“Electability” claims to be a benign and objective concern. It is neither. It merely outsources biases, rationalizing them by appealing to the moral failings of imagined others. It talks about neighbors, and “other people,” and “what the country is ready for.” It throws up its hands and washes them at the same time. And it suggests an especially insidious strain of sexism. The sexism of the political past has often been blunt and unashamed in its expression (“Lock! Her! Up!”/ “Iron! My! Shirt!” / “She-devil”). The sexism of the political present, however, is slightly different: It knows better, even if it fails to be better. It is a little bit cannier. It has lawyered up. It is figuring out, day by day, how to maintain plausible deniability.
Isaac Asimov has long been, and still is, one of my favorite authors. He was also a person who regularly sexually harassed women. Both statements can be (and are) true, without me having to give up the former or condone the latter.
His history with women is no secret, and is the subject of the article Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall:
Over the course of many decades, Asimov groped or engaged in other forms of unwanted touching with countless women, often at conventions, but also privately and in the workplace. Within the science fiction community, this is common knowledge, and whenever I bring it up in a room of older fans, the response is usually a series of nods. The number of such incidents is unknown, but it can be plausibly estimated in the hundreds, and thus may match or exceed the long list of books that Asimov wrote.
…I regularly hear the argument that Asimov was simply a product of his era. You certainly don’t need to look far to find parallel offenders, including Asimov’s friend Randall Garrett, of whom Frank Herbert recalled, “You could follow his movements … by the squeals of the women whose bottoms he had just pinched.”
But excusing Asimov by saying that some of his contemporaries were guilty of similar transgressions is like downplaying his productivity by pointing out that other authors were prolific.
I find it important to recognize and consider the flaws in the people and the media that we enjoy, rather than shrugging them off or brushing them under the proverbial carpet. It doesn’t mean we have to “cancel” things, banishing entire swaths of previously-enjoyed content when we discover the creator said or did something we find problematic (though in some instances, we may decide to; each person has to determine that for themselves depending on their values and the situation in question). But learning how to hold ourselves and others to higher standards means not ignoring the failures when they appear.
Sometime between January 27th and October 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Retroactive: Run Aperture, iPhoto, or iTunes on macOS Catalina.: Saving this for myself, in case I want or need iTunes when I get around to upgrading to Catalina.
- Inside the sexy Halloween costume industrial complex: Their costumes are often horrible, and oft-derided each year (including by me). But I thought this peek into the “sexy everything company” was an interesting one.
- The 26,000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight: "On the western flank of the Hoover Dam stands a little-understood monument, commissioned by the US Bureau of Reclamation when construction of the dam began in 01931. The most noticeable parts of this corner of the dam, now known as Monument Plaza, are the massive winged bronze sculptures and central flagpole which are often photographed by visitors. The most amazing feature of this plaza, however, is under their feet as they take those pictures."
- Queen Elizabeth II makes New Zealand woman who fought to decriminalize prostitution a ‘dame’: “Catherine Healy, 62, a founder of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, was instrumental in helping her country become the first to decriminalize prostitution in 2003. After 30 years of activism, the queen recognized her Monday as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit ‘for services to the rights of sex workers.’”
- Keira Knightley is obviously right: there’s a sexist double standard in how we treat period dramas: “The great irony is that in being dismissed as feminine fluff, the period drama has somewhat avoided the controlling male gaze. Women are allowed complexity and agency. They can be the heroes – not the wives and girlfriends of the heroes. Ignore the negativity, and the corset can actually be quite freeing.”
I watched all of Love Death + Robots on Saturday, and while much of the animation was impressive and parts of it were interesting, and I enjoyed a few of the episodes, as a whole, it was rather “meh”. They definitely weren’t kidding about the NSFW warnings, though: bloody, gory violence, language, and lots of nudity with a definite “male gaze” issue throughout many of the entries.
Speaking about the Netflix animated anthology series in a press release, Miller made it clear that viewers should expect mature content.
“I’m so f**king excited that the creative landscape has finally changed enough for adult-themed animation to become part of a larger cultural conversation,” he said.
