Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, September 02, 2006
Saturday night's all right
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:15 PM

Ian's off bartending at a Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah.

I've been entertaining myself this afternoon rewatching a few episodes of Firefly ("Safe," "Ariel" and "Objects in space" if anyone wants the insight)

Ooh, neat! New York Times has an article on John Adams' marginalia.

Wall Street Journal discusses the dilemma for vacationing bloggers. [So far, the only guest blogger I've ever considered is my husband.]

And from Boing Boing, A Database of Eighteenth-Century Metaphors of Mind. This is one of those topics I've been curious about for a while1,2, ever since I noticed how much terminology overlaps between steamtech and psychiatry, both of which developed around the same time...

Ampersand and his much more participatory readership are taking on the inverse correllation between porn and rape suggested by professor D'Amato, which I blogged at the start of the week.

There's also more going on regarding Ellison, but I don't feel like posting about that now... I've also fallen a bit behind on LJ, so may have missed some stuff.

And that's about all that's going on with me right now.

Hmm, do I want to watch Serenity, another DVD, or go back to my book?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Nu movie news
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:25 PM

I never thought it did enough business to warrant a sequel, but...

TMZ.com is reporting plans for:

The Hebrew Hammer 2: Hammer vs. Hitler
still from The Hebrew Hammer

Apparently, the opening sequence, “depicts a very drunk Mel Gibson spilling out of Moonshadows, two blondes on each arm and a bottle of Irish whiskey in hand. Gibson then obnoxiously berates the valets, leaps into his Lexus and speeds off, screaming obscenities about the Jews. Apprehended by a policeman down the road from Moonshadows, Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade is cut short when the cop -- "The Hebrew Hammer" -- puts a bullet in Gibson's head, spraying a bloody Star of David onto the windshield of his Lexus.

Writer and director Jonathan Kesselman says, "Young Jews love 'The Hebrew Hammer.' I think if Mel wants to truly extend an olive branch to the Jewish Community as a whole, his on-screen death would go a long way in accomplishing that goal."

Apparently, two studios have expressed an interest in the film, which is currently being shopped around, partly because of the opening scene.

The high concept for the movie goes something like this:

"The Hebrew Hammer" is now married and enjoying the good life in suburbia. But the Hammer is forced to dust off his pimpy, black leather couture to confront a new menace: A time-traveling Hitler, intent on altering key moments in Jewish history -- to the detriment of the Jews.

I managed to see the original Hebrew Hammer on the big screen (avoiding Comedy Censor Central's Bowdlerized/bastardized version), and loved it.

I never thought it earned enough box office to justify a sequel, but "allegedly, it performed well on DVD."

I'm so happy I could plotz!

 — Massive and public thanks to my mother for forwarding me the news!     

Ever have one of those days? (Redux)
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:05 PM
Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1594):
Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Larger image from a Wesleyan professor

You know, when you get that nagging feeling that you've forgotten something really important?

Those papers you needed for work still on the kitchen table? Maybe you left the lights on? Or the faucet was running?

What do you think slipped Captain Thomas Lee's mind while he prepared for this portrait?


The Tate Gallery explains the actual reason behind this show of legs:

Captain Thomas Lee's aim in this painting, apparently, was to vaunt his credentials as a peace negotiator between the Crown in Ireland and the various local rebels - a position he believed would be richly rewarded with status and lands. The painter, Marcus Gheeraerts II, depicts Lee's connections to both camps: the bare legs are like those of an Irish foot soldier, the richly-woven costume is that of gentleman of high birth.

Boy, when they talk of elite commando forces, they weren't kidding around...


I also think this image could make a really clever userpic, just scrolling down his body for a slow reveal.

Unfortunately, I don't have the ability to create animated GIFs, but I can simulate the effect by scripting an iframe to cycle through multiple static images:


Links:
 • 1 (2,523 bytes)
 • 2 (3,020 bytes)
 • 3 (3,065 bytes)
 • 4 (2,747 bytes)
 • 5 (2,354 bytes)
 • 6 (2,057 bytes)
 • 7 (2,072 bytes)
 • 8 (2,001 bytes)

[The script sometimes has problems because to reduce bandwidth, I'm not pre-loading the images on this page. If you don't see the pictures above the button change, go to Osmond-Riba.org/lis/CaptLee.htm.]

