Friday, December 09, 2011

"It's ALL about the body ..."

Miss Representation was made by documentarian/actor Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Newsom says her impetus for making Miss Representation was the birth of her daughter. She hopes her child’s life will be less limited, bigoted and oppressive than it is right now for anyone born female. Sadly, with every corporate media conglomerate owned by old white men like Rupert Murdoch that won't happen any time soon.

Feminists are aware of how pervasive misogyny is in movies, TV, the internet and magazines but Miss Representation hammers home statistic after statistic that had the SIFF audience groaning under the crippling sociological reality.

As one high school teen said, “It’s ALL about the body, not about the brain.”

Newsom didn’t have to look hard for material that reflects the dominant view in America she just had to turn on FOX News (owned by Murdoch) where shrieking “TV personalities” debate whether Sarah Palin had breast implants and why does Mrs. Clinton look so old?

Thoughtful interviews with prominent people like Pat Mitchell had the audience’s hands wringing. Mitchell heads the Paley Center for Media. Nobody is surprised hyper-sexualized and negative images of women has got teenage girls cutting themselves, developing eating disorders and becoming victims of assault in schools.

It’s like the entire media (magazines, films, TV and the internet) is now run by a bunch of angry teenage punks who care only about fake tits and catching female authority figures doing dumb things; except it’s not.

Corporate media is run by middle-aged and elderly homophobic men, all of them white, most of them fabulously wealthy, who arrogantly believe they have their fingers on the pulse of American culture. People like the porcine Rush Limbaugh (age 60, earned $285 million from 2001 to 2008) who slammed Michelle Obama for being "too fat" or shock jock Howard Stern, (57, net worth $500 million) who viciously attacked Gabourey Sibide after the film, Precious, for being over-weight and black. Previously, Stern hypocritically attacked Ellen DeGeneres for being a lesbian.

Amongst the points hammered home: America is near the bottom of countries that have women in their national governments, behind nations like Cuba and even Iraq. Girls as young as seven now experience body dysmorphic disorder, begin diets and obsess over dressing sexy.

Amongst the luminaries interviewed: Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinhem, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rachel Maddow and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. But it is experts like Jennifer Ponzer of Women in Media and News and Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media who make the most compelling points. Ponzer points out that “reality” TV shows where hyper-sexualized characters dressed like strippers fight over bachelors drowns out the voices of real female authority figures, like members of Congress.

Actress Geena Davis laments the root of the problem with television and film. Women almost never write or direct the narrative in these mediums. Hollywood is profoundly white, male and heterosexual, and filmmaker Paul Haggis points out, female characters in the past had more depth, were allowed more range and able to present characters that were more real ala Betty Davis in Dark Victory.

All these fake boobs, Girls Gone Wild and uber-violent video games like Grand Theft Auto have sent a clear message to young women: you’re just a hole, you’re good for fucking but nothing else and, you might not even measure up for that. And, girls are told, once you hit 40, just go away, disappear because a woman is only of worth when she’s young and appears sexually available. It’s a message that’s been voiced by Howard Stern on his radio show many times and chanted endlessly in so-called mainstream media like primetime sitcoms where every single female character is white, underweight and always under 40.

Never mind that Howard Stern is an ugly, old white guy with hair weave who bought his most recent wife.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Teaching women's rights

Lindsay is a public school teacher in central California and a friend of mine. She is amazing, so is her BLOG.

Happy Turkey Day to Lindsay and all her students.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Lie to Me (Please)

A novelist’s business is lying. – Ursula Le Guin, Preface to The Left Hand of Darkness

What’s the biggest mistake fledgling writers make? They’re afraid to lie. I’ve done this, everybody has. It’s an elephant-sized faux pas in fiction writing.

A great deal of writing is born out of journaling, which is an erudite way of saying keeping a diary. Writing tends to have its roots in psychological therapy and so short stories often spring from journaling. This is fine if only the roots of a story are planted in the dark, murky compost of our actual lives.

But really good fiction is just that: somebody made it up. Only from fiction can we find emotional truth. Shakespeare was never an actual prince in Denmark or any where else, but from Hamlet comes a lot of profound emotional truths about human existence including: grief, guilt and anger. Pretty much everybody with a pulse has experienced these feelings at one time or another. It’s easy to empathize with Hamlet, even if he is a prince, Danish and never really existed.

If you don’t believe me, consider these examples.

Was Annie Proulx ever a gay cowboy living in Wyoming in the 1960s? No, she’s a straight woman who was born in and spent most of her life in New England –- Stephen King’s neck of the woods -- not Ennis’ empty rural waste. But she did an award-winning job convincing us she was a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain.

Never a gay cowboy.

Was there ever a land called Narnia with a giant, Christ-like lion who talked to little English kids? No but Carroll Lewis makes us believe this in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Did an evil spirit cause the death of a family in Amityville, New York? No, but writer Jay Anson did a bang-up job convincing a lot of people that one did in The Amityville Horror. Anson performed the oldest trick in the book: he based a series of lies on a truth. A guy really did kill some family members and, like countless other convicted murderers before him, he alleged for years that the devil made him do it.

Did you go through a tumultuous marriage in your youth? Maybe got married at age 20 and then divorced at 22. Did you and your spouse literally pull each other’s hair out in fights and war over custody rights for years? Do you really want to even hint that you’re writing a story now about that event and risk getting sued? Think up a character, someone NOT like you. Change their hair color, age, height, etc. Now change the setting. If you live in Vermont (like Ms. Proulx) set the divorce story in Wyoming. If you live in Florida, set your story in Nepal.

It’s okay to lie, fellow writers, really it’s just fine. It might even inhibit an angry relative from filing suit. You will never find emotional truth until you learn how to lie about the details that bring your reader to that truth.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Darkest State

Kevin Smith's latest effort, Red State, came out in a swirl of controversy. Whiny film critics and distributors threw figurative rocks at him after the initial screening at Sundance in January 2011. Too bad because it's a good and interesting film.

