Monday, November 30, 2009

A Quick Criticism of Horror

 I've seen an argument made about horror flicks around, being that horror flicks are the most gender-equal of all genres of movies. Why? Because both men and women get disemboweled, there are both male and female killers, and, well, yeah, you know, the gory violence gets all around.

Why is this a good thing? Violence and suffering has never been discriminatory over who its victims are, from man-made catastrophes of war, to natural pestilences. Should the horror genre be lauded just because it doles out violence to both sexes, as opposed to the gender inequality present in other genres?

I, for one, have never been able to understand the horror genre. While I am a fan of stylized violence in the form of swordfights, gunfights and epic battle scenes (I cried in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I watched Peter lead his troops into battle), it is because I am enjoying the cleverness in the participants outwitting each other, strategizing against one another, or the pathos of impossible situations where whole swathes of people die in futile, tragic, stupid war. Even as I disapprove of war, I still can admire soldiers who sacrifice themselves for vainglory.

But I cannot understand the horror genre because it is purely mindless drivel of people, or usually, just one person, killing others. There is no humanity involved - it's just irrational violence being doled out on people. The serial killer is insane because he has no sense of empathy. We call these folks sociopaths for a reason, and we lock them away for a reason.

Daily, people are victims of such sociopaths, who roam our streets and they rape and murder people whom they have no connection to. Daily, they walk among ordinary folks, who don't realize that they have a killer in their midst, and this is all right, because their victims are often marginalized bodies, who society has deemed unimportant. In horror movies, the victims are from a range of people, true, but why is this any more equal, when no one seeks to address real life crimes?

Horror movies are fantasies of people dying, fantasies of fear. Surely this must be a form of privilege, to be able to have fantasies of fear. Contrast this to a person who literally lives in fear.

And really, what is it about horror movies that draws people to see it in cinemas, allowing them to profit that much money from the depiction of heinous crimes? Why are people drawn to watch someone kill another, in pure visceral visuals? Why do people laugh at how one guy shoots another in the face?

I am not a squeamish person. I am easily affected, yes, but not necessarily squeamish. But the horror genre is truly alienating to me, in the sense that I cannot get a grasp of the humanity of the characters, that survival is the only thing worth applauding, and yet these characters are supposed to be human, and thus, someone I must relate to. In horror movies, we are to relate to characters who will die in horrible ways.

It is an art, to make other people anxious and afraid for a couple of hours. Really, we might as well be giving our real-life sociopaths medals for such art then.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quick Rant

You know what bugs me? The "could of" phrase.

Now, I understand that language shifts. I also understand that some people have difficult with the English language.

But the people I see using "could of" are native English speakers. And no matter how much language shifts, it usually makes SOME linguistic, grammatical, or etymological sense. "could of" does not.

"could of" sounds right out loud. IF YOU WERE TRANSLITERATING APPROXIMATE SOUNDS. If the context of the phrase is "could've" then that's exactly what the fucking phrase should be, NOT "could of".

Now, "could've" does not register as a proper contraction in general ("would've", however, does, and yes, I've also seen the "would of" structure; it is just as aggravating) but it makes a hella lot more sense than "could of". I can't even THINK of a way to use "could of" which would make linguistic sense, not even if I summon skillz in Old English.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks For Falls and Failing

So, American Thanksgiving! I don't celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving either. I'm neither American nor Canadian. The Malaysian National Day and Malaysia Day passed by me without so much a whimper in my direction, mostly because I am rather on the other side of the planet from my tanahair (homeland).

I've been reading linkspam after linkspam about Thanksgiving and its racist origins and continual racist undertones that keep going unnoticed by general adherents. It's a holiday, and an excuse to spend time with family. I can't argue against that line of reasoning, but it's still a holiday that's founded on bloodshed and genocide.

And I understand, fuzzily, the idea behind celebrating it - to give thanks for, well, stuff, and basically, give thanks that America exist, on some level. To question it loudly is to question the might of America, undermine the faith of people in the nation, so on, so forth.

To which I ask, what's the problem with that?

This is the way of all empires: they rise, usually by dastardly, unethical means, and then they fall.