As for captions, besides the obvious “Having one of those days” or “Forget something?”, the old MasterCard commercial can be quite versatile:

 1. Hairstyle: $35
 2. Chest waxing: $50
 3. Fancy dress shirt: $150
 4. Pistol: $400
 5. Forgetting your pants on portrait day...
 6.   <beat>
 7.   <beat>
 8. Priceless!

Via Lea, who noticed the portrait in the latest edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature.

Two quotes
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:48 AM

Apropos of nothing in particular:

I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.
There are basically two theories of history: conspiracy and cock-up. The Bush administration combines them so well that in any given case, it's hard to decide.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
A rose by any other name?
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:40 PM

Given the last two days' posts, this may seem like closing the barn door after the baby's been thrown out with the bathwater, but more happened during the award ceremony than one grope from a dope.

Among the honorees, Forrest J. Ackerman not only won the Big Heart award, but the award was renamed in his honor.

Ignorant neofan that I was, I found that a touching and appropriate gesture.

Gary Farber has a little more context:

I'm doubtless one of the few people disgruntled at the news that the venerable, if vastly lesser known, E. E. Evans Big Heart Award, given at the Worldcon since 1958, has been renamed the "Forry Ackerman Big Heart Award."

Few enough people remember E. Everett Evans, and those who do may recall his few sf novels, such as the Planet Mappers, and posthumous colloboration with Doc Smith, Masters of Space, or his E. E. Smith concordance (done with Ron Ellik), and others; Man Of Many Minds was likely the best of the lot, although Alien Minds had a lovely Hannes Bok cover; the whole purpose of the award was to remember E. E. Evans.

Whereas Forry Ackerman has always arguably been the Best Known Sf Fan In The World Ever (arguably far out of proportion to his accomplishments, which also arguably more or less ceased in fandom, though not in the world of monster film fans, by the late Fifties). Odds are that you've never heard of either and don't care, but if you've heard of one, it's surely Forry Ackerman, not E. E. Evans.

So I take the message from Worldcon fandom here to be: you'll be remembered in fandom until you're, you know, forgotten. There's a time-limit, and if we honor you, we'll take that honor away after enough time has passed, and we don't care any more if you're forgotten. We'll give your honor to someone more famous. Why? Power law.

Feh. No disrespect intended to Forry Ackerman, but this is a stinky, ugly, way to honor someone. And if he had any grace, he'd have refused to let them do this.

Forry's version of how the award was created is here, or if you prefer more context, here.

I never knew the award already honored a fandom luminary; I've just heard it generically referred to as the "Big Heart" award. But now that I know, I agree with Gary that it feels wrong to remove Evans' name in this manner.

PS: Since it's rather obvious that I have been following the Harlan Ellison story across the blogosphere, if any latecomers want a good set of representative links, let me know.

Look! A Monkey!
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:10 PM

Time for a quick update on something posted ten days ago:

To recap:

Why the hell is the Department of Homeland Security involved in [the extradition of the Jon-Benet Ramsey suspect], let alone in freakin' THAILAND?"
The 24-hour news channels are all abuzz with the potential confession of some random guy in Thailand who says that he killed Jon-Benet Ramsey, or however you spell it.
They're NOT all abuzz with the fact that President's warrantless wiretapping program has been found BOTH illegal AND unconstitutional.

Remember all that?

Well, for those who don't watch the 7x24 "news" channels, here's how it all turned out:

Jeralyn Merritt writes:

Unbelievable. Not that Karr isn't the killer, but that the Boulder District Attorney would have sought the arrest warrant, involved Homeland Security, the FBI and the Justice Department to extradite a man from Thailand with no physical evidence linking Karr to the crime.

Two weeks of hysteria and belated apologies to the families and who knows how much filler... for bupkis.

But no matter how many times they fall for it, the intersection of sex and crime and underage girls invariably sucks all the oxygen out of the fourth estate, leaving little room for coverage of more important matters.

