Friday, 29 January 2016

The Body as Decoration

Sex sells.  We all know this.  It's partly why there's an ever-growing number of women and women's groups who are trying to combat misogyny in all its forms.  However, the patriarchy is always trying to find new ways to proclaim that men are better, that men are uncontrollable hormone-fuelled time bombs and women had better behave in such a way as to not set them off, or else.

The men of many cultures once made a point of wearing decorations that featured parts of their conquests, as if that made them appear more formidable; for example, necklaces made from their opponent's teeth and fingers.  That's no different from modern hunters displaying animal heads or men who keep the undergarments of the women they've bedded.

It goes further.  There are now backpacks shaped like a man's scrotum.  There are scrotum-shaped dangly decorations that are often seen hanging from the trailer hitch of a vehicle.  Articles of clothing are made to look like sagging breasts.  These are yet more statements of "look at this, we are powerful sexual creatures".

I grant that some such clothing concepts might be intended for a good cause.  But my belief is that a person's most sensitive parts should not be used for promotion of any type.  It's degrading and objectifying.  It's like the playground taunt of "my dad can beat up your dad" - a threat that those who hold power will shove in others' faces when they can.

So, do you think that a naked woman on the cover of a magazine is cool, or that drawing a dick in the snow is funny?  Or if you go out of your way to find the word "sex" in an innocent piece of film animation to prove some secret conspiracy?  You have major issues.

Forgive the expression, but it's time to grow a pair and have some respect.  For everyone.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Alternate Analysis

I've been a fan of Star Trek since I can remember.  I used to watch the original series with my parents when it was in syndication.  I built shuttlecraft from Lego, wrote stories about the quirks of the major characters, and came up with theories about the motivations of the villainous races, like many fans of my generation.  I've seen every episode of every televised Star Trek series since.

Now we have a new Star Trek universe to explore, thanks to J.J. Abrams and a brand new cast.  It's not without its problems, but no series is perfect - writers are human and fallible after all.  Sadly, many people who called themselves Trekkies have bashed the new films, complaining that too many details don't make sense.

This is driving me nuts.

To start, this is NOT the Star Trek we grew up with.  It's an alternate timeline, begun when the rogue Romulan captain Nero appeared.  That event alone spawned a whole different universe unfolding that has affected everyone.

Kirk grew up without a father.  Spock lost his mother and his homeworld.  Starfleet technology has advanced more quickly due to the Romulan ship's interference.  We see Kirk's sacrifice and a Spock that we've never seen before: a grief stricken, enraged Spock out for Khan Noonien Singh's blood as payback for his friend's death.

The differences between the ST: Wrath of Khan and ST: Into Darkness movies are stark.  Star Trek II was a celebration of a friendship that survived nearly a lifetime of danger only to end in the ultimate sacrifice of Spock for the love of Kirk, McCoy, and the entire ship that had been his whole life.

ST: Into Darkness was about a friendship just being born.  Two men who started out hating each other and discovering how much they really cared.  Spock's tears and his scream of agony and rage on watching Kirk die was chilling.  Here we see through Spock's eyes the horror of learning to love and then watching it die without being able to do anything to prevent it.  The turnabout was brilliant.

The looks exchanged between Kirk and Spock at the end of Into Darkness said it all, as if to say, "As long as you have my back and I have yours, nothing else matters."

I find the alternate universe fascinating and I can't wait for the third movie to be released later this year.  It's going to be one crazy ride.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Reaper's Touch 2016

I think everyone can agree that 2016 is off to a lousy start.  SF author David Gerrold was wondering when the grim reaper's roll call was going to start winnowing the SF genre.  It turns out we didn't have to wait long.  Here's his tribute to SF author and editor David G. Hartwell.
David G. Hartwell died of a massive stroke yesterday.
There are others who will go on at length about David's influence on the field. It was tremendous. He was a remarkable editor, the kind of editor every author aspires to sell to, because selling a book to Hartwell meant you were a good writer, maybe even a great one.
Hartwell loved the genre. He was knowledgeable, he was insightful, he was committed.
He also loved authors. He loved to sit and talk with authors -- and not just because he was a great listener. He was also an insightful sounding board. He was wise. (To truly understand that compliment, you have to understand that wisdom is not easily achieved.)
And he was one of the friendliest and most generous people in this field.
I cannot say enough good things about David G. Hartwell. The only bad thing I can say is that I didn't get to spend enough time with him, because there were 3000 miles between us most of the time.
The last time I saw him was at Trekonderoga. He set up a table to sell books. I don't know that he sold a lot -- I think he gave away more than he sold. But it was fun to just sit and shmooz about nothing in particular, operating out of that forever-mistaken assumption that there would always be enough time.
There wasn't. And I'm heartbroken. We are diminished by his loss. But his legacy, the impact he had on this field, is undeniable. He made a lot of great books possible, he furthered the careers of some of the best authors in the field. And I am proud to have been his friend.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A Gathering of Greats