Falling, dying, is only another facet of life. Empires falling isn't necessarily a bad thing. People questioning their faith in a nation shouldn't be a bad thing either. It's like questioning your faith in religion. If you don't question it, how do you know it's faith?

Anyways, empires fall. The more I learn about history, the better I understand how to take the whole idea of nations crumbling. Because even as nations crumble, so too, do they rise. Nations are based on abstract concepts which, while important in the question of identity, are still ephemeral, questionable, and must suffer introspection before it can truly last.

Maybe I'm just cynical, because we learn about empires that have gone long past in Malaysia. Srivijaya fell. Majapahit fell. Persia fell. Rome fell. The Great British Empire has relinquished its control. Even China closed itself off, its monarchy system falling to ruins. In the words of the old man in Catch-22, paraphrased because I don't actually have it on me: "All great nations, now ruins. But the frog has lasted over a million years, and it is a lowly creature. Do you really think your great America will outlast... the frog?"

If, in the process of inspecting its national conscience, in revising itself because it has been forced to confront its racism, its intellectual dishonesties, its injustices - if America also falls because of all that, then I think it will fall more nobly kindly in a much nicer way than other empires have fallen.

All empires fall, just like all people die. It is the power-greedy old man who fumbles as he falls because he refuses to give up all the privileges he has been accorded as a result of his youthful strength, so instead of growing kind and gentle in his twilight years, he becomes querulous and mean, demanding respect while doling out abuse, because we have all been taught to prize certain things that arise from having a certain status.

America has failed its ideals. This sucks because it means a lot of people have suffered. America will fall, eventually. Who knows, maybe after everyone on Earth has had a taste of failure in their national history, we can all stop angsting about immigration, messing with national identity, myths and other such narratives, and take several steps towards intellectual honesty in how we deal with each other.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

MOAR Re-Centering Geography!

 Because it's way too much fun!

So I was looking up some post-grad degrees and I saw one which was called "East Asian Studies" and I clicked through to check it out, right? Because I wanted to know what counts as East Asia, because, after all, Malaysia and the rest of us in the Maritime Asian countries, we're considered South East Asia.

And turns out that East Asia is China and Japan.

And I thought, wait a minute, but those places so far up north of the Equator! We in SEA are pretty much right smack on or around the Equator, so why do we say we're South East Asia?

Think about South America and North America! South America is Equatorial America and down south! North America is the land mass on northern side of the equator!

So why are we, in SEA, south, whereas China and Japan, clearly further up north, are considered just plain East Asia?

The mind, it boggles!

And then atlasien tweeted at me, "bigger question: why is 'Europe' its own continent when it should really be 'Northwest Asia'?"

This is true! Well, I don't know if it makes sense culturally, but purely geographically-wise, it's a good question!

I feel like T-Rex in Qwantz now! 

The "Delusional Default" in "Aggie Boys"

So, I'm sure if you're reading this blog, then you have definitely read Starling's excellent post on Schrodinger's Rapist over at Kate Harding's. And if you haven't, well, don't feel bad, but head on over anyway, because the post is excellent, and although its comments are 1000++ strong, they're still worth reading.

Among the comments was this gem:
Women Want My Attention is a delusional default, since just over 50% of the population is married and a significant number beyond that is partnered. So really, the default should always be Not Interested Unless Otherwise Signaling.
 Serendipitously or otherwise, I listened to this Youtube video:

For those who can't see it, never fear! Because only a few certain bits are relevant to this post anyway. The context of the video is as follows: in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, every year after the major football game, if the Aggies win, they are treated to a night at the Chicken Ranch, the titular Texan whorehouse. The Chicken Ranch was a real whorehouse way back when, and it's called that because during the Depression, the women there asked men to bring chickens to them as payment, instead of money, since everyone was so tight on money, and the women used the chickens as an extra source of income, eggs and whatnot.

The scene opens with a few of the girls in the living room watching the football game finish, and a couple others enter, asking, "So who won?"

"Aggie," says one of the girls, waving a little flag.

"Aw shit," sneers the asker.