I suspect a lot of the ire leveled at Smith comes from the same peanut gallery that slammed him for 1997's Chasing Amy. They went in expecting fart and dick jokes; instead they got a scathing commentary on the state of America's deeply broken religious and political ideology.

I'm of two minds regarding the critics that trashed Red State. One, they're cynical Hipsters living deep inside the cultural bubbles of New York or L.A. and they simply don't believe that a place like Cooper's Corner could actually exist. The Heart Land is something they occasionally fly over on trips back to see the 'rents and demand more trust fund money. Or, on the other hand, they're cynical Hipsters who live in non-culturally insulated places like Memphis, Cincinnati or Austin -- and Red State flies way too close to home, which is probably a small, dusty town too much like Cooper's Corner. This second crop of critics is afraid to give a thumbs up for the film because it would ruffle feathers, put beads on them as they're driving home on dark country roads late at night.

Once upon a time I lived in one of those non-bubbles (Reno, Nev.) and I had to be careful what I wrote as a journalist or else I'd earn the rage of a local fundamentalist librarian (yes, she really existed) or a fuming minister would show up in my editor's office.

Red State is very much a here-and-now tale. Three teenage boys drive to an internet hook-up expecting sex with a horny housewife and instead are kidnapped by a fundamentalist Christian cult that has judged them "social parasites".

Smith has no qualms about mentioning Waco's infamous Branch Davidians, Fred Phelps or any other of the vast, toxic soup of Right Wing extremists who form the edge of America's political landscape. These are the real Freddy Kruegers, the real specters who haunt us not because they're horror-film scary but perhaps because they give some of us pause: how easy it would be to agree to their hate edicts like so many Glenn Beck followers. If we could identify a specific scapegoat in America (gays, blacks, immigrants) we could root them out, eliminate them and all would be Right again. We would metaphorically kill the collective self doubt that has plagued this country since its inception.

Red State rides almost entirely on the shoulders of a Rev. Phelps-inspired lunatic mesmerizingly played by veteran actor Michael Parks. Parks' Abin Cooper is a mumbling, preening dictator whose only congregation is his immediate family and grandchildren. His egotism is so complete he seduces others into, if not believing him, at least doubting themselves as in the critical scene where John Goodman's befuddled ATF agent takes him into custody.

Abin Cooper's power is his egomania. To doubt him is to doubt God. Cooper is God in the film: he sees all and, freakishly, appears to know all. With an ego the size of the Houston Stadium, he stomps out anything that offends him, especially his chosen scapegoats: homosexuals. In another life, Abin Cooper would have been a KKK leader because his kind cannot exist without scapegoats, they are the fuel for his fiery hatred and the focal point of his murderous rage.

Toward the end of Red State, Goodman's character muses over the schism that separates America politically and religiously. The metaphor of the two dogs fighting over the bone tells us that for Agent Keenan there is no doubt that the specter of rabid bigotry lives in America because it threatens to swallow reasonable men like him whole.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

But what are you?

This is just beautiful!

I'm always behind the curve when it comes to whatever is "trending" right now in pop culture or literature but I LERV Samantha Bee's comedic autobiography. It starts out a little serious but finishes real strong.

This book has everything you could hope for in an autobiography: an idyllic Toronto childhood, unhygienic roommates, crazy divorced parents AND -- that most taboo of subjects -- animal rapists. (See page 182: Stan the Guinea Pig rapist).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Scratch my back?

A hundred years ago, way back in about 2000, if a blogger posted a link to your blog (irregardless of what it was) you reciprocated. It was the polite thing to do. Remember polite?

Alas, those days and the concurrent politeness are gone. I've had two blogs/websites listed to the right for a while and both bloggers/webmasters recently deleted some comments I made on their blogs.

You're probably jumping to conclusions thinking, what crazy shit did I say on their blogs? On one blog, I said 'Ditto, I agree with the above commenter'. And the website owner deleted my comment. Nothing risque, no profanity. The comment I was agreeing with was equally vanilla except the commenter was questioning the blogger's whole reason for having the website (it has gotten whiny and super redundant). You're a writer, you're frustrated, you've been rejected by oodles of literary journals. Okayyy ... not sure how you milked that one for over a year.

I could write a fucking novel on the freaky crap that happened to me (and my scripts) when I tried to break into the rigged spec screenplay market back in 1997-2000. I burned entire weekends and hundreds of dollars on the Hollywood Creative Directory, SASEs and query letters that I mailed fifty at a time.

I blew money I didn't have on entry fees to The Austin Heart of Film, Slamdance, Maui Writer's Conference, etc. To what end? I got part of one one script pirated by an A-list star. Though it probably wasn't him personally. More likely it was his assistant's assistant or maybe the AD's assistant who eventually ended up making a film that was somewhat like my script minus the suspense but close enough that they used the same name for a key character. And this was no Jane Jones or John Smith, it was an uncommon name with a specific spelling.

But who cares, that was a hundred years ago. So for the sake of looking forward, I've deleted that particular blog amongst the links at right. I've got better things to do than use this blog to feed the hit counts on a mediocre site that seems to be focused on looking backward at past literary failures, something any professional writer wouldn't have time to do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Eddie is a schleppy, hipster writer who is unemployed (is there any other kind?) and an eternal under achiever. One day he bumps into his ex's brother who gives him a little pill that looks a lot like either A) piece of dried Super Glue (ooh, don't put that in your mouth!) or B) some suspicious new type of nicotine gum.

Ever the game idiot, Eddie takes the pill and slightly dizzying CGI kicks in while he fucks his landlord's girlfriend. She agrees to do him after he miraculously tells her how to write her law school term paper, or whatever. Later that evening Eddie cleans his apartment (nothing smoking pot can't induce!!!) for the first time ever and then sits down and cranks out his soon-to-be-best-selling novel in one fell swoop.

