Friday, May 09, 2003

Help! I'm Being Repressed by SPAM!
Got an email yesterday from nhulse.womynkind@version.net. Didn't have to open it to discern the contents; check out the spelling of womyn. But, because I sometimes like a good laugh, I opened the email. Nhulse does a series of multimedia, "SPOKEN WORD" (caps hers) performances about--wait for it--violence against women and rape. Both important issues, to be sure, but I had some questions about her treatment of the topics given the following excerpt from an article she references in her email:

Hulse's "A Rose by Any Other Name," is a multimedia performance dramatizing the forms of rape in our culture. It's graphic, driving home the evils of the crime like a jackhammer. The presentation features dance performances by Hulse, the music of artists such as "Marilyn Manson," "Garbage" and "Hole," scenes from films such as "The Accused" and "Animal House," and telling statistics on such crimes as incest and date, acquaintance and stranger rape, "A Rose by Any Other Name" tells the story of our "rape culture."

Uh-oh. Rape culture. Buzzwords for the radical branch of the feminist tree. I wonder if she considers all acts of intercourse rape? No way to tell, but I thought I'd check out her homepage.

Oh, look! Andrea Dworkin's greatest hits! Plus a list of factoids--many of which have been debunked for almost a decade. The newspaper article also said this:

Hulse noted that she meets with a lot of resistance in her work to educate the public about rape. And, she added, women who have performed with her in the past have even been beaten for their participation.

She doesn't say whether the beatings came from victims who don't appreciate their trauma being hijacked for a cause that ultimately injures rape awareness and prevention efforts by making hysterical claims and polarizing male/female relations. But more importantly, I wonder how long before our campus hosts a performance?

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Car Talk

I'm feeling tapped out lately, and I think it's because by the time I finish my 30 minute commute with the Boy, I am done for the day. Here's how a typical afternoon drive goes:

4:15 - Leave Office
4:20 - Arrive at Daycare. Greet Boy by sweeping him into hug and kissing him, then put him down so that he can walk to car ALL BY HIMSELF.
4:25 - Stand by rear passenger door of car as Boy struggles valiantly to get into car seat ALL BY HIMSELF as other cars line up behind us in driveway.
4:27 - Use forearm to brace wriggling, screaming Boy as I secure him in car seat. Hand Boy pre-chilled sippy cup and peanut butter cracker, then get into driver's seat. Ignore peanut butter cracker hurtling past my head as Boy tosses it in a gesture of protest for not being given 45 minutes to explore the car before deciding to settle in for the drive home.
4:30 - 4:38 - Engage in following discussion while waiting to get onto highway:

    Boy - Wha Daaaa?
    Me - Car.
    Boy - Wha Daaaa?
    Me - Blue Car.
    Boy - Wha Daaaaa?
    Me - Blue Car.
    (Repeat exchange 43 more times. Brief pause. Then:)
    Boy - Va Vuuute! (Flails left hand skyward)
    Me - Yes, sweetie, that's a flag. Nice salute.
    Boy- Va Vuuute! (Repeats flail)
    Me - Salute!
    Boy - Wha Daaaa?
    Me - Still. A. Blue. Car. (Reach for Wiggly Dance Party tape, insert and hit "play." Blessed silence from rear of car.)

4:50 - Reach exit ramp. Sounds of struggling begin from backseat.