"Yeeeeeehaw," they all chorus, with a distinct eye-rolling sentiment attached, since that's what these posturing boys belonging to the football team too.

So the guys start singing about what they plan on doing once they get to the Chicken Ranch, and a lot of macho posturing happens:
We're gonna whomp / and stomp / and a-whoop it up tonight
Those little gals won't never ever be the same
They're gonna love it when we whomp / and stomp / and a-whoop it upall right
It's even better than an Aggie football game

[spoken: Better than a football game?!]
And then we're gonna show them all a thing or two
We're gonna demonstrate just what a champion would do
Now, this macho posturing is laughable precisely because they are looking forward to an excursion to a whorehouse. That is, a place where women are sexually experienced. And they think that these sexually experienced women - who job it is to service men sexually and have probably been at it for a hella longer time than these boys have been playing football - are going to be all that impressed and will "never be the same" once the Aggie football team have visited.

As if the Aggie football team hasn't ever visited and left the women of the Chicken Ranch just rolling their eyes -- yeeeeehaw.

It really brings to mine Helen Huntington's eye-rolling frustration at the question, "why don't more women approach men?"
Why don’t women approach men more? BECAUSE YOU GUYS ARE FUCKING BORING. Sheesh. All of you are real people with real lives and have some real knowledge or experience to say something interesting about. But nope, when you decide to bug me, you almost invariably trot out the same few subverbal semi-sentences that the last 500 guys did. And the more sure you are that you’re being original, the more sure it is you’re just repeating what other guys are saying.
Viewed with this knowledge and acknowledgment, the posturing of the Aggie song becomes all the more pathetic, eye-roll-inspiring. The amount of work women have to put into hiding their sexual experience in order to fulfill this manly-man fantasy of deflowering innocent girls is further illustrated later on in the movie, which you can see in the following clip from 3:55 onwards:

Jewel, the black "mammy" figure of the film, is laying out ballgowns on the living room couch, and the following conversations ensues:

Chicken Ranch girl: Do we have to wear these ballgowns again?
Jewel: Yes you do, and I don't wanna hear anymore bitching about it. Miss Mona likes to create something special for the boys. It's like a graduation dance!
 The note of resignation and "omg do we have to go through this drivel again?" tickles me, because it reminds me of the same drivel women are taught to have to go through - dress up nice for a man, be nice, behave sweetly, be his fantasy, because your purpose is to please a man, and certainly your desires aren't a factor.

Now granted, in this context, it's the women's job to deliver that fantasy. However, I think it really does illustrate the kind of pressures that girls and women are under to perform, all the time, having to wear these ballgowns again, just for men who are under the delusion that they are hot shit when they are just another dudely-dude.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Most Epic Curtain Call Ever

This is from Takarazuka Revue's production of the Scarlet Pimpernel musical. It's an all-women performance troupe. You can look them up on Wikipedia, but the gender-bending isn't really that fluid - the roles are quite specific, and actresses are assigned male or female roles. Those who get the male roles only play male roles. As you can see, the gender performed is very specific. I'm sure some people find it empowering, but I wonder if it only reinforces the gender binary, but this is a post for another day.

Anyway, this is the curtain call for the Scarlet Pimpernel (I was on a Pimpernel kick recently) and I can't stop going LOL WHUT D: DO I WANT TO KNOW THEIR BUDGET? everytime I see it.

Cripes people, there are SO MANY THINGS I want to say about this curtain call. Like, is all that lavishness necessary? And, where the hell do they get their clothes made? And, what happens after the production is over? And, how many people do they keep in business with the work they do on the set and other tech? And, my god how many birds died for that curtain call? And, DO I WANT TO KNOW THEIR BUDGET?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Feminism and Children: on Raising Children for Abstract Concepts

A while back, a friend of mine suggested that to break the racism cycle so ingrained between generations, perhaps the Malaysian government could give "cash sweeteners when interracial couples marry."

Casting aside the obvious racism of this suggestion - that interracial couples would be valued more than mono-racial couples enough to receive privileges - I'm patently disturbed by the idea that interracial couples, producing interracial children, is going to solve the problem of racism.