Eddie goes gambling and wins big and then goes to the creepiest casino on earth, the stock market, and starts winning even bigger. The New York Post interviews him. Um, I thought the goal of every New Yorker was to stay out of that rag? The only people that end up on the cover of it are celebrities that have fallen off the wagon and murder suspects.

Eddie goes on a tropical vacation, screws a lot of nameless, faceless women, drives a rented sports car real fast (terrifying and enraging the locals) and then jumps off a cliff into the ocean ... because he's now totally cool.

In the voice over, Eddie describes this wonder drug as having eliminated his awkwardness, his shyness and his ignorance -- essentially everything that makes him human. Apparently this pretend drug (NZT) is like cocaine with a crystal meth chaser and an extra dollop of arrogance.

Eventually Eddie goes where all the morally deficient "winners" go, to the stock market to make millions and get into some vague argument with Robert DeNiro's minor character about "not having paid his dues" (does this mean real stock brokers HAVE?). Eddie helps DeNiro's character broker some "deal of the century" and who gives a shit if thousands of employees get laid off or ass raped? 'Cos Eddie is WINNING!!!

Eddie is such a winner he may (or may not) have murdered a woman he picks up in a bar. But never mind that because then he has to win back the Perky Blonde who dumped him for previously being a slacker and then stop the Bad Guys from stealing his stash of NZT (Christ, the comparisons to cocaine just about hit you in the face).

At one point Perky Blonde Girlfriend sez something like "This drug is a lie" -- yet another cocaine reference -- but then the script and the plot dashes off for another dizzying round of tracking cam shots and punchy soundtrack.

Of course the muddled message is the same old trope: "winners" get lots of tail and lots of money and losers don't.

All this reminds me of something a high school teacher said to me eons ago: "The most interesting people are interested."

Who would wanna spend ten minutes in a room with a know-it-all like Eddie?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Goodbye Amy

And Russell Brand surprised everyone by writing a lovely and hella insightful eulogy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear Hyper Procreating Jesusfreaks,

Please stop. No really, stop. You know what's gonna happen on Dec. 31, 2011? Nothing. Likewise for Dec. 31. 2012 and every New Year after that. As the dreary bumper sticker says: Same Shit, Different Day. The traffic jams, the disappearing resources and clean air, the endless wars over religion? It will all still be here, sweetie.

No rapture. No baby Jesus come to rescue you from sublimating your libido by calling it "God's Plan" that you pump out as many babies as possible right before you develop a prolapsed uterus, agonizing pain and flop over dead. (Versus taking ownership of your sexuality and you and hubby joining a swinger's club while using lots and LOTS of contraception).

You know what I see when I look at your puffy-faced husband, a "man of God"? Hell no. I see a stray tomcat humping away on a six-month old female cat like there's no tomorrow. That one stray tomcat will fill the cages of the local Humane Society to overflowing but what's he care? He's only a dumb animal. It's society's job to be responsible for him.

Likewise, if your puffy-faced, brainwashed Jesusfreak husband dies in a car accident tomorrow, what's he care? He doesn't have to pay for your continued existence in a suburban barn/child-holding shed. Can't pay for the kid's food in his absence? Not his problem! Why dying would be an almost Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for your husband or you at this point. (So would him coming out as gay and running off to South Beach, but that's another blog).

You're doing this because "the Bible tells you so?" The Bible was written 2,000 years ago by a bunch of old Jewish men, none of whom actually knew Jesus. There's more instructions in the Bible on how to slaughter a goat or stone your daughter if you suspect her of being a slut than there is on living life in the 21st Century. I bet I could find quotations more valid and topical for the Here and Now in a car repair manual.

Breeder Jesusfreaks, your children are what we'll all be eating in a few years, when the earth's population hits 9 billion (9,000,000,000), all the oil's gone, the electricity goes out and there's no more 2-for-1 coupons at MallWort. You're not producing "God's children" you're ensuring our chowing down on soylent green. You're making cattle.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This can no longer be ignored

Last night in yoga we had one of those instructors. She attempted to inspire everybody by YELLING things like: 'Work the yoga, don't let it work you!' and 'Don't just survive your yoga.' At one point, she attempted to adjust first my deformed left foot while I was in Warrior One and then my trashed left knee. I hissed that I had "joint issues" and she wandered off to yank on someone else's knee. This isn't exclusive to Baptiste-style yoga. I had Bikram yoga instructors scold me for years, telling me 'never say never' when I insisted I couldn't do a toe stand.

Dear overly aerobicized 25-year-olds with buns o' steel, it's true. I can't do those particular poses. I know you think you know more than my podiatrist surgeon but you don't. And I know you think you know more than the army of physical therapists who helped me recover from my lower back sprain, but you don't. And I'm sure, in all your glowing health arrogance that you think my knee specialist was wrong back in 2004 when she told me I had the worst arthritis bone over-growth in my knees she'd ever seen in a person under 40 (I was 39) but you're wrong. You weren't there in September 2004, when I laid on the exam table and stared at the ceiling while my orthopedic specialist injected Synvisc into both my knees without lydocaine. With a syringe the size of a ballpoint pen. And then I had to walk home because I couldn't afford a cab.

But the real bugaboo is my mutant left foot.

I had the right one fixed in 2004. It's 100% healed and works great aside from the fact I have surgical screws in it and will never be able to stand on my toes (sorry Bikram yoga), wear high heels (not that I care) or stick it in an MRI machine (would rip the screws out of the bone).

I have what is known in podiatry circles as Morton's foot. I'm pretty sure I inherited this deformity from my Dad because he always said his father had weird "prehensile" toes. I was supposed to have corrective surgery at 18 but couldn't afford it. It's physical proof I'm partially descended from bog-trotting Irishmen who had feet like frogs.

I can make fun of it because I haven't been walking on it all day and it hasn't even really begun to sing. Morton's foot is like attempting to walk on ice skates. The majority of the weight in my left foot rests shakily on my second metatarsal, like an ice skate blade. My left ankle is 'hyper flexible' and I trip easily. Every step I take, the weight on my left comes down on the joints of my second toe, and those joints grind into the floor, shoe sole or whatever. The bunion, along with the freakishly long second toe, means I can rarely fit into women's shoes, so 90% of mine are either men's tennis shoes or Keen sandals (Godsend to the mutant footed).

