Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Asked and Then Answered

In my previous post, I asked:
Will we allow (the NFL), despite their visibility and influence, to remain an organization devoted to the game of football or shall we demand that they be advocates for the social issue of the day?
In a post that attempts to explain why we should go ape-shit over Ray Rice, but not Hope Solo who is also accused of domestic abuse, that question is answered:
Why exactly do we care about domestic violence in the NFL? It’s not because football players are our nation’s leading batterers of women. (In the Atlantic last week, Conor Friedersdorf nominated police officers for that honor.) It’s because domestic violence is a problem bigger than football, one too easily perpetrated in homes across America and excused by law enforcement, and one that is (again) overwhelmingly committed by male partners who exert physical, social, and financial control to keep their victims in their power. Meanwhile, no institution rivals football in its power to exert social and financial pressure on American men and boys. That makes the NFL an awfully convenient perch for tackling this issue.
What utter horseshit.

Just because football is, for the moment, "an awfully convenient perch for tackling" the domestic violence issue does not mean it's an effective one.  Maybe this is one of those situations, like junk food or credit cards, where the convenience of a thing obscures the fact that it's not actually very helpful.

More horseshit:
Domestic violence also serves as a powerful symbol of the toxic masculinity and devaluation of women that football promotes: This is a sport where men are rewarded for beating other men until they can’t even walk or think anymore while women appear solely as sexual objects (a task they perform for a criminal sum) and are systematically underrepresented (to the point of nonexistence) as executives, journalists, coaches, and referees.
Before accepting a premise, one should attempt to challenge it.  It's not clear that the writer of this piece has made that attempt.

What exactly is "toxic masculinity?"  How is "toxic masculinity" different from regular masculinity?  Does football actually promote it?   Can we fairly describe the cheerleaders on the sidelines and the all-male referee crew as "promoting the devaluation of women" or is that just feminist rhetoric?

Frankly, I take issue with the description of football as "a sport where men are rewarded for beating other men until they can’t even walk or think anymore while women appear solely as sexual objects."  Does this demonstrate a keen understanding of the game, or does it demonstrate the exact opposite?

Furthermore, is this misunderstanding the reason why she thinks football is "a convenient perch for tackling the domestic violence issue?"  If she understood football to be the competitive contact sport it is, would she think it so easy to plug domestic violence's square peg into the NFL's round hole?

Probably not.  You have to read all the way to the piece's end to realize it's hopeless.  It's all just bitterness and bad faith and double standards:
(S)pare the indignation about how women’s soccer is somehow doing worse on domestic violence than the NFL. If you believe that, you’re either a raging football apologist, or the commissioner of the NFL.
A raging football apologist?  Hey, if the shoe fits....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stuff to Think About

Undeveloped thought I must think about more:

Could the NFL's October "Breast Cancer Awareness" pink-fest be a contributing factor to its current "problem with women?" 

That is, by volunteering to engage in non-football related advocacy, has the NFL now claimed responsibilities beyond the scope of football?

The size and scope of the NFL does tend to convey upon it certain social responsibilities.  Players are, for better or worse, role models, and the NFL cannot claim no responsibility to the prevailing winds of social discourse.  If Michael Vick is killing dogs and Richie Incognito is hazing teammates, the NFL must respond.

But do they also have to become an animal-rights or anti-bullying advocate as well?  Will we allow them, despite their visibility and influence, to remain an organization devoted to the game of football or shall we demand that they be advocates for the social issue of the day?

It seems to me that there are natural limits as to what the NFL can accomplish when it comes to domestic violence or breast cancer or animal rights.  Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment when our approach to social issues resembles a PR campaign?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back To the Drawing Board

I was reading an interview with David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) about his new book, The Bone Clocks, and a phrase kicked me in the gut.
"the murderous feud between two circles of shadow immortals"
I read that and thought, Oh, you motherfucker.

A story I've been working on, as currently conceived, could be fairly described as being about "the murderous feud between two circles of shadow immortals." 

