that's part of the challenge of filmmaking. Someday, I suspect this age of video games as film will be seen as the height of kitsch. Too-perfect, mathematically-driven CGI characters will strike us the same way B-movie special effects do now.
One other thing I found slightly disappointing is that there's exactly one major female character in the movie, and she's little more than a baby machine. In the earlier episodes, at least we had Princess Leia. Now ALL the action is carried out by dudes. Can someone let me know if any of the Jedi Younglings were female? The one that was briefly featured was a boy, but there were others in the background. If they were all boys, then George Lucas is a fat fuck.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
I've noticed a disturbing trend lately. Longtime readers will be familiar with my hatred of leaf-blowers -- those giant shrieking hairdryers that plague suburban neighborhoods in the fall. Well, I have observed on several occasions this spring people using leaf blowers to remove fallen blossoms from their walks and driveways. As if a few whisks of a broom would be too difficult! No, some people must use some deafening, infernal power-sucking device that shatters the peace and quiet for everyone within a half-mile radius. These people have no concept of noise pollution -- I think partly because noise pollution isn't visible -- and no sense of the environmental pollution they create, either. It's as if they live in a context-free bubble. Unfortunately, they do not.
I don't typically link to flash animations, but I rather like this simple one by a designer in the UK. Go to the "Amusements" section and click on "Leader of the Free World." (Once it's running, don't forget to hit the "Blair" view!)
Found via the ingenious StumbleUpon, which will randomly lead you to countless internet oddities, and waste even more of your precious time.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Sorry, faithful readers, about the brief absence there. I got busy with a big illustration job, and also found out to my dismay that I have to fucking MOVE again, the thought of which fills every fiber of my being with extreme revulsion. Damn this speculative, renovation-crazy, capital gains-hustling housing bubble, which I'm sure will burst spectacularly the day after Mr. Slowpoke and I buy a home, whenever that is.
Anyhow, I should be a more regular correspondent now that my big assignment is done.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
You can listen to the "Take Back the Media" panel I moderated the other night here. As noted a few posts below, it was part of C-VILLE Weekly's "C-Ville Talks" series. I was pleased by the turnout, and felt our discussion went really well, even if we didn't singlehandedly solve the problem of media consolidation. Much later in the evening I learned that some Japanese men pay to have their pubic hair set on fire. That conversation will not be available via podcast.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Responding to last week's cartoon, a serviceman stationed overseas writes to Drooly Julie:
Since internet use is tracked here, I also sneak onto the Colonels computer when he's not looking so I can shuck the corn to your oh so sexy radio show, and me and the other underground liberals are hoping the Army will appoint a sexitarian Chaplain!...He adds later, to me:
Thanks for drawing and for so many laughs in otherwise dark or dull times filled with narrow minded and cynical leaders! And thanks to your friends for hating the war without hating the troops.I'm glad to see Drooly bringing joy to the hearts of military men. Also, the next time you hear a right-wing blowhard yelling about liberals "hating the troops," remember that some of the troops ARE liberals.
As the NY Times reported last week, the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting had a secret study conducted of PBS's "Now With Bill Moyers" in which guests were placed in categories like "anti-Bush," "anti-business," and "anti-Tom Delay." From this, he concluded that "Now" was not politically balanced.
The problem with this sort of "study" is that -- like so many other attempts to divide the world into "liberal" and "conservative" -- it utterly ignores context. So Bill Moyers does an exposé on a chemical plant that knowingly lies to employees about the health risks of the substances they work with; the employees fail to take precautions, get sick, and die. Is that "anti-business" reporting? Only if you think businesses should be free to murder their workers. If anything, Moyers is exhibiting a pro-life bias. Damn him!
The larger point is, such a story is neither "liberal" or "conservative." It should cause us all concern.
And sorry, anyone who criticizes Tom Delay is not "anti-Tom Delay." Try "anti-corruption." As I've said before, how big a crook does someone have to be before we can call them a crook without being accused of partisanship?
Perhaps the distinction the CPB chair should have made is between ideologically-driven bullshit and fact-based investigative journalism. PBS does display a tendency toward the latter.
One final note: In the last panel of this week's cartoon, my point is not to criticize anyone's belief in creationism -- but rather, the insistence that creationism be considered science.
An incensed reader writes:
You can take your faggot-loving, Godless shit andSounds like it's straight from the mouth of Jesus, doesn't it?
Saturday, May 07, 2005
While doing a little research for next week's strip, I came across an article on the Focus on the Family website called "How a Husband Should Handle his Wife's Submission." It describes in warm and fuzzy language how a man should lovingly bring his woman "into proper alignment."
A wife has a hard time giving her husband the reins to her life if she doesn’t believe she can trust him to have her best interests at heart as he steers the course of their lives together. She has trouble going along with his decisions when he refuses to consider her thoughts, feelings, and insights on the subject...The column then goes on to suggest things to pray for -- i.e., that your wife "will understand what submission really is," "she will be able to submit in the way God wants her to," "you will take your position as spiritual leader," and "she will trust you to be the head of the family."
So noble of us to liberate Muslim women from oppressive fundamentalism, isn't it?
Monday, May 02, 2005
Attention denizens of Charlottesville and surrounding hamlets! I'll be moderating a panel discussion next Monday, May 9, with Jessica Coen of überblog Gawker.com, Roxanne Cooper of the smart and perennially visually-morphing Rox Populi, Robert O'Neil of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression (they give muzzle awards to perpetrators of extreme censorship), and Jonathan Rintels of the FCC-challenging Center for Creative Voices in Media. The discussion is part of the C-VILLE Weekly's "C-ville Talks" series, and should be lots of fun.
The event will be held at Live Arts downstage on 123 E. Water St at 7pm. Free tickets are available before then at the C-VILLE Weekly offices on the Downtown Mall.
Whenever I do an overt Drooly Julie strip like this, I imagine timid Democrats gasping, "We cannot equate ourselves with moral looseness!" But that's using the radical right's frame. Sexuality is not morality. Being responsible about sex -- using condoms, for example -- is perfectly moral.
It is disgusting how the Puritanically Correct focus on matters of sex to the exclusion of grave moral issues like killing tens of thousands with pollution, or the suffering of innocents in Iraq. I can only imagine any Supreme Being would be dismayed.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
This is all over the blogs, but just in case you haven't heard about it, check out what these Princeton students are doing (there's a live webcam!). Now, that's real patriotism. I particularly like the string physicist reading from Introduction to Elementary Particles.
The event is being blogged by Princeton Progressive Review editor Asheesh Siddique over on CampusProgress.org.
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