    Boy - eeeeeeeehhhhhh!
    Me - We're almost there, sweetie.
    Boy - eeeeeeeehhhhhh!
    Me - Just a few more minutes!
    Boy - eeeeeeehhhhhhh!
    Me - Look at the blue car!
    Boy - eeeeeeehhhhhhh!
    Me - Now look, you have to stay in that car seat and there's not a thing mommy can do about it until we get home, so you need to just deal with it.
    Boy - eeeeeeehhhhhh! Shrieeeeeeekkkkkkk!
    (Repeat variations 43 more times, until mommy snaps. Then:)
    Me - Okay, here's the deal. For reasons of your own safety, it is mandated by law that you sit in that seat, so that if mommy smacks into a wall or another driver, the EMS will be able to use the jaws of life and cut you from the wreckage and you will be able to go on to lead the life of a productive citizen and take care of your mommy in her old age. That is the entire purpose of the car seat--to make sure you're here to deal with me when I'm a mumbling, stumbling bundle of uncontrollable urges, okay? So you have to sit in the car seat. I cannot leave the driver's seat to unstrap you--you'll note that mommy is trussed into her seat as well--we're all TRAPPED in this TINY TIN CAN of cheap metal HURTLING down the highway at not NEARLY high enough speeds, and we MUST STAY STRAPPED IN! Strapped! In! To! The! Car! Seat! We are now approximately ONE MINUTE from our house, so the end of this torture is in sight! YAY! (High-pitched, maniacal giggle) Oh, look! It's our house!
    Boy - ...
    Boy - Wha Daaaa?
    Me - Mommy's youth and sanity, sweetie, passing away.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Jean Grey is a Big Fat Mary Sue

I'm coming out of the X-Men closet right now and coming clean: of all the mutants in all the parallel universes in all the world, I hate Jean Grey the most. Why? Well, I've given this some thought over time, and beyond the inexplicable damsel in distress vibe she puts out, her super-perfect powers, super-perfect boyfriend, and super-perfect flowing red hair, I've finally realized why she bugs me.

Jean Grey is a Mary Sue.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "Mary Sue" was coined by fanfiction writers back in the early days to describe an "original character" inserted into an existing fictional universe who just happens to be the most beautiful, most talented, most amazingly gifted being on the earth. If the Mary Sue didn't end up marrying the lead character from that universe, then she would sacrifice herself in an heroic act that saves everyone else, and expire prettily in the arms of the lead character. Then much angsting would ensue. A Mary Sue is a cipher for the author, and is annoying because she is two-dimensional, perfect in every way (even her flaws are designed for maximum angst potential until she manages to overcome them), and completely unnecessary in an established fictional world.

You can see where I'm going with Jean Grey. Except for the whole "cipher for the author" part, she matches this description perfectly. The X-Men already have the most powerful telepathic mutant in the world in Professor X. He's not a telekinetic, but I would consider that unnecessary given the skills of the other team members. The X-Men would be fine without her. Jean is also perfectly lovely, just happens to be a leading scientific researcher who gets to address panels of government officials on a regular basis, and is in a relationship with the leader of the X-Men, Cyclops, PLUS she has the undying affection of Wolverine, the untouchable badass. Jean even gets to sacrifice herself and cause angsting to ensue with the whole Phoenix/Dark Phoenix storyline (which appears in both film and comic, although in very different form.) And I would argue that while she isn't a self-insertion of the comic's creator, she may very well be a projection of the perfect girlfriend.

She doesn't even have a good backstory--Professor X takes her in as a protege when she manifests her mutation and almost goes mad, she becomes Perfect Woman, blah blah blah Phoenix-cakes, insert alternate universes and pseudo romantic triangle stuff here. Rogue and Storm are far more interesting (here I'm talking about the comic Rogue--the movieverse version is toothless and pathetic), with real conflict written into their characters. They develop more over time, as well. And as a bonus, they don't spend all their time in battle situations exchanging these bon mots:

Scott: "JEAN!"
Jean: "SCOTT!"
(something blows up)
Jean: "Scott......" (faints prettily, gets kidnapped or otherwise imperiled)
Scott: "JEEEEEAAAAAANNNNNN! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Logan: (running up just in time to espy the trauma of Jean) "JEEEEEAAAAAANNNNN! NOOOOOOOO!" (to Scott): "How could you let this happen?!?!"
(much manly glaring, while Rogue and Storm finish kicking everyone's asses and wander off, shaking their heads at the stupidity of Scott and Logan)

Not that I'm bitter.
Tunnels, Oppression and Programming, Oh MY!

