So I'm mostly through what will be my longest week until mid-May, and I'm really starting to feel it.
Oh, sure, I'm still getting over that nasty chest/throat thing I had for a while. And yeah, in addition to logging some heavy hours I'm also trying to organize some serious lifestyle changes and and reading some relatively weighty books instead of feeding myself delicious fiction, but still. Ugh.
My head feels like it's made of wood tonight. If you've seen my brain, please send it home.
While it's away, some random links:
- Hanzi Smatter, or a website devoted to why it's dumb to get things tattooed onto your body in a language you don't know.
- Wringing things out...FOR SCIENCE! Canada is better at space than every other country because of Chris Hadfield.
- Mark Ruffalo is all about the Science Bros. Pardon me while I wipe away a tiny tear of glee.
- Pagans help save the Parliament of the World's Religions. Because we're awesome like that.
...is this short film called Cargo, in which a bitten father tries to protect his infant daughter.
So Fox has contracted a company -- Ripple Junction -- to make licensed Jayne hats. You can get them on Think Geek and stuff.
My personal reaction is that it's nice to be able to get one that's "right" in the sense that it's a licensed piece designed to be accurate -- AbbyShot makes some things I'd really like to own, for example -- but I also like the option of obtaining handmade. Jayne hats, for example, tend to be made with nicer materials than the acrylic yarn Ripple Junction's using, and buying handcrafted means supporting people who do handicrafts as a hobby or livelihood.
Some Browncoats I've seen talking about this have a pretty strong attachment to the Ma Cobb ethic in that Jayne hats ought to be DIY and not mass-produced pieces of luh suh.
So here's the thing:
Fox owns Firefly. They're absolutely entitled to market and license the manufacture of Firefly-related stuff. That's not up for debate. They're also allowed to defend their intellectual property, even if it's a property they mistreated pretty egregiously, then pointedly ignored for years.
That said, there's apparently a pretty good case to be made that Jayne's hat itself isn't a thing that Fox can stop people from making and selling. Calling it a "Jayne hat" might be problematic in terms of trademark, but if someone were to knit replicas and call them "cunning hats," for example, Fox would have (in my absolutely non-professional opinion as someone with a B.A. in English, informed by some lawyer's blog) less of a case. They've got even less of a leg to stand on with Jayne-style hats that are color-inverted, color-shifted, or mashed up with other things (like this Fourth Doctor Jayne hat).
And, of course, there's no way for Fox to stop anybody from making their own, teaching other people how to make their own, giving them as gifts, airdropping them, etc.
Of course, some of this may technically be moot for the poor knitter who can't afford to stand up to them, but I'd be surprised if the Browncoat community didn't pull together to raise money if Fox actually lawyered up.
Fans are going to make things, full stop. While property holders do have some rights in terms of controlling works based on media, those powers aren't total and complete. Fox is very big, and throws its weight around, but fandom isn't powerless, and telling a bunch of creative people working in community to stop doing that simply doesn't work.
While I wasn't jealous, exactly -- we have a lot of local honey going on around here, and I can get some pretty good stuff relatively inexpensively -- it did make me think about how I'd really like to learn about apiary at some point. Also, mead-making.
Of the two, learning to make mead is undoubtedly going to be the easier of the two to get away with. After all, if one can make a wine-like substance in a prison toilet tank out of sauerkraut and orange juice, I'm reasonably confident that I can produce something drinkable in a proper kitchen using proper tools. Plus, unlike Oprah, not everybody is completely stoked about having a colony of bees rocking out within spitting distance.
Mead, meanwhile, is comparatively inoffensive. It just kind of hangs out and ferments for a little while, and all it asks for is to be left undisturbed for a while in a relatively constant environment. Dogs don't (usually) bark at it, there aren't sad movies about children being attacked by a swarm of angry mead, and unless something goes really wrong, it's unlikely to try and build a colony inside the walls.
So yeah. New goal. Learn to make mead. And then maybe befriend a beekeeper with it or something.
So I was doing my morning news round-up today and learned that Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. George Tiller before he was murdered in church by an anti-choice extremist in May of 2009, has just reopened a new women's health clinic in the Wichita building where Dr. Tiller practiced before his death.
