Monday, October 20, 2014

Is Douchebag The White Racial Slur We’ve All Been Waiting For?

Douchebag: The White Racial Slur We’ve All Been Waiting For — Human Parts — Medium

Douching is not only an anti-feminist practice pushed by male corporations on women using shame and insecurity as a weapon, but it is almost certainly dangerous to a woman’s health. And therein we find the link between the medical appliance, the outdated practice of feminine hygiene, and the white men we recognize today as “douchebags.” They are both, it bears repeating, useless, sexist tools.
It's a well-argued case for using "douchebag" to mean the blinkered, entitled fool who mansplains that his white male privilege ring should be kissed in every circumstance, while denying the ring exists.

That said, I'm not entirely comfortable with the article ... though I guess it may be my "liberal guilt" insisting that the proper authority for what the proper designation of this specific sort of asshole is should not be a white male professor?

Meanwhile, in post-racial NC ...

Bias in the Box | VQR Online:


“We have this whole system that has been corrupted by decades of admitted inequality and unfairness when it comes to the management of cases involving African-American defendants,” says Bryan Stevenson, a New York University Law School professor and founder of the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, who was one of several national figures who applauded the North Carolina reform. “A lot of the bias and discrimination that people perpetrate in these systems is the kind that we perpetrate because we’re not actually aware of what it means to be biased and discriminatory. It’s not overt. I’m not saying anybody hates African Americans. I’m not saying they want to see lynching. They have undeveloped understandings of the ways racial bias manifests itself and plays out in the system of justice. They’ve thought very little about it.”
They're encouraged to think very little about it. In fact, they're encouraged to be dismissive of the idea it's even possible. Ask Bill O'Reilly.

It's hard to have a productive discussion about a problem almost nobody wants to admit, or is even capable of admitting, is a problem in the first place. Harder still when the moneyed interests that do know there's a problem don't see it as a problem, but as the natural order of things.

Everybody recognizes the apoplectic face of white supremacist thinking when they see it. When it's upstanding citizens in suits and ties, educated professionals, and otherwise non-threatening, reasonable-looking folks lying to themselves first, and then to society at large, about their ideology ... it becomes invisible to the people who aren't direct victims of it. The devil doesn't exist, so it's no trick us being convinced it doesn't. But evil is real, and it's greatest trick is hiding in plain sight, in the blind spots we all have that illusionists know how to exploit. No devils, but bad, bad men.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Flatline - "What are you a doctor of?" "Of lies."

Flatline (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 8, Story 9 (Overall Series Story #254) | Previous - Next | Index

Image via Capaldi or else


Well, for those of us open to it, we (sort of) got our female Doctor tonight. Clara made an excellent Doctor; did goodness really have nothing to do with it? Is this more Moffat slight of hand? We were told we were getting a darker Doctor, but is it a darker Clara we're really seeing? At the end there, Missy seemed to be putting her stamp of approval on that idea.

It's saying something that the episode that had the stink of "Fear Her" (people trapped in drawings, the drab council estate setting) on it yields the following as my biggest complaint: Missy is monitoring Clara on an effing iPad?! That's the tech they're using in the Nethersphere, is it? Look, it's one thing for Clara to have an android phone, she's a contemporary human. Missy is a powerful enough entity to bring the dead back to life (apparently) and insert Clara into the Doctor's (apparently) while running a ... whatever a Nethersphere is. And the tech she uses is an iPad? That took me straight out of an episode I'd enjoyed tremendously to that point and made me think Apple greased the right palms to get that in there.

(I'm not even saying there's no place for product placement. A character drinking a Diet Coke, or taking a Tylenol for a headache doesn't have to be a distraction -- done right it's less of a distraction than some poorly designed fake brand-a-like, or the obvious attempt to hide a brand -- but having an iPad be part of some presumably futuristic, presumably alien villain's tech is pretty low.)

Apart from that, this one successfully shook off the taint of "Fear Her" by scrubbing itself through some "Web of Fear" tunnels and 2D to 3D conceptualization I'd probably be able to make a clever Flatland allusion to, if I were doing better on my reading -- it's on my kindle, I just haven't gotten round to it and with the latest Sandifer book out and already getting overdue notices for the copy of Master and Commander I've got out from the library it's still a few weeks off at least -- but instead have to make do with a reference to the aesthetic of A-Ha's "Take on Me" video.