Erin O'Connor posts a letter today from a student organizer of a "tunnel of oppression"--a travelling exhibit that attempts to educate people about the horrors of oppression through photos and graphics and multimedia hoo-ha. The letter was earnest, and asked for comments on how to better the program. In truth, the best way to do that would be to eliminate it utterly, as several commenters on Erin's site point out, with varying degrees of civility. But that is neither here nor there. To me, the most remarkable thing about the entire communication is this section:

I have helped in the organization and facilitation of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire version of the Tunnel of Oppression for three years. I agree that it is probably a very unintelligent and mindless method of educating the general student population. However, life in Eau Claire consists of a mostly white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society. Most of the students that attend the University come from backgrounds that follow this same societal structure/pattern.

The Tunnel is aimed at the students that don't realize that life elsewhere is any different from the Suburbia that they grew up in. Ignorance is dangerous. The goal of any baccalaureate is the irradication of the ignorance that they still harbor, though in most cases the targeted ignorance is solely "book knowledge."


Look at the assumptions here. As one commenter on Erin's site pointed out, participants in the tunnel of oppression may tend to display apathy toward it precisely because of the organizer's attitudes, and wonder where they (the presenters) got their "special", enlightened point of view. I don't know this student, or his/her course of study or background, but s/he has certainly internalized the old "bourgeoisie bad" idea--the only things missing are the sneer quotes.

The writer admits to the stupidity of the program, but defends it because he or she has so little regard for the "white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, suburban, upper to middle-class society" types on campus that the only way "those people" can be educated about evil in this world is by dumbing everything down to pictograms. I'm surprised that the students at Wisconsin - Eau Claire are even capable of locating the exhibit, much less appreciating it. After all, with a background such as that, we should all be amazed that they've dragged themselves far enough from the primordial ooze to walk upright.

And get the misspelled Orwell-speak at the end. The goal of a baccalaureate is not the "irradication" of ignorance, it is the development of the mind. One may lead to the other, but please don't get this particular cart before the horse. Traditionally, books, lecture, and discussion have been more than adequate to the task of mental development and its corollary in the eradication of ignorance. I suppose the real question here is what has changed about college education that makes these approaches seem inadequate, and why proselytizing has taken the place of encouraging the natural intellectual curiosity of students.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Road Hazard

Do you want to know why I have absolutely no memory of the last 5 miles of my drive home yesterday afternoon? Well, I don't care--I'm going to tell you anyway, and I'll tell you in three words:

Bobble. Head. Dogs.

You see, I was just tooling along in the purple pickup truck (don't go there--it's a long story involving a seven fingered man and a traffic accident, but it's been a reliable vehicle), reflecting upon my recent viewing of X2, when I noticed a green Chevrolet something-or-other in front of me. The Chevy was going a mite slower than the speed limit, and my annoyance began to grow, until I noticed the decor in the back window of the car. There, arrayed before me like some primitive dog-worshipper's shrine, was a line of 7 bobble-head dogs, craniums busily nodding to the rhythm of the road. Well, 6 of them were bobbling--one seemed to have gotten his bobble hung on something, and looked like the victim of a ninja neck-breaking attack, with his head cocked at an unnatural angle and his grinning face staring at something above me and to the right.

So I began studying the bobble doggies. They were all a different breed--there was a bulldog, a dalmation, a couple of indeterminate terrier-things (one of which was the wounded bobbler), a collie, dachsund, and I think either a rottweiler or pit bull. But in the center of the display, in the place of honor above the rear window brake light, was a tiny grey terrier. Now, perhaps because I had been hypnotised by the bobbling, I became obessessed with the grey dog's position: why did IT get the place of honor? Did the driver have a terrier? Had she lost a beloved pet and this was her way of commemorating the event? Did she in fact own real dogs in the models represented in her back window? Or did she spend a lot of time at truck stops and had absolutely no taste in tchotchkes?

These questions burned in my mind as I hung a right and the bobble Chevy continued onward--and they still do. Oh, bobble-head mystery woman! WHY must you torment me with your cryptic plastic dog decor? What is the signifigance of the breeds chosen? What is up with that one dog's HEAD? Where the hell did you even find this crap, and what possessed you to share it with the world at large? What does it all MEAN?!?!? Well, aside from the fact that bored english majors tend to read too much into things, I mean.

Sigh. A mystery for the ages.