retsuko: (don't like where)
So, as everyone may or may not know, LJ has implemented new commenting format and in some formats, the subject lines in comments are gone, or don't display the way they used to. Of course, when changes are implemented here, everyone usually kicks up a fuss and then gets used to the new system, but this time, a large number of people (mostly people in fandom circles and RPs) are making noise about jumping ship. This change will definitely stop some communities from existing, as well as make many, many others much more difficult to read. What really irks me is the way this change was handled: the Russian programmers came up with the changes, blogged about them in Russian, and then released limited, vague language about them on the English-language [ profile] news community.* I also don't like the timing; close enough to a major holiday block of time when many users are away from their computers and therefore unable to protest.** The final straw has been that the LJ Staff refuses to acknowledge the complaints about this change and, apparently, has given a workaround option that is only temporary.

Anyway, this whole situation is depressing to me because it's the same sort of B.S. that drove me away from Open Diary about ten years ago. The site staff stopped responding to any sort of comments and collected their money while trolls ran rampant and users bitched. I forget what finally caused me to shut down my account over there, but whatever it was, I moved over here and haven't looked back. Up until now, I'd been very loyal to LJ, recommending it to friends considering blogging, and giving it a not insignificant amount of money over the years. But this move bothers me, because it's as if the opinions of the people who use the site mean nothing, and that nothing we ask for will get done. This seems like a spectacularly poor business model.

What this means is that I'm probably jumping ship. Not immediately, of course; I've made too many friends here and am part of quite a few communities that I enjoy reading/participating in to just suddenly leave. But after the holidays are over and the dust has settled, I will almost certainly be moving full-time over to DW, and be looking to Blogger or Blogspot for an independent site for my public entries. To that end, if anyone has any recommendations for services like that, I'd be very interested in hearing them.

*I'm also rather appalled that apparently said programmers have made public posts in which they say people "had better" get used to the changes, with the implication of "how dare they complain?"

**This practice reminds me of the way that UBC "negotiated" with the TA's Union by setting the meeting time with the administration at 7AM on the first day of spring break. Reportedly, the administration was angry when TA Union representatives actually showed up.
retsuko: (don't like where)
Originally posted by [ profile] twbasketcase at Mississippi Personhood Amendment
Originally posted by [ profile] gabrielleabelle at Mississippi Personhood Amendment
Okay, so I don't usually do this, but this is an issue near and dear to me and this is getting very little no attention in the mainstream media.

Mississippi is voting on November 8th on whether to pass Amendment 26, the "Personhood Amendment". This amendment would grant fertilized eggs and fetuses personhood status.

Putting aside the contentious issue of abortion, this would effectively outlaw birth control and criminalize women who have miscarriages. This is not a good thing.

Jackson Women's Health Organization is the only place women can get abortions in the entire state, and they are trying to launch a grassroots movement against this amendment. This doesn't just apply to Mississippi, though, as Personhood USA, the group that introduced this amendment, is trying to introduce identical amendments in all 50 states.

What's more, in Mississippi, this amendment is expected to pass. It even has Mississippi Democrats, including the Attorney General, Jim Hood, backing it.

So if you sometimes pass on political action because you figure that enough other people will do something to make a difference, make an exception on this one. My RSS reader is near silent on this amendment. I only found out about it through a feminist blog. The mainstream media is not reporting on it.

If there is ever a time to donate or send a letter in protest, this would be it.

What to do?

- Read up on it. Wake Up, Mississippi is the home of the grassroots effort to fight this amendment. Daily Kos also has a thorough story on it.

- If you can afford it, you can donate at the site's link.

- You can contact the Democratic National Committee to see why more of our representatives aren't speaking out against this.

- Like this Facebook page to help spread awareness.

I contacted the Democratic party website and hope to report on a fruitful response from them. I think what most right wingers and so-called right-to-lifers tend to forget is that the long term consequences of a law such as this one are increased poverty and greater instances of child abuse and neglect. I do not understand how a group of people can claim to "value" life and still work to make it more difficult and dangerous for others 10, 20, 30 years down the line. Although I suspect these measures will not hold up in court, millions upon millions of dollars will be wasted in legal fees, as well as time and energy that could be spent educating young people on the proper use of birth control and/or eliminating poverty in our country. I also wonder when we will see the first pictures of women who attempted abortions by themselves and bled to death. I have a sinking feeling that these pictures will be the things that will finally rally the centrist majority of America into action.
retsuko: (river w/ gun)
There is an excellent essay by Laura Hudson here that is specifically about the new DC comics relaunch and its gender issues, but really can be taken as a comment on comics fandom as a whole. It's awesome, and I really don't have much to add to it, except for the fact that the pages and panels from 'Catwoman' that Hudson uses could just have easily been from any other superheroine title and the analysis would still be just as on point and valid.

In any case, the issues with the depiction of women are one of the reasons that I often hold back on saying what I'm fan of. Since "nerd" is undergoing a sort of semi-cool Renaissance, I can usually mention my love for "Doctor Who," the works of Jim Butcher, or any of the Harry Potter books and movies without fear of reprisal. But one word about comic books and people start getting that judgmental aura of "I thought you were smarter than that" or giving me these expressions of utter bewilderment, usually followed by the question, "why?" And I must admit that I answer that question myself every damn time I step into any comic book shop. It does help that my local comic supplier, Comickaze, is run by an excellent staff of knowledgeable guys who have never once made me feel uncomfortable or weird. But in other places, at other stores, I have felt the distinctly unpleasant feeling of Difference, (or Otherness, in academic parlance). Seeing a wallpapering of posters of female comic book characters in bikinis, with bodies that are completely impossible in every sense of the word, is a depressing experience. Why keep reading books by an industry that largely imagines women to be merely men with breasts? Why bother looking at titles that depict women as objects to be sexed up, used up, and thrown away? Am I just indulging some kind of nerd-specific masochism?