I got the right one fixed in 2004 because I paid dearly for comprehensive Blue Cross insurance while working for minimum wage at a copy store. It was 60 days before I could walk across the room in an orthopedic boot without screaming in pain; 90 days before I could squeeze my right foot into a shoe without lacing it up. It was six long months before I could flush the Vicodin and get through the day without searing pain.

Thanks to America's irrational fear of socialized healthcare, I can't get my left foot fixed. Eventually I'll get a stress fracture and will end up in an ER where the doctors will tell me they can't refer me to orthopedic surgery because I have no insurance. And then I'll have to walk home.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hot Papa Bear Seeks Twink Cub

For cuddle time in the jacuzzi and cruising WeeHoo in my convertible Jeep. Must like: guns, Irish folk music, tea parties, Reagan and light leather. No money? No problem, your Papa Bear will provide for all your super smooth twink needs. Bonus points if you are Asian or Jewish and over 30 but look 18-25.

P.S. I have an extensive collection of photos, especially of sexy-smooth waxed, slim cubs. Come hang out at my place and peruse my pics.

xxxooo -- A Man

Friday, May 27, 2011

Remembering James

Cheer up, honey, I hope you can
There is something wrong with me
My mind is filled with silvery stars
-- Wilco, Radio Cure

The first time I saw James, he was sitting in the UNR Sagebrush offices. He was a bashful 19 year old who, when he stood, was tall enough to block out the sunlight spilling from the front door. This was in fall 1992 when I started going to UNR full-time after years of bouncing around with part-time classes. He was the production editor for the student paper and thanks to his droll wit, amicable nature and deep laugh, we quickly became friends.

One day I breezed into the Sagebrush to drop off my latest story on floppy disk. James grabbed me and started dancing around the room with me.

“James, what are you doing? I gotta get to class.”

Wiggling his eyebrows he said, “I’ve never danced with a lady wearing black leather gloves before.” Squeezed up against his 6-foot-6 frame, he waltzed me around the tiny photographer’s room until we knocked some stuff over. I was actually wearing my sweaty cycling gloves but in James’ world, ladies wear black leather gloves. That’s just how he was.


A lively assortment of computer geeks, cartoonists and budding reporters orbited around James. He had a small battalion of friends from Las Vegas who all wore the same uniform: khaki shorts, white t-shirts and mirror sunglasses. They all listened to the Violent Femmes, surely a mark of refined taste.

In fall of 1993, when I was 26 and rolling into my second year at UNR, my mother died. Death is rarely a head-on collision. It nearly always side swipes us emotionally.

I was in a daze after her death. James and I lived in the same crappy apartment complex. I went to his door at seven in the morning and he stood there, in his t-shirt and underwear, blinking out at me. I told him what had happened, about the terse phone call from my brother. James knew I had no car. I’d sold my '61 Chevy pickup to pay for rent while I was in school.

That afternoon, James dropped everything and drove me up I-80 to Nevada City, Calif., where my Dad lived. From there I flew with my Dad and brother to Washington to sort out my Mom’s miniscule estate.

James gave me a hug when he left me at my Dad’s. The three months after her death were full of insomnia, extremely poor decision making and a black hole of grief. And I was furious. That’s another thing about death. It makes you furious. You hunt around for a culprit, a reason why this person you’ve lost is gone. You want to arrange a search party or maybe a witch hunt, light torches and venture out into that implacable darkness to look for the love that’s gone missing.

About six months later, James, Tami Hilton and I went for a hike in the foothills above Reno. We made jokes about the ridiculously steep trail and the desperate need Nevadans have to walk toward anything that looks green and shady on a hot day. Bounding ahead, I kept stopping every few feet and yelling “Would you just LOOK at that view!” I’d dramatically swing my arms out and mockingly tap him or Tami in the face. He’d laugh and imitate me. James and Tami joked about how some sand dunes outside of Las Vegas were shadier than others. When you’re in your twenties it’s easy to laugh at the austerity of the desert.

Around this time, some of those especially bad decisions I’d made in grief caught up with me and led to a nadir of depression by July 1994. I don’t know if I got as low as James did, but I was pretty down. In his fumbling, distracted way James tried to draw me out of it and he patiently listened to my rambling phone calls when none of my other friends would.

Years later, in 2007 he shocked me in an email by saying: I wish I had been a better friend to you back then.

In December of 1994, the facilitators who ran that fourth-rate university glommed onto the fact that James hadn’t been attending class. They gave him the boot which was a good thing. He went back to Las Vegas, got on with an internet start up and rode the Dotcom Boom east to Massachusetts to work for Akamai. This enabled his life-long dream of opening a comic book store.

Between 1996 and 2004, I lost track of James. I caught up with him when I moved to Seattle and discovered a new form of procrastination called social networking. We exchanged emails, cute pet pictures and swapped blog posts. He told me about Massachusetts and I told him about Seattle. He sent me pictures of his son, who was the center of his universe. We railed together on our blogs about the fearful stupidity of Conservative America.

It’s unfair to James to say he was a saint or faultless. Even in college, he had mood swings and could fly into cynical, angry depressions that would leave his fellow Sagebrushers ducking for cover. In his defense, he was struggling with serious obesity and poor health. At times, when you’re overweight you’re the circus freak and I’m sure James felt compelled to play the Jolly Fat Man even when he didn’t want to. And there was his moodiness, which was years away from being diagnosed.


Some people who knew James may choose to mull over the details of his death. Again, the compulsive need to mount up a search party, light torches and go into the endless dark to look for a culprit or a reason for our sudden unifying grief. Some people may choose to blame James’ spiritual beliefs or the lack of them. We seek cool reason where it does not live. With death we still want to categorize people, use highly subjective religious dogma to induce answers. We all want to be saved yet we know the truth. All stories, even in comic books, move deathward.