Meanwhile, today's headlines are reporting that law enforcement has arrested the leader of a polygamist breakaway sect on the FBI's Most Wanted List on suspicion of sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.

Update: Ian's post on the issue

Taste the Rainbow
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:44 PM

Elizabeth Bear is propagating some useful new fannish terminology:

Vanilla Cupcake Syndrome, which includes both Heteronormativity and Default Fantasy Caucasianism.

Coined by Charles

Overheard...
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:05 PM

Ian:

“I do card tricks for the cat, but she doesn't seem to appreciate them.”

See what kinds of things Boopsie has to put up with?

Impossible Things? Uncharted Territory?
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:00 PM

I know I should leave well enough alone, but an idea occurred to me...

I'm reading a lot of outrage across the blogosphere over Harlan Ellison's actions, and justifiably so. Such behavior is unacceptable, and I'm glad to see so many unequivocal statements to that effect.

But let's face it, I doubt Connie Willis will actually press charges. Harlan allegedly said multiple times that this would be his last con, so all the demands to bar him from future conventions or boycott those he attends won't be terribly useful. Giving him more negative attention is still giving him more attention.

If no new information appears to feed the beast, the issue will quickly fade into fannish lore, little else to show but yet another cautionary tale of the dirty old pros back in the day.

But maybe we can channel this energy into something positive? Something that will make a difference and improve fandom in a way that counteracts the damage Harlan did.

It seems to me that Harlan's public actions most harmed (a) Connie Willis herself, and (b) the comfort and perception of safety for women in fandom. [Rachel Manija Brown's encounter is a separate matter.]

How about doing something to promote women's participation in fandom?

I don't know precisely what would work best: Maybe a collection of essays or fiction anthology by and about femmefandom? Raise a fan fund to bring more girls to cons? Or maybe start hosting parties or consuites which will serve as safe spaces for women?

These are just my first pass proposals, and already holes are beginning to show (topical anthologies quickly stale and become cobweb-catchers; women already attend cons without such encouragement, and the con itself should be a safe space). But I'm sure more experienced congoers can come up with better ideas. Or maybe existing feminist sf resources (like WisCon) would be better suited to running this kind of effort.

Then, if she's willing to give her permission, name this effort for Connie Willis.
Honor her by making a positive contribution to the role of women in fandom, rather than continuing to describe her as Harlan's victim.

Though even without her direct sponsorship, doesn't this kind of positive action seem more... fulfilling... than continued fulminations against Harlan?

Or maybe I'm just full of it and everyone thinks this is a stupid idea.

Please comment, and let me know what you think.


By the way, since it seems relevant, I want to once again draw attention to the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans for both further reading and your own contributions.

Ellison Wonderland
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:56 PM

Earlier this afternoon, Harlan Ellison has posted the following to his website:

HARLAN ELLISON - Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:19:50

REPLY TO LYNNE BATIK:


Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress ... and having left the hall entirely ... yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato's traditional chili party ... and having taken off next morning for return home ... and not having the internet facility to open "journalfen" (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis's left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar ...YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN'S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go 'way over the line in terms of invasion of someone's personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie's breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I've called Connie. Haven't heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It's not as if I haven't been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn't--till now--reached your level of outrage.

I'm glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

I'm not familiar with Unca Harlan's Art Deco Dining Pavilion or the usual tone of comments on that board. But that's where you can read Lynne Batik's post that Harlan was replying to.

(Unfortunately), Ellison followed up his comment above with several subsequent entries over the span of a half hour. The first sounds good, but then he veers back off into the unsympathetic.

HARLAN ELLISON - Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:26:56

CONNIE WILLIS'S LEFT BREAST, REDUX

Did I fail to mention, I am 100% guilty as charged, and NO ONE should attempt to cobble up mitigating excuses for my behavior? As with everything else I REALLY DO (as opposed to the bullshit that is gossiped third-hand by dolts), I am responsible for my actions 100% and am prepared to shoulder all consequences, instead of shunting them off to Vice-President ScaryGuy.