So, this is the first Doctor Who set in Bristol and guess who's from Bristol: Banksy. I may be thick and have the cultural awareness of someone who comes up with an A-Ha video when they need cultural touchstone for discussing 2D creatures, but even I can spot when DW is celebrating a graffiti artist by putting a graffiti artist character with a similar name in a story set in that famous artist's home town and giving the character based on the artist a crucial part in saving the day. This is much more satisfying to watch then the sledgehammer Look At This Effing Genius And Give Him His Due approach that's been employed a bit too often by DW in the past. (Looking at you, "Vincent and the Doctor," for one ... )

Speaking of sledghammers, the Doctor passing Clara one from inside his tiny TARDIS inside her purse is one of my favorite comedic moments of the season so far.

This continues the streak of there not being a single episode yet this season that I didn't enjoy. There've been a few rough moments, sure, and I'm not putting this one up there with the all-time gems, but it's a solid entry with an intriguing monster and the Rigsy-as-Banksy tribute thing worked for me, so I'm still on the Series 8 Is Shaping Up To Be The Best Series Of Who Ever So Don't Tank It With A Shite Arc Resolution Moffat Train.

Speaking of trains, this new writer, who's penned the last two stories, should we suspect he's got a thing for trains?

Stray Observation:

Hmm. This may not be the first time Banksy has inspired Doctor Who?

Revenge of the Cybermen - "Who's the homicidal maniac?"

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Revenge of the Cybermen - Details

Season 12, Story 5 (Overall Series Story #79) | Previous - Next | Index

Image via Mira-Sophia
Oft-maligned, not without cause, but an enjoyable watch nonetheless. Yes, we have to acknowledge this is not a well-thought story. Why the Vogans, knowing that gold is kryptonite to Cybermen, don't use the gold that is literally underfoot when it comes time to fight Cybermen instead of sticking with their useless firearms, which are only effective for killing one another, is beyond me. And, oh yeah, when you're being invaded by Cybermen, maybe you deal with them before getting back to shooting at one another? Priorities.

We also never really get the sense Vorus or Kellman were properly called out and held accountable for the murder of all those people on Nerva Beacon. Sure, they both end up dead, but Kellman gets a redemptive death saving Harry during the rockfall and Vorus is only shot when he tries to fire his rocket before the agreed upon time. Vorus, had he exercised a little patience, was still expected to be a political force in the upcoming Vogan elections, despite being a mass murderer.

Harry, I'm afraid, doesn't come across very well in this one either. His blundering nearly kills the Doctor a couple times over, and he's ditzy enough that he can't remember what the Cybermen are called?  No wonder Sarah is so impatient with him throughout. He's written out at the end of the next story, "Terror of the Zygons," so perhaps this was laying the groundwork for making sure he wouldn't be missed. It's a shame, Ian Marter had great screen presence and didn't need to be written out like a third wheel.

Anyways, with all plot holes and unsatisfying character arcs, there's ample reason to be down on this story, yet I'm not and I'm trying to give credible reasons why I still enjoy it, but it comes down to surface-level pleasures that ignore the problems. The Vogans are interesting looking and I actually like the fact that one of them has a cold for no plot-significant reason; the location filming in Wookey Hole gives this story great atmosphere (as well as some genuinely chilling -- Lis Sladen's near drowning -- and goofy anecdotes); and the Cybermen are back for the first time since "The Invasion" seven years earlier. They won't be seen again until "Earthshock" seven years later. (There's a Seven Year Cyber Itch joke in there somewhere ...) The Cybermen are a bit of a joke and the Doctor skewers them for it. I love that one of the series' iconic monsters are basically perennial losers and have to hear it when they come 'round making trouble. "You've no home planet, no influence, nothing. You're just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship," the Doctor tells the Cyber Leader. And he's right. And that's OK.

When the episodes are in tatters, at least the cliffhangers are well done. When they get those right, it erases some of the bad taste of the silly bits in between. Crucially, Tom Baker's in fine form with that infectious smile and plenty of opportunities to needle the baddies. Sometimes, even when things go wrong, you get lucky and it works out anyways. For instance, it's not meant to be funny, but the cyber neck massage the Doctor gets from that Cyber Leader when he returns to try to rescue Sara from the beacon is one of those moments you've got to rewind and watch again to revel in.