Now I'll have to read the book to see if I must come up with a new idea.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thanks For the Clarification

Alyssa Rosenberg says:
Nobody is asking that Marvel and DC stop making movies and television shows about male superheroes until we have enough Black Panther, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Wonder Woman movies to constitute parity or proportional representation. Instead, the request is that, in a market where the appetite for superhero movies seems to be infinite, a few of these non-white, non-male characters get some of the slots in an ever-expanding roster that may stretch as far out as 2028.
The ignorance and naivete of this statement boggles my mind.  I don't even know where to start.

*  "In a market where the appetite for superhero movies seems to be infinite..."

Things are often not what they seem.  The appetite for superhero movies is, obviously, not infinite.  It's a trend, one that's been going for a while now, giving it the illusion of permanence, but it's a trend nonetheless.  The comic book A team is already in the reboot and team-up phase, and it's only a matter of time before the B team is exhausted, too.

No golden age lasts forever.   Just ask the good ole reliable Hollywood western.

*   "Nobody is asking that Marvel and DC stop making movies and television shows about male superheroes"

Well, that's nice, but you have to understand the nature of your request.  We are, despite the "ever-expanding" rhetoric, talking about limited resources.  A movie studio is only going to put out X number of pictures a year.  Depending on its size, that number could be very low.

Would it hurt, in such a zero sum game, to have more stories featuring "non-white, non-male characters?"  Hell no.  Done properly, it would be great.  But this is what I don't get:

If you want to pursue stories about "non-white, non-male characters," why would you mine a canon that contains almost exclusively white male characters?  Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America.  You pick a stable of white male characters and then "request" the complete opposite?

It makes no sense!

Alright, so now that the ranting is done, I will say I agree with (some) of her premise.  But something about it bugged me.
Maybe this is a period of adjustment, and flag-flying geeks and nerds will emerge from this upheaval in a better place. Maybe people will see that the video game industry can survive both expansion and criticism. Maybe “Game of Thrones” fans will recognize that the show’s essence will survive even with fewer naked, threatened women on screen. Maybe the bomb threats will stop.
 She doesn't seem to understand that when people are talking about the "geeks and nerds," they're talking about people like her.  People who get all pissed off at Sons of Anarchy because it doesn't play as an afterschool special. 

I mean, bomb threats?  That's ridiculous.  But some of this "criticism," that is too.
"Maybe "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize that the show's essence will survive even with fewer naked, threatened women on screen."

The show's essence?  R-rated adult content, sex and violence and the F word?  Or are we talking about some other essence?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Does the NFL have a "Woman Problem" or do Women have an "NFL Problem?"

Am I getting old or is our culture getting dumber?   People don't like to think of themselves as herd animals, but Jesus Christ, we're a bunch of cows.

Item:  Ray Rice

In case you've been living under a rock, Ray Rice punched his then-fiance/now-wife, then dragged her unconscious body through a hotel.  There's video.  You've probably seen it more than once.

If that leads you to think that Ray Rice is a piece of shit, a failure of a man and a generally horrible human being, then you're onto something.  It should not, on the other hand, lead you here:

Can you believe in women's rights and enjoy football? Can you be angry about Ray Rice and the NFL's inadequate handling of him but still feel okay about watching the game? The answer, to both, is no.
 A couple things:

1)  Liberals need to figure out just exactly why they hate the NFL and then stick with it.  Is it because of concussions?  Is it because of racist team nicknames?  Is it because the NFL is "awful to women?" I get that liberals want Roger Goodell's head on a spike, but they need to come up with a good reason.

Not 10 dumb ones.

2)  "Can you believe in women's rights and enjoy football?"

It is not as obvious to me as it is to Dr. Peggy Drexler that the answer is "No."  Millions of women, it seems to me, are quite capable of simultaneously believing in women's rights and also enjoying the game of football.  To suggest they are not should be as insulting as the idea that women must choose between their careers and having children.

3)   "Can you be angry about Ray Rice and the NFL's inadequate handling of him but still feel okay about watching the game?"

Again, I don't see why not.  Ray Rice is one man on one team.  And while I agree the NFL's handling of the Rice situation was initially inadequate, shouldn't the later response --rule changes and banishing Rice from the league-- have any influence over our thinking?