She and her staff are, unsurprisingly, facing a lot of harassment (mentioned in this segment from Maddow), but it sounds like they're just as undeterred in making sure that women have access to a full range of reproductive healthcare now as they were in February.
Meanwhile, Burkhart's Trust Women PAC is going to continue working to preserve and find ways to provide full-spectrum women's health care and family planning options in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. You can check them out (and donate, if you're into that sort of thing) here.
While I don't usually duck and cover on April 1 -- I actually enjoy well-executed pranks and faux product launches, and even the occasional questionable news article -- this year I spent most of the day away from the keys.
This might not have been a bad thing overall since a lot of my energy is spoken for at the moment and I might not have had the extra brain cycles to enjoy a lot of the jokes anyway, one thing that happened yesterday has managed to penetrate the busy and the brain haze: Lawrence Person's offensive post on the Locus site, Locus' response, and Person's reaction to the whole thing.
From what I can tell, here's what went down:
- Person posted an April 1 post in which Wiscon's organizers announce a burqua-only dress code for the upcoming convention.
- Sensible people decried it as offensive.
- Locus pulled the post, ended association with Person, and issued an apology to readers.
I'm all for a bit of succès de scandale, but I'm skeptical that over 20,000 people seeing that that the problem essay is basically a heady mish-mash of Islamophobia and misogyny, or that Person goes straight for the "humorless feminist" stereotype, or that he is comparing this to Elizabeth Moon's infamous "Citizenship" post from 2010 as if that were a good thing is going to have a positive effect.
I will be the first to admit that the way we do social justice on the Internet can be flawed. Well-meaning allies do dumb things, people don't always understand differing cultural norms, folks get dogpiled for the wrong reasons, and the Internet frequently combines a long memory with an inability to forgive in really ugly ways. Really ugly. Even so, there's a difference between what might be rightly called "social justice fail" where someone gets hurt by the seething mass for asinine reasons and what's happening here.
There is nothing "radical" or "fringe" about inclusivity. Locus' decision to pull something that doesn't represent its values isn't an impingement on speech. That SF/F as a group of genres increasingly caters to diverse communities of people instead of just a particular kind of white guy may put a crimp in the style of people who'd really rather not deal with the rest of humanity as equals, but them's the breaks.
You can adapt to the plural public square -- which, gasp, includes women and Muslims -- and learn to include people even when they're different, or you can rage against it and alienate yourself. Expecting someone to maintain a basic level of civility and professional inclusion isn't a "petulant demand." It's basic common sense. Locus made the right call. Good on them.
And yeah, this all happened in the context of an April 1 post (which Person has apparently been doing for eleven years), but the fact remains: Person made an Islamophobic, misogynist post in the guise of a joke, and then expected all of us to be okay with that. We weren't. Disparagement humor has real effects. And no, "Don't be so sensitive!" isn't an acceptable response.
Village at the End of the World
Curiously, the only things Village at the End of the World has in common with the film I saw Thursday -- The Expedition to the End of the World -- are that they a) have very similar titles, and b) are both set in Greenland. That being said, seeing both of them this weekend fills me with a curious sense of having collected the whole set.
Village is set in the settlement of Niaqornat, a hunting and fishing village of just under 60 people. It follows the community through the seasons, starting in high summer (when the sun simply circles in the sky), through deep winter (when the sun doesn't rise), through icy spring (prime polar bear hunting season on the ice), and into summer again. We see Niaqornat's rhythms as an Inuit village trying to maintain its culture in the face of environmental change, isolation, tourism, and difficulties reopening the local fish factory.
Overall, I enjoyed this film a lot. The director, Sarah Gavron, did a beautiful job of making the piece feel intimate while and communicating the point of view and daily realities of Niaqornat's people effectively.
Secret Screening Green
Because this was a "secret screening," I can't tell you the title, the subject matter, the director, or really share any identifying features about it. That said, I think I can talk about some of my reactions in ways that won't be problematic. So. Here goes.
A friend who saw it at an earlier screening indicated to me that she hadn't enjoyed it, and at a certain point she'd begun expecting a very specific mainstay of the horror genre to kick in. While I can definitely appreciate that point of view, I mainly spent my time wincing on behalf of the individuals involved, and wishing the piece was more engaging.