Adultly said, Yr. pal, Harlan
HARLAN ELLISON - Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:28:31

REDUX, REDUX'D

This may be what killed vaudeville.

he
HARLAN ELLISON - Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:31:1

REDUX TERTIUS

How's chances of me playing either the "I'm an old man and my brain is leaking out of my ass" card ... or ... even better ...

"I'm an old Jew and this is just another example of anti-Semitism because all you goyim are pissed that Jews really DO control the whole world."

I can go either way.

Yr. pal, Harlan
HARLAN ELLISON - Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:43:2

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH

On a more serious note: if, in fact, Connie (or Courtney, or Cordelia) were/are/might in any way be offended by this latest demonstration of give'n'take jackanapery between Connie and Harlan (now in its longest-run on Broadway), you may all rest assured I will apologize vehemently, will crawl to Colorado through broken glass and steaming embers, and beg her (their) forgiveness. I need no one to prompt me.

Harlan Ellison, a friend of Connie Willis

I'm speechless... Can someone please translate?

Demon With a Crass Hand
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:30 PM

Harry Potter fandom has recently been roiled in conflict as facts get distorted by a blogospheric game of telephone, justifiable outrage turns into vigilanteism, mob mentalities lead to threats of violence, and everything just spirals out of control until discussion becomes impossible. It's disturbingly easy how little it takes to get carried away with the crowd.


So as everyone rushes to condemn Harlan Ellison, I'm really wanting to hear more detailed eyewitness descriptions of what precisely happened between him and Connie Willis at the Hugo ceremony.

I'm getting glimpses here and there:

Ian McDonald:
[saw] Harlan Ellison grab Connie Willis' boob (or so it looked to me from the depths of the fifth row.)
 *Ian McDonald has since apologized for his phrasing
PNH:
Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis on stage at the Hugos [...] Ellison's tit-grab
Laurie Mann, Ellison's Hugo escort:
[S]ince i was standing behind Harlan and Connie, I could certainly hear what they were saying, but I couldn't see what, if anything, was going on between them. [...] What I didn't know until the next day was that Harlan groped Connie when they were standing together by the podium. Not only that, it was captured by the cameras, so everyone in the arena saw it. Connie, class act that she was, didn't miss a beat, continued with the ceremony like an adult. Connie kept the focus of the ceremony on honoring the winners, and not drawing more attention to Harlan's behavior.
David Goldfarb:
Here's what I remember happening:
Ellison came on stage and started acting up. (To be fair, Willis's introduction of him was slightly provocative -- when the first thing she mentioned was The Last Dangerous Visions I for one wondered what he was going to do, and judging by the crowd reaction I wasn't alone. Of course this no excuse.) For instance, shortly after coming on he put the microphone in his mouth. (I hear the con ended up having to buy that mike.) A little bit later, the two of them hugged, in what I assume was a pre-scripted moment -- although I could easily be wrong. As they came together for the hug, Ellison moved his hand so that it would land on Willis's breast. Willis immediately grabbed the hand and moved it to her shoulder. The whole thing was over very quickly. There was a little bit of rumbling from the audience; but by the time I (and, I guess, much of the audience) realized what had happened, Willis was already continuing as though nothing untoward had occurred.
Paul Melko:
I remember looking on in horror when he did it. I focused on Connie's face and I think it registered real shock; I wanted to think it was part of their act, because if it wasn't, it was just plain wrong.

General reaction at the time from those in the audience (Lucy & Sharon, Simon, Teresa, and Wendy) appears to have been shock and disbelief, when it even registered at all (Laurie above and Bear). By the time somebody could have done something, Willis had moved the show along.

If this were caught on camera, I'd really like to see it to judge for myself. Of course, the downside of that is the risk that it could end up an animated GIF for all time, and surely Connie Willis deserves better than to be remembered for this incident. [Although, I have to admit to snickering over this image.]

Several congoers mentioned that Willis apparently did speak out later, although so far I've only seen quotes from Dieppe and Wild_patience:

At the closing ceremony Connie said something like "If someone wants to start a petition for Harlan Ellison to keep his fucking hands off of me, I'd be willing to sign it!" Or something like that.
I didn't attend the Hugos, but I attended Connie's interview by Charlie Brown the next day, and she started it by referring to "f*cking Harlan Ellison" and "why do I always have to bell the cat"? She evidently kept her cool on stage, but she was upset by it.