Me, I'm going to watch as many games as possible today, comfortable in the knowledge that Ray Rice won't be playing in any of them. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Good Things in Life

A Broncos victory.  (They almost blew it?  No way.  The Colts never gave up.  It was gladiatorial combat, the best kind.)

A new season of Trailer Park Boys on Netflix.

My "Friday" and three days off.

Shwarama twice this week.

New book by James Ellroy coming out tomorrow.

A big ass 30 hour audiobook on the history of the ancient world from Audible.

Life is good.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Cops: Ferguson

This is too funny. I love the part where he stabs the basketball.

Basketball is a known gang activity.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Now That's What I'm Talking Bout

Good news on the metal underground front:
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY drummer Reed Mullin has confirmed that the band will reunite with its onetime guitarist and vocalist Pepper Keenan in 2015 to record a new studio album and embark on a tour.
I have tried, and failed, to like a Pepper-less COC.  Pepper's a better singer than Woody or Mike Dean, but I've also missed his song-writing influence.  COC were never better than when Pepper ruled the roost.

Their Deliverance album gets all the love, and it should.  It's a great album.  But there are some cuts on Blind, which is getting a limited edition release on vinyl this year, and Wiseblood that I cannot live without.

 Like this one:

Past regrets and future fears,
Turns a boy into a man
Sooner than planned
All the same, the boy remains
Even though he's free,
He can't fly with these heavy chains

Conventions of Sports Movies

I watched Ron Howard's racing film Rush last night, and while it was a passable, even enjoyable, movie, it got me thinking about how formulaic sports biopics have become.

Example:  Show me a sports movie that does not, at any time, cut up to the announcing booth for expository purposes.

And hey, I get it.  In our media-saturated world, sports memories are more likely to be memories of sports broadcasts, and if you want people to think you "nailed it," evoke that memory. 

But it's a bit lazy on the part of the filmmakers, if you ask me.

In a sports movie, if the stakes are unclear or the action confusing, just cue the announcers.  They'll explain it.  "Hunt needs to place third or better to be World Champion.  It's the race of his life."

Imagine your average car chase or shoot-out relying on such a convenient gimmick.  "Oh, the SWAT team just arrived.  The bank robbers are really going to need to step on it if they want to get away."

In a sports movie, it becomes a kind of crutch, an excuse not to tell the story visually or dramatically.  It always seems to end with people watching TV screens.  Cut to the ex-wife, watching the race on TV.  Cut to the old racing partner, watching TV.  Cut to the crew, watching the TV in the pit.

New rule for sports screenwriting:  No announcers.  No people watching TV.

You have already chosen a dynamic, interesting subject to stage and photograph.  Let it, finally, speak for itself.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Fragment - Ghosts of War Edition

Sometimes I feel like I've giving up writing.  I haven't, but I have for too long been undisciplined about it.  It seems strange now, but I used to feel guilty if I didn't have at least some kind of daily writing session.  Now I'm lucky if I allow myself one a week.

Last week, though, I had a session that put to shame my recent writing habits.  I took a late day nap, found myself waking up around bedtime, mind fresh and brimming with ideas.  I sat down and forged ahead, expanding on a few paragraphs I had started and abandoned. 