None of the films I've seen so far this festival come even remotely close to Dirty Wars in terms of sheer importance. In fact, my inclination is to say that this film should be required viewing for anyone who wants to have an opinion about the current state of US foreign policy.
Dirty Wars starts in Kabul, where journalist Jeremy Scahill begins investigating counter-terror actions that don't get significant -- or even any -- press. His journey leads him first to Gardez, to the scene of a US night raid that killed five innocent people. This discovery leads him (and the rest of the team) to uncover unsettling truths about the growing covert war that the US has begun fighting without Congressional oversight in countries we're not in conflict with. It's harrowing, horrible, and while I already knew at least some of the information in this film because I pay attention to the news, Scahill's emphasis on telling the story of the civilians and communities impacted by our current shadow war gives the issue a power I have yet to see happen in any medium.
When this film comes out into theatrical release, go see it. Seriously. Just go.
Do you like sailing ships? Do you like seeing what happens when artists and scientists are kept together in close quarters with zero plan except to go explore some remote Greenlandic fjords because a rich man and a dead man made it possible? Do you enjoy listening to people from Northern Europe talk about the inevitable extinction of the human race, and how that intersects with things like geology? If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, you might enjoy The Expedition to the End of the World.
The short version is this: a handful of artists and scientists are given the opportunity to take a four month expedition to Northern Greenland to explore some uncharted fjords during the summer months. The catch: there is no plan as such. The group is exploring simply to explore, financed by a rich architect (the owner of the ship) and some money willed to finance sea-related research. The result is essentially play, with members of each discipline taking advantage of the opportunity to dig, sample, sketch, and explore. Oh, and talk about being attacked by polar bears.
While a certain amount of the "end of the world" talk was intentional -- the film was originally intended to be the middle installment of a three-part mini-series about the expedition, each with a theme -- there's also a certain pragmatism and frankness that seems to go hand-in-hand with being in an extreme environment like Northern Greenland in the summer. Being away from humanity in bulk seems liberating to the ship's crew to the extent that when they cross paths with an oil prospecting crew, the hostility is palpable. Or, as one of the explorers puts it, "Man's enemy is man."
This isn't a documentary that's going to blow anybody away with suspense and action. It's more a little taster of several disciplines, a lot of scenery, and a smattering of philosophy. It doesn't give us any real answers. It is, however, an interesting 90 minutes if you like observing complex human beings in a truly unusual circumstance.
Also, the geologist plays the banjo. So.
Still, even more belatedly, I've been meaning to post some thoughts about the books I read last year. Because, ah, I read a few, and Goodreads helps me keep track of them. They also have a feature that allows readers to sign up for yearly reading challenges.
Last year, I started with a 24 book goal, but bumped it up to 36, and then finally 48. I finished out the year with 50 books finished in 2012. Considering the current size of my physical "to read" stack (which has about 50-60 books in it at any given time), I feel reasonably good about that.
But, you know, I get curious when I have a stack of data in front of me. So I looked at the list of books I read in 2012 and decided I wanted to know what I could learn from it.
- In 2012, 28 of the 50 books I read (56%) were works of fiction.
- In 2012, 34 of the 50 books I read (68%) were written by men.
- The author I read most in 2012 was Seanan McGuire (6 books), with Alan Moore and George R.R. Martin tying for second place (4 books). Suzanne Collins came in third place (3 books).
- Most of my non-fiction reading pertained to spirituality, with history and natural history coming in tied for second place, and all three topics having significant crossover.
- Most of my fiction reading was series fiction (October Daye, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Hunger Games, Magic Ex Libris, Princesses, Promethea).
I was surprised by some of this. I knew the fiction/non-fiction ratio would be pretty close, but I was surprised by the gender gap. Somehow I got to the end of the year thinking this would have been a lot more even. I haven't run numbers for things like race and sexuality -- some of that info simply isn't available -- but at a glance 2012 was relatively short on LGBTQ and PoC where my reading habits were concerned. I think I may try and remedy some of this in 2013.
I also hadn't really thought of myself as someone who primarily reads series fiction, but either 2012 was unusual -- hello, mainlining three series in 2012! -- or this was just something I didn't know about myself. I'm fine with that, obviously, but somehow it was a surprise. Don't ask me how. It's not like I thought I'd read a bunch of stand-alone books or something.