Harlan's actions onstage are being tied into Rachel Manija Brown's account of her own encounter with Ellison at the con:

[Harlan] poked me in the belly button.
"Hey!" I grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him. He looked rather startled.
"Gotta get to my panel," I said, and fled with my coffee.

I've seen suggestions that, in general, Harlan's behavior all con seemed worse than usual for him. (1,2)

That said, reaction in the blogosphere has already moved from shock and condemnation to threats of retroactive retribution.

Kat Allen makes an excellent point (emphasis mine):

[W]hile I'd prefer to have a little more information about what happened... that such information isn't available after this long is in itself bad news.
It wasn't/isn't entirely up to Connie Willis to do *something* about this.
That she should have slugged him, or slapped him, or... is drifting into fantasy because that fantasy is a comfort.
[...]
But it wasn't up to Connie Willis to have done anything differently, or to do anything now.
It was up to the other people in that room.
It was up to the event organisers.
It is up to the wider SFF community.

Alan DeNiro looks one step further:

It makes me wonder -- how must a woman just entering the field feel about this? Younger female readers? What could they possibly think about this? Could they possiblly think anything good about SF/F? As a field? A community?

I'll confess, that was partly my point in writing about this in the first place, though I couldn't figure out how to phrase it until now:

If this behavior is condoned against a 60-year-old multiple-award-winning GOH at a formal event, then how much easier will it be to excuse comparable actions against younger women in casual settings. Will dress or actions be used to say "she was asking for it"?

I generally feel at home in fannish crowds, but these reports discomfort me.

Unlike some bloggers, I will make no promises (nor threats) of how I'll respond if someone grabs me inappropriately. As Kat Allen wrote, "that fantasy is a comfort," but I really can't predict what kind of spur-of-the-moment reaction I might have should I be surprised in such a manner.

As for how this appears to outsiders, this post made me roll my eyes a bit, particularly for the outdated stereotypes. But the actions as described plays right into the behavior one would expect of the "boys' club" that SFF reportedly once was.

[Still, at least fannish reaction is better than the response to Adrien Brody's treatment of Halle Berry at the 2003 Oscars. When Brody received his award, he grabbed and dipped Berry (the previous year's Best Actress), gave her a lengthy kiss on the lips, and then quipped, "I bet they didn't tell you that was in the gift bag!" Way to treat a woman like property! Of course, USA Today went so far as to write an article on how sexy and romantic it was, totally ignoring any issues of Berry's consent.]


At this point, there's so much noise I'm not sure how much more can be said. ["Harlan Ellison" is currently one of Technorati's top searches.] Most newer posts are only spreading the word, not extending our knowledge. Outside of further accounts from direct eyewitnesses, or the participants themselves... there isn't much more to add. [Though I know several folk who consider themselves Friends of Ellison, at least one of whom was probably at WorldCon, and I'd like to hear their impressions -- even privately if they don't want to enter the fray.]

Any other news?

Monday, August 28, 2006
Learning the wrong lessons?
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:30 PM

EBay has made a blanket prohibition against selling teachers' edition textbooks on its site:

Teacher's editions of textbooks and solutions manuals that are intended solely for use by teachers are not permitted by eBay.

Makes perfect sense to me.

I remember my freshman year of high school, discovering the teacher's edition of our math textbook in the library.

My best friend checked it out. She would've gotten away with it if she didn't run out of renewals. Once the librarian looked at the title for the overdue notice, the gig was up.

Even though my friend swears she only used it for better explanations of the material and to check her answers, she could very easily have cheated on every homework assignment.

Needless to say, she got in trouble for it and the book was pulled from student circulation.

So the eBay policy seems entirely understandable.

However, apparently homeschoolers are in an uproar and somehow think that eBay is picking on them. They're bandying around terms like discrimination and seem to think this somehow ties into "public school interests" that oppose homeschooling.

*eyeroll*

Via Dvorak who links to a WorldNutDaily "exclusive" on the issue.

