Recommended daily reading – 24 November (pre-Thanksgiving edition)

Here are a few items as I wonder if anyone will show up to my evening class:

Two pieces from Mother Jones with reference to Tea Partiers. One points to the results of a survey which shows, among other things, that 61% of self-identified Tea Party members believe that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against African-Americans and the members of other minority populations. I think this is an interesting follow-up to Justin Smith’s 3QD piece on ‘whiteness’ and the Tea Party, which I highlighted earlier.

The other MoJo entry looks at Tom Ricks’s proposal for national service, which includes a “libertarian opt out”. Under that option, anyone who wants to keep their time to themselves can, only they should also expect government workers to do the same in return. This part of the proposal is appealing, because I have often thought that libertarians can afford to rail against taxes, government regulation, public schools, etc. because in the back of their heads, most know that there is very little risk that they will ever actually have to live in the fully privatized and market-driven world of their ideals (although, as I have seen suggested by others, anyone who is serious about living that way is welcome to move to a place like Somalia where there is no effective public sector or government and see how they like it).

I’m a little late in recommending this interview with Martin Scorsese at The Guardian (link via Slash Film). The article covers a number of topics, including Scorsese’s current project, shooting in 3-D, which has been getting most of the attention, and working in TV:

As somebody with such a profound sense of cinema, it’s surprising that some of Scorsese’s recent successes have been on television, a medium which he has credited with providing “what we had hoped for in the mid-60s… this kind of freedom and ability to create another world” with the luxury of “the long form of developing character in a story”.

Finally, on Juxtapoz is a the documentary short “Skateistan”, which looks at a co-ed skateboarding school in Afghanistan. Running just under ten minutes, the film effectively places what it means to skateboard in conditions of war and deprivation, especially for girls in a harshly patriarchal place.

DVD review: METROPIA (2009)

Yesterday, my review of the Tribeca Film DVD for Metropia, an animated, dystopian science fiction film, posted at PopMatters. I found the movie fascinating to look at, but incapable of sustaining its story.

The characters are weirdly fascinating to watch, and in a short film with little or no dialogue, could have been wondrous. Here, where they have to carry the weight of human emotion and dire situations, their uncanny resemblance to flesh and blood works against audience identification. While that may have been part of the intent, fostering critical distance for thought on the part of viewers, in a film that ends with love, it is an odd visual choice.

Read the Review

Recommended daily reading – 17 November (been a week edition)

Here are a few items from the last few days:

On “She Has No Head!”, Kelly Thompson lists her twenty favorite female comics characters (link via Thompson’s blog). I think she makes good cases for all of the selections, but notable exclusions for me are: Kate Spencer/Manhunter, Helena Bertenelli/Huntress, Liz Sherman (B.P.R.D. and Hellboy), Tamsin from Skeleton Key, and Esther de Groot from Scary Go Round and Giant Days. If I were to really do this exercise, I would seriously consider Patsy Walker/Hellcat, Elsa Bloodstone (NEXT Wave), and Bethany Black (Strange Girl). I’m not sure if or how autobiographical characters fit into these kinds of discussions, but Marjane Satrapi would certainly make me want to think about it. As always, the tough question is who to take off of the original list.

Addendum: one of the fun and frustrating things about these lists is that once your brain starts working on them, it’s hard to let go. So, on further thought, Melaka Fray (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) would likely be on my still hypothetical alternate selection, and it would be hard to leave off Hopey and Isabel from Love & Rockets, but not specifically as replacements for Maggie.

Torontoist has a feature on artist Sean Martindale’s urban art project that uses condo ads to make pup tents, a clever comment on housing and inequality and property rights and public space.

Finally, a cute, but kind of mournful looking, little treat from Renee French.

November “Worlds in Panels”

My column for this month is up at PopMatters. I look at fan and artist redesigns of female superheroes, taking Supergirl as a case in point, again, and consider the possibilities that these reworkings open up for how women are imagined in comics.

The main problem when it comes to defending tradition in relation to women and girl superheroes is that tradition has not done well by these characters. Assigned supporting roles, placed in the background, subjected to bodily threats and drawn into sexualized poses that male characters are not, ‘tradition’ when it comes to female superheroes is not an innocent appeal to honoring the past, but a political argument about the (marginal) place of women in comics.

Read the column

Recommended daily reading – 10 November (been awhile edition)

Taking note of a few items from my recent reading:

Ylajali Hansen at Generation Bubble remembers the mixtape (a common enough theme following Sony’s discontinuation of the Walkman). Hers is my favorite reflection, in part for passages like this:

There’s one mix tape, given to me by an alcoholic second cousin, that I keep in the top drawer of my desk. It’s a white tape, a generic brand, and written across the top in tremulous cursive is “Ylajali’s Songs.” It boasts a motley mix, everything from Style Council (she dated the band’s drummer Steve White) to The New York Dolls (she dated David Johansen as well) and The Ramones (she sold Joey Ramone a saxophone). She was pretty good at making mix tapes. But between Wire’s “Dot Dash” and Love Tractor’s “I Broke My Saw” she apparently pressed the wrong button, and for thirty seconds I can hear faint curses, the barking of a nervous greyhound, and the creaky complaint of buttons half pushed as she attempts to set the machinery right again — a thirty-second audio document of well-intentioned clumsiness on a tape now fifteen years old from a person I once thought wonderful and with whom I’ve since fallen out of touch. It’s my favorite mix tape.

At 3quarksdaily, Justin Smith writes about the construction/fiction of ‘whiteness’ and the Tea Party from the perspective of his own family history and biography. Worth reading just to get to this brilliant summary:

My take on the Tea Party movement is this: Tea Partiers are Americans who have been made to believe that they are ‘white’; have been made to believe, furthermore, that this status carries with it some natural privilege; and who therefore wonder why, in spite of the fact that they are white, they have nonetheless been given the shaft.

Finally, this, via Inhabitat, is cool; and the potential for monkeywrenching makes it even more so.