While some of that excitement is justified – the vast majority of LDR looks great and many of its 18 short episodes are amusing, clever and shocking in the best possible way – gratuitous female nudity once again sticks the male and female characters on an entirely unbalanced playing field. Nudity on screen is fine – we’re all for it, in fact. But this is something different.
My personal rough rankings of the various pieces, from most to least enjoyable (if you’re cherry-picking episodes, for me, 1-8 are worth watching, 9-12 are not terribly objectionable, 13-18 are the most skippable):
- Three Robots: One of three entries adapted from short works by John Scalzi, all of which ended up in my top picks. Amusing story of three robots touring the ruins of Earth.
- Fish Night: I liked this one because it’s pretty and weird, though I’m not surprised to see it’s one of the lower-rated episodes on IMDB.
- Zima Blue: Neat animation style, and an interesting story with a fun ending.
- When the Yogurt Took Over: Hyper-intelligent yogurt saving humanity. Just silly.
- Helping Hand: When an EVA goes wrong, an astronaut has to figure out if she can save herself. Made me cringe, but because of what was happening, not because of how it was presented.
- Ice Age: Another short and silly entry. Remember to clean out your freezer!
- Alternate Histories: Goofball explorations of possible timelines prompted by killing Hitler in various ways.
- Good Hunting: I really liked the overall arc of the story of this one, though it’s also the first (in this ranking, not in presentation order) to use sexualized violence as part of the plot.
- Blind Spot: An average high-speed heist story, with a rather unsurprising final resolution.
- Suits: Farmers in mech suits defend their fields from an invading horde of aliens. Shrug.
- Lucky 13: I’m generally not big on military SF; most impressive for digitizing actress Samira Wiley so well that I actually recognized her character as the actress (and checked to see if it was really her, or if they’d just designed a character who strongly resembled her).
- Sucker of Souls: Archaeologists and mercenaries against vampires. With cats.
- Beyond the Aquila Rift: Not an entirely uninteresting story, but spent a little too much time on the sex scene (and sure, there was arguably a shock payoff for that at the end, but still…). It felt more like a “look what we can render/get away with” scene.
- The Dump: Relied too much on hick stereotypes and male-nudity-as-(unfunny) humor.
- The Secret War: WWI Russian soldiers battling an unstoppable enemy. Similar reaction as with Suits, only that one was was slightly more interesting due to the mechs.
- Shape-Shifters: Werewolves, lots of gore, and hoo-rah! militarism.
- The Witness: While the story itself wasn’t bad, and the animation style was neat, it ends up being primarily watching a terrified naked woman run away from a male pursuer.
- Sonnie’s Edge: Mentally controlling giant beasties to fight each other is rather cliché, but using off-screen gang rape as a motivating factor and more “look, they’re letting us animate naked women (at least until we kill them)!” scenes failed to impress me.
Sometime between April 15th and April 18th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift: “There is no other way to put this: essentially everything about Popular Consciousness Kirk is bullshit. Kirk, as received through mass culture memory and reflected in its productive imaginary (and subsequent franchise output, including the reboot movies), has little or no basis in Shatner’s performance and the television show as aired. Macho, brash Kirk is a mass hallucination.”
- Discovery Needs to Put Section 31 Down and Back Away Slowly: "Section 31 literally destroys the the idea of a better tomorrow, which is the very backbone of Star Trek. Because, if Section 31 is real then tomorrow is way worse than today. I refuse to believe that."
- ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ USS Enterprise Design Change Clarified As Creative Decision, Not A Legal One: Correction regarding a link I posted earlier in the week that said there were legal reasons for the Enterprise design changes: "CBS TV Studios does, in fact, have the right to use the U.S.S. Enterprise ship design from the past TV series, and are not legally required to make changes. The changes in the ship design were creative ones, made to utilize 2018’s VFX technology."
- Woman Who Shared Philadelphia Starbucks Arrest Video Tells Her Story: “People ignore this kind of stuff. They don’t believe that it happens. People are saying that there must be more to this story. There is not. This would never happen to someone who looks like me. People don’t believe black people when they say this stuff happens. It does. They want to know the extenuating circumstances. There are none.”
