Category Archives: Art

Avatar, District 9 & White Liberation Fantasies

[NOTE: I haven't seen Avatar, though being a fan of Aliens and some of James Cameron's other work (the less about True Lies the better), I am inclined to do so.  Still, spoiler warning if you haven't seen either Avatar or District 9.]

Annalee Newitz of Io9 hits the analysis on the head when she critiques Avatar as just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy.  From the previews I have seen, her take looks spot on.

She goes on to talk about white privilege and makes a good connection with the situation of Wikus in District 9:

Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be
white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but
never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it's like to
be a Na'vi because he always has the option to switch back into human
mode. Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very
different lesson. He's becoming alien and he can't go back. He has no
other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what?
He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely
because he's hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a "cure"
for his alienness. When whites fantasize about becoming other races,
it's only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of
being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and
nobody will let you be a leader of anything.

She concludes with:

Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky
way of turning every story about people of color into a story about
being white. Speaking as a white person, I don't need to hear more
about my own racial experience. I'd like to watch some movies about
people of color (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group,
without injecting a random white (erm, human) character to explain
everything to me. Science fiction is exciting because it promises to
show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what
we've seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I'm doomed to see the same old story again and again.

Praise Be!


A few bits on sacrifice from Raoul Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life, (Chapter 12) which I am reading now:

"… the master-slave dialectic implies that the mythic sacrifice of the
master embodies within itself the real sacrifice of the slave: the
master makes a spiritual sacrifice of his real power to the general
interest, while the slave makes a material sacrifice of his real life
to a power which he shares in appearance only."


"The refusal of sacrifice is the refusal to be bartered. There is
nothing in the world of things, exchangeable for money or not, which
can be treated as equivalent to a human being. The individual is
irreducible. He is subject to change but not to exchange. Now, the most
superficial examination of movements for social reform shows that they
have never demanded anything more than a cleaning-up of exchange and
sacrifice, making it a point of honor to humanize inhumanity and make
it attractive. And every time slaves try to make their slavery more
bearable they are striking a blow for their masters."

This book and Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War are the two books I am striving to finish of late.  Sigh… the Sicilian Expedition, about which I am reading, was yet another case of imperial overstretch.  Not like our current follies.

Harry Potter: Less Draco, More Snogging (& Fighting)

Uncharacteristically for us, we have seen about four first-run movies in June and July. 

The latest was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  I can certainly say that I liked it better than the previous installment of the series.  I finished the 5th book just prior to watching that movie and as a result felt that the movie was a pale imitation of the book.  This go round, with the book firmly in my distant memory, I found that I was able to keep the comparisons to minimum and appreciate it more.  That said the general consensus of my wife, son and I was: 

Less Draco, More Snogging (& Fighting)

I feel for Draco with his dilemma about graduating from a bully and braggart to a cold blooded murderer of one of the most loved characters, but did we need to see his anguish so many times?  Plus, was it really necessary to see Draco with the cabinet: the meeting, an apple, a bird, etc.  Yes, yes we get the point, can we move on now?  If we see a gun, or in this case a cabinet, in act 1, it will be used in act 3, we get it!  Did the director need to waste three minutes of time on the cabinet, when the story completely fails to explain why Ron was so worried about a Quidditch match or why Harry received no punishment for the spell he inflicted on Draco or even get questioned on where he got the spell?  Context, continuity, any of these ringing a bell?

That all said, my wife wanted more snogging, and my son wanted more of a final battle.  I would settle for a plot without loose ends, middles and beginnings and wasted opportunities.  I really hope the final movie(s) prove to be better.

The other three movies are: Ice Age 3, the latest Star Trek movie and Up.  Ice Age 3 was no where near as good as the previous two movies and gave Ellie, the lone female character, very little dialogue.  Star Trek flubbed it on the science, but was pretty exciting and had good characters.  Of the three, Up was clearly the best, with terrific character setup and development, lots of humor and a good story.  That said, Up continued Pixar's trend of few non-white characters.  Come on Pixar, its the 21st century, can't you add more diversity to your characters.

The latest Star Trek flick prompted me to show my wife and son ST: Wrath of Khan and St: The Voyage Home recently.  Khan held up, but The Voyage Home, while talking about saving whales, a subject near and dear to my heart, didn't so well. 

Speaking of whales, the NY Times Magazine has a fantastic article on them.  I highly recommend it.

I’m not 20 anymore

When I was 20 I found the Throwing Muses.  I loved the band, got their tapes (yes it was that long ago), saw them wherever I could and probably pined for the lead singer/guitar player/song writer more than I should have.  They were my favorite band, bar none.

Since those days, the band has gone through its ups and downs, but it still keeps working.  During that time I bought their albums and attended their concerts.  I tended to go alone since few that I knew were interested in going.  They didn't play at places like Foxboro stadium, where we were hundreds of feet from them.  Instead, they played smaller venues where I could (and did) wade up to the front so I could be six feet from the band with no one to block me.  I could stand, singing to the songs (non-verbally of course), swaying to the music and enjoy the show.

I anticipated that last night's show would be the same.  They were scheduled to go on at 11:30, so after a dinner out with my wife, we headed over and encountered the end of the second band of the line up, 50 Foot Wave.  Now 50 Foot Wave is most of Throwing Muses, but trying a different style of music: noise rock as the Boston Phoenix called it.

Before Throwing Muses went on, I moved to the front to repeat the experiences of past concerts, while my wife stayed in back.  After nearly half an hour, something unexpected happened.  I decided that I didn't want to be there and we left.  Sure the cigarette smoke was gone from times past.  However, I found that I put more time into keeping upright in the sardine confines of the hall, trying not to block other people's views and trying to get a good pictures of the band.  Instead of enjoying the show and being in the moment as the Buddhists would say, I let myself get distracted.

Once I realized this fact, I noticed that I really don't like experiencing a concert essentially alone.  A concert is a social event, and not having someone with whom to share it takes away the charm.  When I went to see Solas at the Somerville Theatre, say, the fact that I had to sit in a seat meant that I was forced to share that experience with the family and friends with me.  I am the better for it. 

Throwing Muses is still one of my favorite bands.  However, there is no way I can pretend to be twenty even for a couple of hours.  I won't be going to any more Throwing Muses' concerts.  That song is done.

NOTE: The folks at the Screaming Females/50 Foot Wave/Throwing Muses merchandise table were really great including the guy who offered to give me some free ear plugs.  Thanks!  Also a thanks to the guy who told me to put down my camera.  He was in the moment, I was not, but without his request, I might not have had the insight I did.

Time Management for Anarchists: The Movie

I went looking for action figures (aka dolls) for Liam that were not your standard knight/star wars character/monster/transformer.  I searched for Gandhi action figures and didn’t find anything.  They I searched for anarchist action figures and I am still looking.  Along the way I came across Time Management for Anarchists: The Movie.  Very funny and highly useful.  Enjoy.