I have lost interest in the details of James’ death. I choose to remember him on that hot, dusty day when he, Tami and I were hiking in the Sierra Nevada foothills with Reno stretched out east of us in the afternoon light. Ahead of us there was a stand of aspen shading Hunter Creek and Tami was holding our water bottles. James was wiping sweat from his brow, patiently waiting for me to get the water filter going so we could drink from that stream.

Hey James, would you just look at that view.

-- Mel Murphy
Seattle, Washington
May 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Agony and Ecstasy of Maoism Meeting Mindless Consumerism

I just saw Mike Daisey's funny/sad opus, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

Seattle Repertory Theater had a sardines-packed-in-a-can vibe. My seat was smack dab up against one of the theater tech's work stations. But for over two hours, Daisey was a dynamo of brilliance on stage.

Most people by now know the gist of the play -- Daisey, a life-long computer geek and die-hard Apple fan -- recounts his ups and downs worshiping at the altar of Mac and his intrepid visit to the monolithic FoxConn factory in Shenzhen, China where workers literally kill themselves making iPods and iPhones for consumers in North America and the rest of the western world.

With stand-up comedic humor and a keen perspective on social trends, Daisey verbally bounces back and forth in time between his earliest experiences with computers to the horrific revelation of what life is like for the modern factory worker in China. He recounts interviews with 14-year-old workers who have crippling arthritis in their hands from thousands of hours spent polishing iPods. People who make iPads literally don't have the dexterity to use them, and anyway, no one in China can afford to buy one.

This play got me thinking about my Dad. In 1987, he was one of couple dozen US attorneys who traveled with then AG, Edwin Meese, to China for the Joint Session on Trade, Investment, and Economic Law. Supposedly they went under the auspices of helping then still mostly Communist China to "westernize" their court system. Although, maybe Meese just wanted to compare notes with Chinese censors?

Anyhoo, I don't know if it really worked. I mean, Tiananmen Square happened just a few years later and today people are still in prison in China for protesting. The Chinese government also imprisons practitioners of Falun Gong and harvests their organs (when they're not encasing them in plastic so their remains can go on tour in the US). Also, being from the Tibet province in China really sucks. If you're Tibetan, just speaking your own language can get you thrown in prison.

My Dad made a point of recounting to me (I was 23) how ridiculously hard young Chinese people worked. He mentioned one young man who worked 10-hour shifts in a Beijing restaurant and then skipped off to his other job in the bowels of a factory some where. Then my Dad gave me the Critical Look. (Several years later I took a job as a wildland firefighter and worked 10 to 16-hour shifts fighting wildfires in insane conditions. I know, lazy me!)

My Dad was from the WWII generation. The Boot Strap Generation. The War Effort Generation. He exalted mindless labor above all else -- especially when someone else was laboring on his and my step-mother's behalf, like the hapless construction workers who built their second home for them.

It's easy to glorify and admire mythically tireless workers, especially when you're not the one running the chainsaw or, in the case of the FoxConn slaves, polishing the iPod.

Ironically, my Dad admired an ethos that was in direct opposition to the era he came from. American idealism and individuality have no place in Maosim where the worker is told he/she is exalted while simultaneously being exploited and worked to death by the State.

Daisey succinctly ties these two philosophies together in his play. China wanted to "modernize" and the US wanted dirt-cheap labor, devoid of real unions, to manufacture all the toys and gizmos Americans have been told endlessly that we are "entitled" to as free Capitalists so long as we can afford them. The mindless consumerism of the West has met the (faux) tireless Communist worker at the nadir of Orwellian dystopia in Shenzhen. It's the place where dreams of the future go to die.

Anti-suicide nets installed along the roof of one FoxConn building in China.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The lion in the horse trailer

Wow, oh wow what a documentary. If Michael Moore implied that Americans were gun fetishists, this movie argues we fetishize everything -- even hapless wild animals who become victims of our smothering codependent love.

The film follows Tim, a compassionate public safety officer in suburban Ohio as we learn in chilling detail how out of control the exotic pet business has become. Tim travels to underground exotic pet conventions in Pennsylvania where children are bought deadly African gaboon vipers as presents and terrified monkeys are auctioned off like toy dolls.

A key subject is Terry, a train wreck of a disabled man who is given two African lion cubs as pets in the hopes they will cheer him up. As in, You look down, here have a rhinoceros! Terry dutifully bottle feeds his two "house cats" until they're adults. The documentary begins when the predators are four years old and the male is over 500 pounds of dangerous animal. After one of the lions escapes and is captured chasing cars on the interstate, Terry confines the two cats to a modified horse trailer where they live out their days lying on compacted cat crap that looks as hard as cement while every fly in the state of Ohio crawls on them.

I wanted to hate Terry, I really did. He's everything that is hopelessly wrong with America. Terry is broken, overweight, unemployed and loves his exotic cats despite the increasing realization that they may kill him ... if he doesn't first.

The documentary follows Tim to the various reaches of the eastern U.S., including Florida where Burmese pythons are taking over the Everglades, out-breeding every indigenous reptile in their path.

Later, back in Ohio, Tim wonders if he's really doing any good tracking down escaped exotic predators -- wouldn't it be better to leave them in the "wild" of the suburbs and hope they don't eat a 10 year old?

The film is flawless -- all claustrophobic close ups on the humans to emphasize how confining the animal's lives must be. And, finally it is not without a happy ending. Some of the big cats do find a sort of respite on the prairie in Colorado.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Once more into the breach

I got a number of responses to my post about the comic book, Crossed, being displayed without any "mature audience" labels. I'm always thrilled when people post comments. But when they apparently don't READ the post before commenting, I feel compelled to reply.

Daniel M. said...

You're concerned about a kid reading an adult comic, but shouldn't you be more concerned that a kid is wondering around without adult supervision? It's wandering, not wondering. And if I was a parent, the one event I would assume my kid would be safe to wander would be a comicon.