I take no credit for this, it goes to my friend J.D. Hickey at

Rickman: Hey David.
Bowie: Alan? You too? What got you down?
Rickman: Cancer. You?
Bowie: Me too. F*** Cancer.
Rickman: F*** Cancer. With a spoon.
Lemmy: F*** Cancer!
Rickman: Who's that guy?
Lemmy: I thought this was the rock star section. They let just anyone in here?
Bowie: Apparently. I'm been searching for Crosby, but I haven't had much luck.
Lemmy: David Crosby's dead too?!?
Bowie: No, no... Bing Crosby. Before your time. Before my time, really, if truth be told.
Rickman: I can play the cello...
Lemmy: No you can't. You're an actor. You can act like you play the cello. I saw Truly, Madly, Deeply, wise-ass.
Rickman: ... Asshole.
Bowie: So what do we do now?
Lemmy: We could jam. Maybe actor-boy could learn how to play the spoons.
Angelil: Salut les boys.
Rickman: Who the f*** are you?
Angelil: Calisse... I'm René. If there's one thing I knew how to do in the old life is spot talent early on, and I mean *early* on. Stick with me, les gars, and we will rock this place.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Farewell to a Chameleon

Like most of the world, I was utterly shocked this morning to hear of the death of David Bowie.  Like most of the world, I hadn't even known that he had been ill.  Given all the crazy shenanigans that he had done in his younger years, one would think that the man would never die.

During the first half of the 1980s I was a neophyte as far as rock music was concerned, having been raised mainly with classical and jazz.  I had a few favourite tunes but I hadn't gravitated toward any artist in particular.  And then in 1986 I saw the film Labyrinth, which sparked my interest in Bowie's music.  (His handsome and other-worldly look helped too.)  I grabbed every album of his that I could afford, starting with his smash hit Let's Dance (1983).

His music helped me through a lot of difficult times, and even with schoolwork.  The song "Loving the Alien" from Tonight (1984) was the backdrop for a synchronized swimming routine I choreographed for a physical education course.  I used clips from many of his hits in a presentation for a music-appreciation class.  My first-ever online alias was lifted from the song "Blue Jean".

When the 1987 Glass Spider tour was scheduled to arrive in Montreal, I clandestinely saved up my money and planned to skip school so I could go to buy tickets.  However my mother found out and forced me to attend my classes while she went to get the tickets instead - and her effort was not wasted by a long shot.  She and I braved an audience of 45,000 people to see one of the most theatrical concerts that I have ever witnessed.

I was to see Bowie live in concert twice more: the Sound+Vision tour in 1990 and the Reality tour in 2003.  Today I have a great number of his albums and several compilations, not to mention a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about him.

He was the first superstar that I'd taken such a close interest in and he remains my favourite rock musician to this day.  The world has lost a true artist.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Love or Obsession

There's a (yet another) meme that says "If you have a wonderful man who is your whole world, who isn't perfect, but perfect for you, who works hard and would do anything for you, who makes you laugh, who is your best friend and sometimes your only friend, who you want to grow old with (if you don't kill him first), who you are thankful for every day, then share this."

While it's a nice sentiment, I won't share it on my social media feeds.  Here's why.

My whole world doesn't consist of just one person or revolve around one person (other than myself of course) although I admit that my beloved husband does resemble the above-mentioned meme.  I don't let just one person define me.  My world is my family, my friends, my writing, my enjoyments.

Anyone who narrows their vision to show only one other person is setting themselves up for a huge shock later on.  It's akin to a horse wearing blinders: one focuses on an immediate concern while at the same time losing sight of all the surrounding goings-on that might also be important.  That is obsession, plain and simple.  It's commonplace in the early part of a relationship, and it's dangerous if not recognized.

In the book "When Harlie Was One" by David Gerrold, psychologist David Auberson and a sentient computer known as H.A.R.L.I.E. debate on the nature of human emotion.  Auberson theorizes that sex should happen before real love can be achieved because it's necessary for a more mature outlook.

Or as Willow put it after her tryst with Oz in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode 'Graduation Day': "Everything's different now."

Unfortunately there are people who don't mature beyond the crush-lust-obsession stage, which causes too many relationships to end badly.  Sometimes with devastating results.  Hate and love are two sides of the same coin, after all.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Executive Decisions

(Thanks to author David Gerrold for this one.)