Following "Genesis of the Daleks," and sharing superficial similarities -- two opposing factions each trying to destroy the other from their fortified positions, one side having a bit of a civil war, the return of an iconic foe, a rushed attempt to get a giant rocket ready to solve things once and for all -- this one was bound to suffer by comparison. Not helping this story's reputation, I suspect, are some lingering hard feelings about it being the first to come out on VHS, so we all watched the shit out of it and really had to face up to it not being coherent while wishing a better a story had been chosen as the first home video release. If Tom Baker doesn't look like he's having fun, then this probably slips below the line and become unwatchable, even for me. And maybe that's all there is to it, I like this story because it's Tom Baker, my first Doctor, and he's on form so the failures can be largely glossed over.

Left overs:

What is it, anyways, with Cyberman stories and planets/asteroids drifting around the solar system?

That Vogan crest sure looks familiar ...

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Claws of Axos - "I suppose you can take the normal precautions against nuclear blast, like, er, sticky tape on the windows and that sort of thing."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Claws of Axos - Details

Season 8, Story 3 (Overall Series Story #57) | Previous - Next | Index

Image via Greyhound One
The Axons are as shiny as Marc Bolan in concert. It may be dead of winter but Jo Grant looks like she's ready to be a dancer on Top of the Pops. The early 1970s are glam and Doctor Who is right there with it. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

As a rule, that's probably for the best. However, when "Into the Dalek" got trippy as the fantastic voyagers entered the Dalek's eye stalk, I realized how much I missed these blasts of weird. If the Axons are just guys from a regular spaceship, with nothing more than generic space alien suits and wigs, this story would be OK, but it wouldn't be very memorable. It wouldn't have been terrible, about the same as any other story where the Master's in league with some alien menace out to suck the Earth dry. By going full glam though, this one becomes a spectacle on par with "The Web Planet." That's not a bad thing once and again. All trippy or glam week in and week out, then the spectacle becomes tedious.

Dr. Sandifer takes some heat for his criticism of the Letts era; but, even if you love this era, as I do, he'd be required reading in the syllabus I'd make for Doctor Who Studies 301. His analysis of Pertwee's portrayal of the Doctor in the context of his era's action hero / glam spectacle dichotomy is just one the many lenses he brings to bear that help his readers see Who with new perspective.

But enough about that, I'm setting my sights a little lower and merely want to address whether this holds up and is worth re-watching, or watching the first time if you're exploring the classic series. Had it not got all glammed up, I'd probably recommend making it a lower priority, but I give it the edge over "The Daemons" & "Colony in Space" for entertainment value among its Season 8 peers. I'm having trouble getting hold of a copy of "The Mind of Evil" to watch, so can't position it relative to that story, yet, but I think this one and "Terror of the Autons" are the S8 stories I'd spotlight.

Ratings aren't something I normally pay much attention to, unless they should ever take a nosedive in a way that fuels speculation the series might be on the verge of cancellation or hiatus but every so often they catch one's eye and the timing of my re-watch of this story right after watching "The Hungry Earth" is such an instance. "Axos" peaked with 8 million viewers when it aired it's second episode in March, 1971. The Eleventh Doctor's take on a Pertwee-era story took down about 6 million viewers (but 4.5M in the overnights) in May, 2010. Now, granted, those are BBC1-only numbers ... still, it speaks to how much things have changed. If Doctor Who is an event now, and I reckon it's safe to say it's one of the most recognized TV shows in world, how crazy is it that the 8M of roughly 56M population were watching the Master and the Axons try to suck the life out of the Earth, but as few as 4.5M of 63M were watching when Silurians made their re-appearance? As big as Who is now, imagine if it had the same place in the culture it had back in the day!  Of course, there was a lot less competition for the national (televisual) attention, but is it any wonder the show's cult took such firm root?

(Watching the extras on "The Revenge of the Cybermen" DVD, I'm reminded how difficult it was back when I first becoming a fan to see Who at all -- although for a while there it was possible to watch six out of the seven days of the week between CT and MA Public TV airings of Pertwee and Tom Baker era stories. Still, no Hartnell or Troughton to be had even when VCRs did finally start making their way into our homes. What was on was it. Miss it and you had to wait for them to cycle through all the extant episodes and start again. Kids today don't know how easy they have it. Sigh. So it appears I'm now one of those old fellers shaking his head at the coddled youth. Straight talk: I *feel* as much a fan -- that same anticipation for new, unseen story -- as I did when my favorite xmas present was the Tom Baker scarf my ol' granny knitted for me around the time the first Peter Davison episodes debuted here in the U.S.! Tempus fugit.)

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