The con was an all ages event that catered to everyone of all ages. (Redundant) Why should that prevent a publisher from selling their comic? Re-read my original post. Point out to me the part where I suggested that Avatar Press (or any other vendor) not be able to sell their books, 'cos I never said that.

There are people of age who want to buy it. You don't have to. What about Fantagraphics? A long-time local Seattle GN/comic book seller that caters to quirky, humorous, offbeat writers and comic artists such as Dan Clowes and Ellen Forney. Yeah, SO? I don't think I've ever seen a GN at their booth that I would describe as gratuitously violent (like Crossed) or over-the-top misogynistic (look that word up).

I don't like Crossed because it seems rather childish, base and nihilistic for the sake of it,
Okay ... why were you rushing to their defense again???

You seem to be pigeonholing comic cons as a certain type of event catering to certain types of people. (Again with the redundant comment.) Conventions are by definition events that cater or attract certain types of people. And this just in: the sky is blue.

I went to the con because I love the medium, not because I'm a "nerd." Now who's tossing insults? Where in my original post did I use the word "nerd"? And is that such a awful label? There's far worse out there. I too attended the convention because I love the medium, same reason I went to the last three. And I'll be going to more in the future. But the overt misogyny in Crossed offended me. And I'm still offended. I'm offended any time anyone takes a violent act and trivializes it because to some impressionable minds (10-year-old kids
) that makes it seem OKAY. And it's never okay.

I bought both of those comics from Fantagraphics there, some BPRD, an Adrian Tomine thing, and a great old mini series I've been looking for ages. Awesome. I'd rattle off the names of all the GNs I bought but it's a pretty big list and I still haven't read them all. I always look for names like Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan and Neil Gaiman as well as a half-dozen smaller obscure comic writers and illustrators. Why? Because I'm pretty sure none of these writers are misogynists. (Oops, there's that word again.)

The con was for everybody. Except for people who bring their kids and let them "wonder" alone and women who take offense at graphic depictions of rape, right???

To scrutinize what's being sold, I'm a film and book critic. Scrutinizing is what I do, baby.

As for being worried that adults buy the comic because they're numb from corporate media, that's some crock. Stories and images like that have been around for centuries. But never ever have they been presented so graphically, so realistically and so REPEATEDLY as they are now in mainstream media. Between television and film, the average American kid has seen violent images thousands of times by the age of five and a disproportionate percentage of those are simulated violent acts against females by male characters.

Do I consider comicon goers who buy Crossed "nerds"? No, I'm just really worried they also go to gun conventions. And buy 9 mms for their 10-year-old kids. And then the kid goes home and watches Daddy rape and beat the shit out of Mommy and this forms his world view.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Oh Tim

I'm so glad I sent Tim a picture of my boobs. He's so smart and cute and witty and funny and talented. Even when he's whining about the state of newspapers.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rocking the mockumentary

Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck take a ride down the white-water rapids of the mockumentary and drag the audience along for fun.

I'm not sure if I'M STILL HERE is more THIS IS SPINAL TAP or THE BLAIRE WITCH PROJECT because it feels like the latter, which is good. Phoenix has said they were inspired by the seriously terrifying rise of reality TV shows and that industry's insistence they were not scripted. As entertainment insiders, Affleck and Phoenix want you to know all those Survivor obstacle courses and Wife Swap marriage meltdowns have their poker game tells.

Phoenix is absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. He's a mumbling, smoldering wad of celebrity persona drowning in his own stew of self absorption. His bizarrely meek assistants are arrayed around him in a ratty Hollywood villa -- the kind of unkempt real estate you'd expect to see lurid shots of on Entertainment Tonight detailing another celebrity meltdown.

The assistants arrange plane tickets for him, make desperate calls to music producers and struggle to find "JP" drugs in the middle of the night while traveling. One (Antony Langdon) strikes back at Phoenix in a particularly raunchy fratboy revenge scene -- and all I can think of is: David Spade and his supposed fist-a-cuffs with a former assistant. (Affleck has insisted ALL of the film was fabricated even the faux feces which was made up of hummus and coffee grounds).

Everyone visits the celebrity "JP" -- Ben Stiller and Edward James Olmos among them. And it's Olmos who manages to steal one scene from Phoenix's over-the-top character by giving a speech that is part inspirational and part utter bullshit.

The L.A. Times reviewer sniggered there was 'more male frontal nudity than you’d find in some gay porn'. Bitch, please. It's good to know the MPAA aren't the only homophobic twits deciding the fate of film but, if movie critics are that intimidated by a 2-second shot of a guy's wilted turtle, they should stick to reviewing Michael Bay's crap.

The most provocative sequences in the film are when Phoenix is in character and interacting with people who were not in on the joke. Their slack-jawed stares and stammering conversations create the kind of cinéma vérité French filmmakers dream about.

It's a shame the Hollywood machine was too stupid to see the genius in this film. The joke's on Tinseltown, the industry too busy self congratulating to truly laugh at itself.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Analysis of female characters in comic books

This is pretty interesting, though he kinda drops the ball at the end of the webcast when he fails to mention prominent "progressive" writers of female characters (I'm thinking of you, Brian K. Vaughan).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Censorship is un-American but ...

I saw something at ComiCon a few weeks ago and it's been bothering me ever since. I'm THE last person on earth to advocate any sort of censorship, especially since it gets me lumped together with evangelists, Harry Potter haters and other groups I can't stand.

But I saw a graphic novel (comic book for the uninitiated) that made every single Matrix or Schwarzenegger movie positively pale in comparison. The Matrix scenes where the bullets fall like raindrops seem grade school acceptable compared to this graphic novel. Every lame (is there any other kind?) slasher flick conservatively used fake blood compared to Crossed.

Here's what happened: I walked into Comicon and over to the Avatar Press booth (no relation to the film). Glancing at the covers of all the issues of Crossed on display I immediately thought: zombies. After all, their booth wasn't too far away from Max Brook's. So I prepared for decapitations of the undead and started thumbing through a copy.