What's most depressing about the gun debates is that so many of the posts I've seen attacking the U.S. president for doing his job, are so stupid that I have to wonder about the people who think that way.  If their IQs were raised to room temperature, would their brains overheat?

Really - some of the things that people have posted, some of the memes, are so crazy and illogically stupid that calling them intellectually bankrupt assumes there was some thought there in the first place.

Look.  It's not all guns everywhere versus no guns at all anywhere. That's not the issue, it's never been the issue, and anyone who continues to argue as if that's the issue (regardless of which side he/she is arguing from) is contributing absolutely nothing useful to the discussion.

The issue is gun safety.  The issue is gun responsibility.  The issue is what can we do to slow down the carnage?  What can we do to make another Columbine or another Sandy Hook or another San Bernardino a lot less likely?  That's a fair question to ask.

And we have lots of evidence to draw upon.  To start with, there's the model of what other countries have done.  There's the history of various gun control laws here in our own country.  We have a pretty good idea of what works and what we can do to slow down the death rate.

Anyone who tries to argue that the right to [carry a weapon] in public is more important than the rights of parents to send their children to school in safety?  They're the problem.  For too long the sociopaths have dominated the conversation.

And that's the point.  Reading through the crap that some people have been posting on Facebook is depressing.

I respect the right to own a gun, but if someone wants me to respect his or her arguments (on either side), then for goodness' sake, that person has to address the subject like a rational, compassionate adult who's concerned about saving lives and finding ways to prevent additional gun violence.

If that's too much to ask, then just don't bother.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Watching Weight

When a salad costs three times as much as a hamburger, it's little wonder why so many people in North America are overweight and programs like My 600 Pound Life exist.

The other day I had the TV tuned to a marathon of My 600 Pound Life and wondered at first how these people allowed themselves to get that way, even knowing it was life-threatening for them.  In most cases, the person experienced some sort of deep emotional trauma early in their life and turned to food as a comfort device.

Food can be an addiction as bad as any other.  Eating brings feelings of comfort and pleasure, which are hard to give up.  The food industry knows this well, which is why they load up foods with sugar and artificial flavours to make them more appealing.  Even those "diet" or "fat-free" items aren't much better for you than the genuine ones.

I have several friends who are or have been extremely overweight due to various reasons: a sedentary lifestyle, chronic illness, or poor attitude toward their health in general.  Two of them elected for gastric bypass surgery and drastic lifestyle changes in order to get their weight under control.  Two others are using medication and monitoring their diets carefully.

Sadly, one friend has shown little progress in getting healthy even after suffering a heart attack at age 23 - anxiety issues are blamed for the lack of drive.  Anyone who attempts to talk about it gets blocked.  I worry for this friend sometimes.

I've been lucky.  All my adult life my weight has been between 125 and 130 pounds and I usually make good food choices.  That's not to say I don't indulge once in a while - dark chocolate is my particular vice.  However as I've gotten older I've become less active, which isn't good at all.  In fact, one of my New Year resolutions was to get off my butt and exercise more.

Just as soon as I can kick this cold out.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New Year, New Abuses

Here we are, another year, and more "what the heck" stories are in the news.

An article in yesterday's newspaper noted that a man who allegedly killed his fiancée was supposed to go on trial this month.  However a trial won't be happening soon because he claims to have not found a lawyer yet despite having had six months to do so.  "It's difficult over the holidays" was his excuse.  Meanwhile the deceased woman's family is still suffering emotionally.

A prominent doctor who killed his two children to supposedly get back at his wife for divorcing him was recently convicted of second-degree murder at a second trial (the first trial found him not guilty by reason of temporary insanity).  Then the inevitable news came that he's appealing the guilty verdict, as many convicted felons do.

Prosecutors in L.A. have declined to charge Bill Cosby with sexually abusing two teenagers, citing time limits and lack of evidence.  He still has a number of other charges pending against him, but his lawyers are confident that they can beat those as well.

These are all clear examples of people playing the system to delay the application of justice to the point where the system breaks down and justice does not get appropriately served.

Here's a better way (in my opinion).

If an accused hasn't found a lawyer after six months the court should assign one.  Period.  No more wasting the court's time and money.

The defense trick of "temporary insanity" shouldn't be allowed.  Most adults know the difference between right and wrong, no matter what their emotional state.  Killing someone requires clear thought, and clear thought precedes intent.

There should be no statute of limitations as far as sexual abuse is concerned.  There's a meme going around that says: 40 men call a woman a whore and people believe it even if she isn't one.  40 women call a man a rapist and people say "Wait, let's think a minute here."  It has become acceptable for a man to joke about his sexual prowess, but a woman's sexuality is constantly under attack.

These and many other parts of the system have to change in order to curb the abuse and render justice more quickly and adequately.