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November 07, 2013

60-year-old Conservative Boomer columnist realizes slavery is bad

He's gone his entire life thinking slavery was a benevolent institution. What an asshole. Richard Cohen: ‘12 Years a Slave’ and art’s commentary on the past - The Washington Post
I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life. For instance, it was not George A. Custer who was attacked at the Little Bighorn. It was Custer — in a bad career move — who attacked the Indians. Much more important, slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks. Slavery was a lifetime’s condemnation to an often violent hell in which people were deprived of life, liberty and, too often, their own children. Happiness could not be pursued after that. Steve McQueen’s stunning movie “12 Years a Slave” is one of those unlearning experiences. I had to wonder why I could not recall another time when I was so shockingly confronted by the sheer barbarity of American slavery. Instead, beginning with school, I got a gauzy version. I learned that slavery was wrong, yes, that it was evil, no doubt, but really, that many blacks were sort of content. Slave owners were mostly nice people — fellow Americans, after all — and the sadistic Simon Legree was the concoction of that demented propagandist, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a lie and she never — and this I remember clearly being told — had ventured south to see slavery for herself. I felt some relief at that because it meant that Tom had not been flogged to death.

October 24, 2013

Trailer: Captain America 2 -- The Winter Soldier

The Captain America 2 trailer looks spectacular.

October 22, 2013

A Long Time Ago, in a Hive Far Far Away?

Is STAR WARS lack of female characters indicative that they evolved from insects? Or is it just because Lucas is an emotionally-stunted man-child more interested in fantasy plotting than human relations? Star Wars: A Long Time Ago, in a Hive Far Far Away? max gladstone
Why represent them as human? Let’s assume that the Star Wars movies are dramatizations of real history: that Luke, Leia, Han et. al. actually existed in a galaxy long, long ago (etc.), and that George Lucas accessed this history via the Force and wanted to represent it on film. Star Wars tells the story of a dominant-species empire arising from a pluralistic society, then being overthrown by courageous rebels and warrior monks. Lucas had to cast this drama with human actors, and the obvious choice was to use unmodified humans to represent the most common species. While convenient, this approach does present one problem: watching the Original Trilogy, we assume that the ‘humans’ of the GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away) are biologically and sociologically identical to Sol 3 humans. When obviously they’re not! In fact, I think a few important context clues present a very different picture of the dominant race of the Original Trilogy. Gender is the most important clue. The Original Trilogy has a shortage of women when considered by the standards of a two-sexed mammalian species. Leia is the most prominent female, and the only one to feature in all three movies. Aunt Beru and Mon Mothma also have named speaking roles. Aside from these three, I can’t think of another definitely-female-definitely-’human’ in the series. In RotJ Leia describes her mother, who is obviously a queen. These females all possess at least local political and social authority. Family is a second important clue—or, rather, the absence of family. With one notable exception, people in the series don’t talk much about parentage. No non-Force sensitive male ever describes his family, if I recall correctly. Han, Lando, Wedge, Biggs, Tarkin, Dodonna, and so forth, all might as well have sprung from the brows of their ships. In six hours of film about war, I would expect to see someone to drop at least a single reference to parents of some sort. The lack of strong family ties suggests that parenting relationships are much less close for most GFFA ‘humans’ than for Sol 3 humans—which in turn suggests large brood sizes, short gestation periods, young ages of maturity, or all of the above. So we’re looking for an organism with large brood sizes, young ages of maturity, short gestation periods, and relatively few fertile females who naturally assume positions of social and organizational authority. Here is my modest theory: the GFFA’s ‘humans’ are in fact sentient hive insects, organized around a single queen, a handful of fertile males, and a horde of infertile female soldiers. For parsimony’s sake, let’s assume that Force sensitivity in this species is possessed by fertile males and females, and that male actors used to represent non-Force sensitive characters are actually representing infertile females. . . .