A main panel (that's comic talk for large illustration) on page three of one issue showed a male character (mostly clothed) raping a female character (totally nude) from behind. That was on page three. Then there were stabbings, decapitations, slashings, more rapes, shootings and, oh yeah, a lot of these violent acts? Were being carried out by male characters (generally clothed) against female characters (generally partially nude). Chainsaws and fire axes included! I could be wrong, but I think there was a panel depicting a male character cutting a female character's nipples off. With a pair of pruning clippers.

I put the copy back in the display rack and glanced at the booth minder. I think he was one of the main artist/creators. He was busy working on a large illustration (fortunately it was just a character's face in a rictus of rage under the banner title). He was chatting into his cell phone. A few twentysomething white guys stood in a loose line waiting for him to autograph their copies or tell him how much they loved Crossed. They all had a slightly downtrodden, whipped dog look to them, like these were young guys who had been cashiering at the local AM/PM since high school. They probably also had subscriptions to Fangora and way too many speed metal albums.

I took a couple steps back from the booth to take a picture of it. As I did, a kid wandered up to the booth. To be fair, the artist was busy talking to his fans and signing books and the boy, about 10, was on the far side of the display rack. The kid, who was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt, picked up one of the graphic novels and started thumbing through it. He had a piece of candy in his mouth and was crunching it loudly. My skin started to crawl. Finally, I walked away and as I did, I noticed the boy was still there, crunching away and flipping the pages of a graphic novel with the kind of gratuitous violence that would give Larry Flint pause.

I really hope I'm wrong, but I didn't see any "MR" label on the front of the graphic novel. Hopefully there was one on the back near the bar code. For the non-comic fans, MR stands for Mature Reader. It's basically an NC-17 for books and looks sort of like this one for video games. Again, I'm no fan of censorship but when (pretend) violence hits that kind of nadir, maybe it's time to reconsider?

I found Crossed on Wikipedia and read the plot summary. It's an interesting though not revolutionary premise. A futuristic plague wipes out most of humanity except for a few who survive with a weird cross skin rash. They are doomed to live out their days fighting the most depraved violent and sexual impulses that come into their tiny post-apocalyptic minds. So the majority of the violence in the graphic novel occurs only in the characters minds. Spiffy.

Apparently, this comic has some serious fans. So much so Kevin Spacey's production company is negotiating a film deal. Okayyy ...

I just keep wondering: is this the sort of thing Jared Loughner would like? Or is he more of a traditionalist Spiderman fan? Maybe Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold would have favored it, seeing as they were both avid fans of The Matrix? Or maybe they both had their rooms decorated in Care Bears and I'm just jumping to conclusions.

Finally, I want to say every time you produce art you produce two things; the art itself and the implied subtext of the art. I'm sure the creators of Crossed are very nice, talented young guys and I'm glad they've found success in a creative field. But I wonder about the subtext of their art and whether they are even aware of it?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Half the World

David Horsey blew me away with his latest column and cartoon regarding women's rights which go together with human rights like peanut butter goes with jelly.

In case you've been locked in a deep dark misogynist's closet: dozens of UN and WHO studies have shown that when the status of women in a country improves, the whole country improves. It's the 'rising tide raises all boats' theory that works (unlike the sham of trickle-down economics). Conversely, countries that don't liberate their female citizens from oppressive misogynistic practices continue to flounder in poverty, civil war, high infant mortality rates, etc. for decades (see: Somalia, Congo & Pakistan).

His column was just as astute as a previous one where he argued (un-popularly) that maybe teenagers shouldn't be smoking copious amounts of marijuana while their brains are still growing.

I posted a link to his column on Christopher Ryan's FBook profile only to have it removed within a few hours. Apparently, women's rights are trivial to Ryan (author of "Sex at Dawn") compared to more important things like whether or not certain primates have penile spines. Whiskers on dicks are way more pressing to Ryan than say, whether or not women are being murdered in the Third World for suspicion of infidelity. Or trying to drive cars, something equally slutty.

Speaking of Sex at Dawn, where the hell is this mysterious co-author, Ryan's wife? He's looking a bit more like a white male apologist every day, which is just sad.

One thing Horsey didn't really discuss is what impact Third World misogyny is having on First World tourists and their tourist dollars. If I ever win the lottery, I won't be spending my money visiting the pyramids of Egypt (as much as I'd like to). I'll be going some place where middle-aged women can stroll through markets unmolested by random assholes. Sorry Egypt.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sorry Fat Girl Haters

It must suck being skinny, white male and so full of hate toward overweight women your BP might kill you. But take heart, Howard Stern (who slammed Gabourey Sidibe right before she landed a role on a hit TV drama) will hopefully die of hypertension long before you do. It's a shame too as he's spent more money on hair weave than any other white guy alive. I mean think of the army of hair people that will be out of work the day Stern dies.

Oh, and before I forget, my cholesterol levels? Pitch perfect again. For like the sixth year in a row.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

Too Much Information!

I'm as entitled to my idiosyncrasies and contradictions as much as the next homo sapien. I'm gonna lay down a few realizations I always thought were self evident. And then argue against a common trend amongst vagina owners (and occasionally penis owners too).

I like dick, have been a huge fan for ages. While I have a devout preference for washboard abs and Wrangler butts I rarely drop a name or give anything beyond the most generic details as in we had a great time or he was smoking hot.

When I was 19 I had a friend, we'll call her Ann*. She was a couple years behind me in school so when I was attending the Tiniest Community College in Nevada, Ann was finishing up high school.

One day, after classes, I walked over to my friend Nancy's* house and Ann was there. Ann was regaling us with tales of her wild vacation spent in California.

Ann was 18 going on about 35. She smoked, drank, was overweight and latched onto young men like one of those lampreys they made us dissect in biology. Ann started telling us about some guy she'd hooked up with in California. Then Ann went into detail, a lot of detail. As in where he put his right leg, where she put her arms, how much and how long the thrusting went on, how many times she blew him, etc., etc.