No one expects the fannish admonition
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:00 PM

In response to the news about Harlan Ellison's boorish behavior (which many people would say isn't really news), several people expressed a strong desire for Connie Willis to have retaliated: anything from verbal humiliation to kneeing him in the crotch.

One woman replied to the latter suggestion as follows:

I think there's a thing in standard female socialisation in which women are taught to respond to verbal put-downs and encroachments on body space with smiles and attempts to lower the general aggression level instead of with anger.

So I'd have been surprised if she'd responded the way you suggest, and if she had I expect there would be a chorus of "Why did she do that when he was only..." and "Can't she take a joke?"

And yet...

I'm reminded of an incident at a con a few years back, in which a woman writer got so fed up with a condescendingly sexist man (another pro) that she poured her soda over his head. Although she was embarrassed by her actions, the general reaction around fandom seemed to be that he got what he deserved...

Now, that may prove the point above -- that the level of obnoxiousness necessary to make most women lose their cool is so far beyond the line that most people can agree he has it coming.

Rereading blog discussion about the earlier altercation, this comment by Graydon still seems relevant:

When a man suffers a public indignity, he has grounds to be upset.

When the news of the indignity is met with approval, glee, delight, and wistfulness at having missed personal witness thereof by very nearly every woman of even his passing acquaintance who should chance to hear of it, I should think that the man has grounds to consider the advisability of his habitual conduct, and perhaps even to engage in a degree of introspection, however potentially painful he might fear it should prove to be.

For Ellison's sake, I'd think the same holds true when very nearly every woman wishes his actions resulted in indignity.

What I'm reading
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:13 PM

Finally finished James Shapiro's Shakespeare and the Jews over the weekend. I think it's one I'd like to own.

I've already analogized it to The Anatomy of Puck and King James and the history of homosexuality. A lot of the book boils down to the power myth and superstition have over the truth.

There are cultural oddities, such as the uniquely English addition to blood libel tales: a bizarre notion that Jews circumcize their victims before killing them, a concept which strikes me as illogical on many levels. Confusion between circumcision and castration, and fear of either, may underlay much of the horror in Shylock's demand for a "pound of flesh."

Which leads Shapiro to this point:

[R]acist fantasies continue to compel belief because they tap into some of the deepest fears people have of "turning" -- especially of physical, sexual, or religious transformation. Dig deep enough and one discovers that the affirmation of cultural identity too often rests on the slippery foundations of prejudice and exclusion. Even as stories feed our hunger to imagine others as inferior, evil, and dangerous, they succeed in masking the extent to which the storytellers' identities are formed (and often deformed) in the act of recounting such tales. A different kind of deformity, one that derives from the cult of victimization, occurs when one group can hear only the stories others tell about it and is deaf to the stories it tells about others. This may seem obvious enough, but in a world in which an increasing number of identity groups compete for the status of greatest victim, the point is easily forgotten. [...]
Stories retain their currency because they tell us what we want to hear, even if at some level we know them to be untrue. The fantasy that when Jews “were unknown . . . each Briton might then call his birthright his own” will no doubt continue to appeal to those who long for this imaginary golden age. Anglo-Jewry has been no less fond of sentimentalizing the past. Until quite recently its historians had celebrated a romantic version of the past that traced a more or less direct line from Expulsion to Readmission to Emancipation...

Because the English expelled the Jews in 1290, the popular conception of what it meant to be English was incompatible with Jewishness. Thus, you have events like this:

[T]he Jewish Historical Society of England at the turn of the century decided -- largely on the basis of a pair of contemporary allusions -- that there was sufficient proof to establish an annual holiday, "Resettlement Day," to be celebrated on February 4. While cautions voices pointed to "the futility of attempting to create an anniversary for which there is no historical justification," their advice was ignored. David Cesarani describes how Resettlement Day "assumed ritual status" in the decade after its initial celebration in 1894, and was celebrated "in ever more expansive and lavish fashion," reaching its "climax in February 1906 with the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebration." [...]