- Star Trek: Discovery’s Version of the Enterprise Had to Be Modified for Legal Reasons: Interesting tidbit of information. While Discovery’s been a bit hit-and-miss for me, I’ll admit that in the moment, the end-of-season reveal did just what it was intended to do. I’m not too put off by the design changes to the Enterprise, either; it was a given that it wouldn’t be identical, and I thought they did a reasonably good job of staying true to the classic form while updating it for modern needs (and a much better job than the oddly lumpy NuTrek version).
Sometime between February 27th and April 12th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- poor people deserve things they want, too.: "These tiny luxuries you give yourself are not sins as dictated from on high by some divine economist who decided you must earn your freedom through oppressive sorrow. These luxuries are the handholds you need to climb out of that pit, to have stamina, to keep focus, to remember that there is another type of life. It can be had, and by you too."
- Charities/organisations to avoid (with links to reasons):: PETA, FCKH8, Autism Speaks, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, The Salvation Army, Wounded Warrior (I knew all of these already, but it's good to have a handy reference)
- ‘The Simpsons’ To ‘The Problem With Apu’: Drop Dead: "In other words: We have heard how we have hurt people, and we honestly don't care."
- Molly Ringwald Revisits “The Breakfast Club” in the Age of #MeToo: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”
- Gun injuries go down by 20% during NRA conventions: “When the NRA holds its annual convention, the national rate of gun injuries goes down temporarily by 20%."
- If You Want To Be An Effective Ally, Be Quiet And Know Your Place: "The lesson of 'Black Panther' for white allies is this: They must learn to be the sidekick, to be at the fringe, to give up power, to have people of color in their ears directing them on how to be useful in fighting for the cause of justice." [SPOILERS]
Sometime between December 20th and December 26th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Star Wars’ Vice-Admiral Holdo and Our Expectations for Female Military Power: SPOILERS: “What The Last Jedi does—amongst many other things—is present its audience with more than one mode of female power.”
- The Last Jedi Is Subversive AF, and I Am Here for It: “Those who wanted a safe and comforting Star Wars movie are understandably upset. The Last Jedi is anything but safe. It’s as subversive as it gets, and I am here for it.”
- From C-3PO’s perspective, ‘Star Wars’ is a prolonged nightmare – The Washington Post: "Your master goes into a bar, where they refuse to serve you. Instead of leaving the bar in solidarity, he makes you wait outside."
- Love Actually’s Workplace Harassment Feels Especially Egregious at the End of 2017:
- Star Wars “fans” should remember being a fan doesn’t mean unequivocal love (or hate): SPOILERS: “This is the problem with these loudest of ‘fans’: They’ve forgotten that a big part of fandom is the ability to hold multiple opinions on the same material all at once. That all-or-nothing mentality does a disservice to fans and films alike, by reductively lumping pluses and minuses into one indiscernible stew of love or loathing.”
Sometime between November 12th and December 19th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Toxic Masculinity Is the True Villain of Star Wars: The Last Jedi: SPOILERS: “Poe's character, while not one of the main protagonists, has even more to do in The Last Jedi. However, while he may be filling the role of the dashing pilot that Han did in the Original Trilogy, director Rian Johnson is using the archetype to say something completely different about heroism, leadership, and—perhaps most importantly—masculinity.”
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi Offers the Harsh Condemnation of Mansplaining We Need in 2017: SPOILERS: “Any female boss in 2017 or American still nursing the hangover of the 2016 presidential election can tell you that even nice guys often have trouble taking orders from women.”
- Star Wars, the Generations: SPOILERS: “Great movies reflect an era through the eyes of artists who embody that era. George Lucas embodied the era of Baby Boom ‘destiny’ and self-conceit. Rian Johnson embodies our era of diminished heroism, cynicism and near despair– tempered by the hope, if we can but learn from our heroes’ mistakes, that somehow, some way, some day, we may yet restore balance to the Force.”