A thousand words later, I had a scene. Here it is.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Dmitri blinks blood out of his eyes. He attempts to roll over, trying to come to all fours so he can push himself back onto his feet, but he’s pinned and can’t move. A swirling dustcloud in the gray sky is all that is left of the obliterated building he had been standing in. Rubble had fallen all around him, burying him under layers of concrete, steel, and glass. Something pokes him in the side every time he takes a breath and his legs feel like they’re a mile away, crushed and hidden under debris, not really legs anymore, just a distant throbbing numbness.
The thought flashes in his mind:
I’m going to die from this.
This makes Dmitri angry and he makes a renewed effort to squirm out of his trap. The movement only makes pain explode in his bones, the spear in his side ripping new tears in his internal organs. The renewed warmth there, he realizes, is his own blood. He cries out, his voice barely a whisper above the shrill buzz in his ears. Explosions and thunder sound hollow in the distance, kicking up waves of particulates that continue to slap him in the face like a hot wind.
His body starts to go ice cold and his breathing becomes more ragged. Not long now, Dmitri thinks. At least it will be quick.
But then his mind drifts to his companion, an American named Monte. The two of them had been cowering at opposite ends of a heavy desk when the building disintegrated around them. A big man, bigger than Dmitri, Monte had no better chance of surviving the blast than Dmitri. He no doubt is lying a few feet away, crushed under the same rubble, dying in his own way. If he isn’t already dead.
Having no better last words, Dmitri calls out for his friend. The most likely response, he realizes, is silence, but he hopes for some sign that Monte is still there. Buried and twisted, broken and pierced, the most important thing it seems now is that he doesn’t go out alone.
After a few moments, there’s a response, Monte’s voice, muffled but close. He’s saying, “I got you. Hang on, man, I got you.” Over and over, “I got you.”
Dmitri can hear him digging, pulling debris out of the way, and then he feels a hand brushing dirt from his face and wiping blood out of his eyes. Monte’s dark face, eyes whiter than anything Dmitri has ever seen, staring down at him. His face is streaked with grime but otherwise, he looks untouched.
He says, “I got you.”
Dmitri watches him lift chunks of concrete and ceiling tile, scooping away the debris with his bare hands, relieving pressure bit by bit with each handful. Dmitri can breathe again, but each breath bubbles out through the jagged tear in his torso. Rebar, he can see now, attached to a section of roof, that first impaled him before toppling and gutting him like a fish.
His horror at the wound is matched in Monte’s eyes. Dmitri tries to say something, but his words get lost. Another try results in, “It’s bad, innit?”
“Don’t worry, man. I got you,” Monte says, his voice gentle and resolute. He frees Dmitri’s gnarled legs, stacking what is left of them into a parallel leg-shaped configuration, and he sets Dmitri’s arms, also broken, one bone sticking out at the elbow, to his sides.
Dmitri feels all of this at a distance, like he’s a remote observer experiencing the moment objectively. Monte yanks out the rebar. Blood spurts. Dmitri’s body contorts, his eyelids fluttering. It all happens over there as Dmitri watches from over here. He’s someone else now, somewhere else.
Monte’s hand closes Dmitri’s eyes and he leans down to whisper something in the dying man’s ear. The words are quiet, in a language and dialect that Dmitri’s fading mind cannot understand, but they are imbued with meaning. Dmitri can sense that, even as his consciousness drifts out of this life and into the next one, and he finds himself wanting to stick around to hear what Monte is saying. Dmitri forgets the pain, forgets the fatality of his wounds, and he listens.
And as he listens, he begins to feel a surge of warmth and light welling deep within his chest.
This is it, he thinks. This is what it feels like to die.
He takes in one final breath, and then he lets go. Darkness swallows him.
And spits him back out.
Dmitri gasps as he comes to on the rubble heap, Monte still crouched over him, dust still swirling in the sky, the battle still raging around them. Monte’s eyes are closed as if in prayer and his lips move in chant-like whispers. As if compelled by the power of Monte’s words, Dmitri’s broken body twitches as it begins to reform itself, vital organs and bones reconstituting, blood vessels splicing together, muscles finding tendons, wounds forming seams, then scars, then nothing at all.
The air tastes of blood and ash, and Dmitri is surprised he can taste it. He wiggles his toes and he feels them inside his boot. His hands clench at his sides, the elbow throbbing but no longer broken. His torn shirt flaps around the flawless skin that now covers an abdomen that had been moments before split open by a rebar knife.
Monte still hovers over him, his incantations still a mumble of nonsense, his eyes still closed.
Dmitri puts a trembling hand on his shoulder and Monte’s eyes open. Dmitri expects to see shock, considering the miracle that has just occurred, but he only sees relief.
Dmitri wipes blood out of his eyes. And then he sits up.

Monday, August 11, 2014

On Robin Williams Suicide

It coulda been me.

Don't know where I'm going, I just keep on rowing
I just keep on pulling, gotta row