Fifty years later, a decade after the end of the Second World War and only a few years after quickly forgotten anti-Jewish riots in major Britich cities, the tercentenary of the "Re-settlement of the Jews" was celebrated. The symbolic rituals of cultural acceptance that marked the celebrations are telling: an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a banquet at Guildhall, a garden Party at Lambeth Palace, and a commemorative volume. We are left, then, with multiple and competing histories of the Readmission, histories that from an Anglo-Jewish perspective are about belonging to the dominant English community, and from an English perspective about myths celebrating their tolerance of outsiders.

But when you look closely, both "sides" still situate the Jews as distinct from English, thus somehow non-English, no matter how many centuries have passed.

The book does have a bit of the hubris that "all previous authors tried to categorize this aspect of history as A or B, but I'm going to suggest it's really C." Makes me want to see what subsequent books have said about the work, how well his theories have held up.

This is the second of his books I've read and enjoyed (1599 was the other). I really want the opportunity to talk to the guy, ask him some questions (I would've liked more elaboration on the Lopez case), hopefully one day take some classes from him, and learn more of what he has to say. I think I'll have to find his book on passion plays, Oberammergau.


Speaking of books, last night's entry made me realize I've blogged After Elizabeth on multiple occasions. If the book is going to keep impinging on my consciousness in this manner, I probably need to read it.

So over lunch, I stopped at the library nearest my workplace to pick up that, Hugo winner Spin (beating the rush), and Disraeli: the Victorian Dandy who became prime minister (which was a spur-of-the-moment eyecatcher on someone I know pitifully little about).

PS: One other title of interest that Shapiro reminded me of: The making of the national poet : Shakespeare, adaptation and authorship, 1660-1769

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:50 PM

What does a woman have to do to get a little respect in this industry?

In the past two weeks I've heard two stories of two SF luminaries receiving outrageously rude treatment in the name of "entertainment."

First, quoting Zuzu at Feministe about the Comedy Central roast of William Shatner:

August 15, 2006 — KOOKY comedian Andy Dick went bonkers at the Comedy Central roast of William Shatner on Sunday night - licking the faces of Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher and Patton Oswalt before biting Post reporter Mandy Stadtmiller on the hand during a bizarre backstage meltdown.

Dick's face-licking frenzy began after Oswalt made a crack about the scraggly star's rollerskate-licking turn in Jessica Simpson's video, "A Public Affair." Dick retaliated by unleashing his tongue on Oswalt's face before turning it on Fawcett, Fisher and "Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols during the taping at the Radford CBS Studio in Studio City, Calif.

Note that, other than Oswalt — who made the crack — all of his victims were women. I doubt he'd try that with Leonard Nimoy. But a woman who was persuaded not to quit her job by MLK because her role was so groundbreaking, and who inspired Dr. Mae Jemison to become an astronaut? Hey, she's just a woman. It's safe to assault her.

Second, PNH describes something similar at the Hugo ceremony over the weekend:

Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis on stage at the Hugos wasn't funny and it wasn't okay. I understand (from third parties; I haven't spoken to her about it) that Connie Willis's position is that Ellison has done worse and she can handle him, but I really didn't want to watch it and neither, I think, did a lot of other people in the audience. Up to then the comedic schtick aspects of the Hugo presentation had been genuinely funny. After that, I think, many of us just wanted it all to stop.

Just as with George W. Bush's now-famous uninvited shoulder-rub of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the basic message of Ellison's tit-grab is this: "Remember, you may think you have standing, status, and normal, everyday adult dignity, but we can take it back at any time. If you are female, you'll never be safe. You can be the political leader of the most powerful country in Europe. You can be the most honored female writer in modern science fiction. We can still demean you, if we feel like it, and at random intervals, just to keep you in line, we will."

I haven't actually seen either event, and would like to hear more from eye-witnesses, but my gut reaction is: WHAT THE %$@#*! WRONG WITH THESE GUYS!?!?

PNH is right when he says:

It's not okay. It's not funny. It wasn't a blow against bourgeois pieties or political correctness. It was just pathetic and nasty and sad and most of us didn't want to watch it.

That was written about Harlan, but I think it applies equally to both incidents.