- Rian Johnson Confirms The Dorkiest Reference In ‘The Last Jedi’: SPOILERS: “There is a dorky reference in Star Wars: The Last Jedi that even director Rian Johnson admits that you may have to be of a certain age to get – thanks to a narrow window where you might have been watching premium cable in the very early ‘80s when this bizarre little short film would air in-between feature-length films.”
- Rian Johnson Says There Are No Twists, Only Honest Choices: SPOILERS: “It seemed completely honest to me. It seems like the most dramatic version of that. And that’s what you’re supposed to do. Find what the honest moment would be, and then find the most dramatic version of it. So, in terms of the big ‘twists’ in the movie, they sprung from a process of trying to follow where these characters would go as honestly as possible.”
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi humanizes the Force: SPOILERS: This was one of my favorite things about The Last Jedi. To my mind, a very smart direction to take things.
- Did You Catch the Brazil Reference in Star Wars: The Last Jedi?:
- ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Redeems the Prequels: SPOILERS: “One of the many reasons I love Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that it redeems the prequels. … It recontextualizes the prequels and reinforces what I loved about them.”
- Pro-Neutrality, Anti-Title II: Interesting argument that the likely change to ISP regulations — the 'net neutrality' debate — may not be quite the horrid thing it appears to be. Worth thinking over. "The question at hand, though, is what is the best way to achieve net neutrality? To believe that Chairman Pai is right is not to be against net neutrality; rather, it is to believe that the FCC’s 2015 approach was mistaken."
- Keyboard Maestro 8.0.4: Work Faster with Macros for macOS: Saving for me to remember and look into when I have more time.
- The Amazons’ New Clothes: “The Wonder Woman designs received acclaim from fans and costume fanatics alike. They were clearly inspired by the Amazon’s origins in the Mediterranean and were feminine but very functional. Why mess with perfection? Oh, right. The all-male team of directors and executive directors wanted women to fight in bikinis.”
Sometime between September 21st and November 11th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Extreme test shows OLED iPhone X with ‘dark mode’ saves nearly 60% battery over 3 hours: Tricks to keep in mind soon!
- Show Off the Inside of Your iPhone X with These Wallpapers: With these sweet wallpapers, you can basically pretend you’re looking straight through the screen and into the heart of your phone—like you have X-ray vision.
- Robert Scoble: I didn’t sexually harass women as I lacked power over them: Scoble’s giving a master class in how not to handle harassment allegations.
- Star Trek Starfleet Insignia Explained: "Nearly 50 years after Bob Justman wrote his memo, we now have the opportunity to clarify the use of each and every Starfleet uniform insignia used in TOS. With a wee bit of Scottish ingenuity, and a pinch of Vulcan logic, the complete picture of what Gene Roddenberry envisioned for the delta insignia should snap into focus."
- The World Will Split Open: I think it may have been Philippa Gregory who pointed out that they didn’t burn women at the stake to control the women they burned. They did it to control the women they forced to watch the fires.
Sometime between June 25th and July 16th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- On ‘canon’ in fandom: “Do you know when ‘canon,’ like as a concept, became like a standard nerd thing?”
- Call “revenge porn” what it is: sexual abuse: “This new term — image-based sexual abuse — better describes the nature and harms of the deeply injurious actions of men (and it is mostly men) who perpetrate it.”
- As Chinese, Iranian and Indonesian As Apple Pie : The Salt : NPR: “So where do apple pies come from? Let's deconstruct the stories of the ingredients that make up the sweet treat — and the winding paths they took to our plates.”
- Now Everyone Really Can Code Thanks to Apple’s New College Course – TrendinTech: "Apple is launching a new program intended for college-level learners, extending Apple’s learning courses from kindergarten age and adulthood. This new course, called Apple App Development Curriculum, is available for free through iBooks."
- How Does X-Men’s Charles Xavier Leave His Own House?: "Based on various depictions of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor X—a paraplegic mutant telepath with a supposedly genius-level intellect—somehow forgot to add wheelchair ramps to his own home."