Every time I start asking these questions, or see too many women in bikinis, I close my eyes and think of all the awesome women I know or know about who are involved in the comics industry, or in the independent fringes. I think of [ profile] psychoe and [ profile] ashears's amazing artwork and how one day, I'm going to say "I liked them before they were cool" in an annoying hipster voice. I think of cartoonists and writers like Kate Beaton, Moto Hagio, Natasha Allegri, Tracy Butler, Gail Simone, CLAMP, Momochi Reiko, Hope Larson, Naoko Takeuchi, Yuko Shimizu, and many, many others, too numerous to list here. I remember all the amazing female characters who I've read and loved, like Storm and Kitty Pride, Francine Peters, Rose (from Bone), Faiza Hussein, Lizzie Hexam, Elissa Megan Powers and Ninjette, Nico and Gert and Princess Powerful (from Runaways), and all the characters whose stories I haven't read yet. But mostly, I think about opportunities.

Comic books as a medium are an amazing opportunity for artists and writers to tell stories in a unique and powerful manner. And I have hope that this industry will come to its senses, even if it has to go through a horrifically prolonged birth process to do so. (Although I will admit the DC Relaunch is one hell of a contraction.) There's more than enough opportunity to go around to keep the industry afloat. Why not fix the sexism problem? Imagine twice the money. Imagine the marriage of idealism and commerce. Imagine a day when no reader has to ask the question "why?" when she or he steps into a comic book store.
retsuko: (Time Lady)
Because we were feeling masochistically curious, Yebisu and I watched the live-action "Avatar: The Last Airbender" the other night.

... yeah.

It was pretty much as bad as I'd heard. I mean, there were good parts and a few beautiful images (Aang bending the huge wave to stop the Fire Nation ships was, in fact, just gorgeous; there were some excellent martial arts stunts), but for the most part, the whole thing fell down in the first 10 minutes and didn't find any momentum to pick itself back up again. It was a movie about spirituality that was almost entirely devoid of any soul. And that's a real shame, because the source material (as I've blogged about before) is bursting with soul, wit, and excitement, none of it forced or railroaded into the story. Late in the plot of the TV show, there's an episode where the characters are able to sneak into a play about themselves and their exploits and are appalled at the liberties taken with their personalities and the narrative as a whole. I felt like I was in that episode, watching a pale reflection of their story and just waiting for the characters to start complaining about their portrayals. (Katara: Am I really that annoyingly earnest? Sokka: I'm not really that flat and dumb, right? Right?! Aang: I didn't just announce that I was going to meditate for four days and then start doing it, did I? 'Cause that's just plain stupid.)

The sad thing is that in the right hands, A:tLA could make for an excellent movie or mini-series. There's drama aplenty, a grandiose epic of nations at war, and some truly compelling characters. The trick, I think, lies with selecting the right amount of story and letting it unfold in its own time. The eastern religions that make up the core of this story's meaning sound contrived when they're rushed, as they did in Shyamalan's film. Likewise, character development, something that made the animated show truly interesting, is largely absent from this movie, or it's presented by ham-handed dialogue. (The worst line award goes to poor Princess Yue, "We have to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs.") Practically every action in the movie felt like a plot contrivance at best, and a joke at worst.

So, how to do this right? Much has been written about the casting choices for this film, and I don't think I have much to add on this subject. The right actors for these parts would certainly have helped, along with a better script that didn't try to tell the entire first half of the story in under two hours. Letting this story breathe, and giving some of the humor a chance to shine through would help as well. After all, this is supposedly a movie for children; there's no need to make every moment a serious one, especially when the themes you're dealing with are so serious. Aang's character development is interesting because we see him grow up over time--when Katara and Sokka meet him, he's just a kid who ran away from responsibility. The shift in his beliefs from child to adult makes for a wonderful coming of age story, and makes his heroism all the more poignant. I'd prefer to see that, rather than be told it. Likewise, Zuko's choices over the course of the narrative are dramatic and difficult. Dressing up as the Blue Spirit, for example, is a gutsy move, and his motives for doing it weren't even touched on in the movie, just hinted at. This should have been a major plot point, but instead, it just felt like a convenient plot device for rescuing Aang from the fire nation. (And, can I just say, Fire Nation soldiers: when you've finally captured the Avatar, who can airbend, putting him in a room full of candles is pretty, but REALLY STUPID. Do you want to set your fortress on fire? Really?) If I'd been writing this script, I'd have started with finding Aang in the ice, but only moved the story as far as the Kyoshi warriors, hinting at sequels and setting the stage for the larger conflict in a later movie. You can have plenty of Zuko and Zhao acting as standard villains, but lay the groundwork for Zuko's eventual conversion. Plus, lots of character development time for everyone involved. This could have been a huge franchise for Nickelodeon films and Paramount. Adaptations are tricky, it's true, but it's a shame that this one was so awful when the source material is so good.

May 2016

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