If women as distinguished and mature as Connie Willis and Nichelle Nichols aren't safe from being publically assaulted in this manner, what hope do the rest of us have?

And how do we, as women and feminists and SF fans, bring about an end to this kind of puerile "humor"?

PS: I intend to submit this to the Feminist SF Carnival to draw wider attention to these incidents. If you weren't already aware of the Carnival, I strongly recommend checking out the links. If you're visiting from the carnival, hello and welcome!

PPS: I have since written two followups, No one expects the fannish admonition and Demon With a Crass Hand.

I love my husband
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:48 PM

Today, he's been seeking answers to this question:

Grayskull Mountain

“To what extent was the homoeroticism in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe deliberate, and to what extent was it accidental?”

“I am having trouble believing that a show about a guy with two identities, one of which is a muscular, passive bleached-blond guy wearing purple tights, Ugg boots, and a satin vest, and the other one of which being a tanned, muscular bleached-blond guy with a redundantly masculine name wearing a BDSM harness, can be created unintentionally.”

“Prince Adam, who lounges around in lavender harem pants, turns into fetish-clad He-Man in order to hang out with Ram-Man and Fisto. Is it POSSIBLE this is accidental?”

I was (fortunately) just a shade too old to get caught up in the He-Man craze, though I remember my younger brother's interest in it.

Here's an old Slate story about the show, for more on how easily it can be viewed as camp.

BTW, as entertaining as this may be, Ian also has some less pleasant family news to pass along.

Ever have one of those days?
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:45 PM

It's funny because it's true:

Click to enlarge:
Piled Higher and Deeper, 8/23/2006 (c) Jorge Cham; click to enlarge
Copyright © Jorge Cham
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Porn Up, Rape Down?
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:05 PM

Here's an intriguing conjecture by Law Professor Anthony D'Amato:

ABSTRACT: The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.

. . .

Official explanations for the unexpected decline [in sexual violence] include (1) less lawlessness associated with crack cocaine; (b) women have been taught to avoid unsafe situations; (c) more would-be rapists already in prison for other crimes; (d) sex education classes telling boys that "no means no." But these minor factors cannot begin to explain such a sharp decline in the incidence of rape.

There is, however, one social factor that correlates almost exactly with the rape statitistics. The American public is probably not ready to believe it. My theory is that the sharp rise in access to pornography accounts for the decline in rape. The correlation is inverse: the more pornography, the less rape. It is like the inverse correlation: the more police officers on the street, the less crime.

. . .

Correlations aside, could access to pornography actually reduce the incidence of rape as a matter of causation? In my article I mentioned one possibility: that some people watching pornography may "get it out of their system" and thus have no further desire to go out and actually try it. Another possibility might be labeled the "Victorian effect": the more that people covered up their bodies with clothes in those days, the greater the mystery of what they looked like in the nude. The sight of a woman's ankle was considered shocking and erotic. But today, internet porn has thoroughly de-mystified sex. Times have changed so much that some high school teachers of sex education are beginning to show triple-X porn movies to their students in order to depict techniques of satisfactory intercourse.

Evidence-wise, D'Amato doesn't go much further than pointing out the correlation. And I'm well aware that correlation is not causality, and there have been many other societal changes to both women's status and societal attitudes towards sexual violence over the past few decades that are probably contributing factors.

Still, given all the efforts to argue that porn causes rape, I found this a curious converse and thought it might make an interesting addition to the debate.

Via John C. Dvorak's blog.

Ugh
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:24 PM

I wasn't out in the rain very long, but I feel like I'm coming down with a cold.

Snf.

Because I know my husband, when I saw a reproduction of Baden-Powell's original 1906 scouting handbook, I knew I had to get it for him.

Several other books caught my eye, but as usual, I'm more willing to spend money on Ian than myself, and I merely made note of them for future library visits:

Oh, and just as a reminder, the book a coworker was recently reading: The seduction of place: the history and future of the city

Plus the book which so completely sums up the 2006 zeitgeist:

PS: Damn, now that Ian's going out to buy more tissues, the generic Benadryl seems to have kicked in and dried up my sinuses. So now I'm having weird sweats.

Not fun.

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