Nancy and I were both sighing, rolling our eyes and glancing at the clock before Ann finished burning our ears with every freaking detail of her sexcapade. Had the phrase been coined back in 1985 I would have shouted "TMI!"

Too Much Information.

I mean, seriously. None of us were virgins. We didn't need a blow-by-blow account of Ann banging her cousin twice removed to fill in the blanks. Had Ann taken a more tactful, succinct approach we could have moved on to more important things: like driving to the store for Big Gulps and playing PacMan.

Eventually Ann married husband No. 3 or 4 (I forget which) and moved permanently to California where she is probably grossing out a friend right at this moment with TMI.

This was the first time my psyche was seared by the noxious fumes of Too Much Information.

A few years later, while visiting another friend in that very same town, I offhandedly made some remarks about the guy I was seeing at the time. Afterward, I wished I had never opened my mouth. The only reason I did it was because a) my friend was about 10 years older than me and far more experienced sexually, b) I was trying desperately to "fit in" with her and her worldly friends and c) I was an idiot who didn't stop to think what would happen if my TMI blurt ever got back to the guy I was seeing? (It did). Wouldn't he be a little offended that I'd seen fit to divulge details about him with a friend he'd never met?

I'm pretty sure that's the only time I ever took the wrong turn down TMI Avenue and ran my mouth about stuff I should have kept between me and my amour at the time.

Flash forward to Seattle 2004. I was working a retail job with a bunch of twentysomething guys. They were a mixed bag of skate punks, UW students and rock musicians. One slow day, the subject of anal sex came up. No idea why. Someone made a joke about our uptight, "anal" supervisor who had just left for lunch. The next thing I knew, Hipster Dude* was going into detail about the last hipster chick he ass fucked. Just like that. Under the unflattering fluorescent lights of work, he was listing the pros and cons of butt fucking. This wasn't really anything unexpected coming from him. Hipster Guy was after all, God's Gift to Womankind, and he behaved accordingly.

The shocker was when one of the nice guys joined in the conversation. Nice Guy* was in his late twenties and had been married for a few years. I had met his wife. She was a nice gal. So when he started talking about his experiences with ass fucking I KNEW instantly he was talking about his wife. No pun intended, but what a shitty thing to do. In an effort to not appear naive or less experienced than Hipster Dude, he started engaging in TMI. Afterward, Nice Guy always looked a little guilty and worried whenever our gaze met, probably because he was wondering if I would say anything to his wife the next time I saw her. (I didn't).

A few years later in Seattle, I made a friend, who at first was an awesome pal. Then she started to tell me about her husband and her marriage. The TMI detector in my brain started ringing. Oh shit, not again.

My new friend, Christine*, hinted that prior to marrying her husband -- who makes great money -- she was gay or at least rowed hard for the Isle of Lesbos at one time. That's fine, she tried one lane on the freeway and now she's in this lane because she found the man of her dreams.

One day Christine announced unprompted that her husband doesn't do anything for her sexually. At all. I guess in the entire time they've been married he's never rung her bell. I have no idea WHY people like Christine dump personal stuff like this in my lap, I'm guessing it's mostly because they're seeking sympathy. Which is fine, to a point. That's what friends (and I think more appropriately therapists) are for. As a longtime happy Singleton I'm baffled and perplexed how you could date, live with and then MARRY someone who doesn't do anything for you sexually. That's a question a good therapist should ask Christine because I don't wanna know and I have no plans to take up marriage counseling.

Today, thanks to the last onion skin of Puritanical mores being shed from Western Society, it's okay for us to talk about our sex lives. Occasionally it's a good thing. People with serious sexual dysfunctions are able to find support groups, non-fiction books and there's always Oprah. The hated Double Standard (guys are experienced, gals are pure) that has dogged women for centuries is finally disappearing behind us as we assume control of our sexuality. Gays have found acceptance and can celebrate their unions in most progressive areas.

There's a tribe in a remote corner of China that's resisted indoctrination into the standard one man/one woman marriage scenario for hundreds of years. The Musuo don't recognize marriage, virginity, etc. the way the dominant Chinese culture around them does even after the Mao Regime tried to force them at gunpoint. Women are free to accept as many male visitors as they like and visa versa. They only have one rule: nobody is allowed to ever discuss their sexual encounters, doing so is the height of bad manners.

Back in America, all of this fairly recent liberation doesn't mean it's okay to let the wheels come off and spew every tiny detail to casual acquaintances. Seriously, if you have vaginal dryness during sex why are you telling me? I'm not an OB/GYN.

Personally, the older I get, the more down low I'm keeping it. I don't want to ruin the memory of a good romp with unwanted comments from friends, neighbors, etc. And it isn't just the possibility of avoiding ridicule if the relationship doesn't pan out. I don't want any reviews of my sex life when it is going well either. If I may be conservative for a moment: it cheapens the experience. If I care at all about the guy I'm sleeping with, I'm not going to invite comment from anyone who isn't sleeping with him.

If you just met a hot guy, things are going well, feel free to tell me and I'll virtually high-five you. But spare me the intimate details.

So who am I hooking up with these days?

As Salt-n-Pepa said, that's none of your business.

* (It should be obvious, none of these people's real names were used.)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Occasionally priests still like vaginas?

Ah-hah, now we get to the truth behind exorcisms. All the free poontang for the exorcists!

Priest confesses of 'indiscretion' during exorcism

Oh and apparently this diaper stain was the poster child for the Catholic anti-abortion movement in America. Was, past tense.

I'm not sure what's creepier, this sleaze who's already slunk off into the night or some of the scary Catholic family blogs. One has photos of a miscarriage which they had already named and 'pre-Christened'. Yes. Photos of a miscarriage. On their blog.

My period started today. Should I post photos?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Francis Whooo?!

I sincerely hope somebody files a civil suit against Beck.