I've written before on the problematic term "colourblind", and why discussions on race is still important, even though we know the concept of race to be a social construct. As Third Culture Kids know, navigating between the different cultures and never fitting in just one can be hard, particularly when people want to be territorial and demand that you take a side. I'm sure interracial children have similar problems - balancing between different heritages.

I reacted harshly against this idea, because essentially, it asks people to donate their children to an abstract cause - that of racial/national unity. Children who are, all in all, human beings, and we'll be using them for what are abstract concepts that can be shifted at will. Most people today wrestle with cultural concepts, trying to assimilate, appropriate, or mesh.

Bad enough that parents already pin all sorts of hopes on their children - be successful, be a good daughter, be a good wife, provide for your family, take care of your parents when they are old, become a great what-have-you, get promoted quickly. Be Perfect. Now we have suggestions of pinning hopes of an entire nation's unity - because apparently the adults can't do it themselves? - on them, just because they just so happen to be interracial. Because, you know, navigating between cultures and playing spokespersons come very naturally to interracial children!

No, not a burden at all. /sarcasm

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance

 Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is the day to memorialize the people who had died as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It's a day to remember people who have been killed quietly, targeted easily due to the transphobic nature of today's society that still refuses to acknowledge the humanity of people who transition from one biological sex to another.

There are many explanations for these crimes. "Gay panic" and "trans panic" are still considered reasonable explanations for acts of violence visited on these marginalized people. That transgendered people are marginalized makes them easy targets for crimes that will go unaddressed and unpunished. That transgendered people are victims of high crime rates as opposed to any other gendered group goes unnoticed by most people. Their names disappear into the darkness, forgotten.

Why are they killed? 

These people were killed for being trans, or suspected of being trans. They were killed on account of something that is part of their identity. It's akin to being targeted because one is gay, or one is Asian.

For all the clever arguments that prosecutors can come up with, for all the lies people tell themselves to minimize the crime, it still boils down to the fact that people react violently to those they perceive as Other. Because, as always, an Other is a threat to one's peace of mind.

It seems everytime I write about this, it's me repeating myself, but it seems there's no help for it but to reiterate more and more: when a transgendered person dies, another human life is extinguished. When a single human life is destroyed as a result of hatred, fear, prejudice, it is a human rights issue, a concern belonging to all of society.

We (meaning I, and many other cisgendered people like myself) go through life capable of ignoring the threat of violence and death that many transgendered people live with. For us, such troubles, of prejudice due to our identities, are only philosophical exercises, and we don't have to care, because we do not have transgendered people in our immediate vicinities. None of my cousins are transgendered. Not my brother. Not my parents. Not anyone I know of personally.

But we let that "not one of ours" get in the way of our memory too often. We forget that there are people dying everyday for reasons completely unrelated to us, horrific deaths that should not have happened. It's easy to see why - it's distressing to remember this fact, that the people we love could be at risk of death at the hands of violence, visited upon them for some reason integral to their humanity. We cut the rest of the world off because it's easier that way.

It is so difficult to be connected to the rest of the world. It's exhausting, it's upsetting to cry over someone who we don't even know.

But someone has to - mourn our dead because they are part of our dead too, remember their names and faces, remember who they were when alive, why they died, and it is this remembrance that gives us the resolve to carry on fighting for this cause so that no one would have to die anymore.

It's easy for me to say, because I'm a cisgendered woman, who calls herself an ally, and I sign petitions and I write blogs and I talk about these issues in company who probably doesn't want to hear it. I can light a candle today, and I will.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, for those who have lost sisters and children, friends and family, and to remember the people who have died because others could not control their hate and fear.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coupledom Propaganda


I like this song. It's from the sequel to Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was completely unfaithful to the original book, but in a good way, I think) in which Quasimodo finds someone to fall in love with, and who falls in love with him.

Now, I like Disney movies. Who doesn't? But you know what I don't like about Disney movies? And a lot of other media, let's be honest.

The fact that it is a given for the heroine to always end up with a hero.

A hero can end up with no one, or guy friends, sure! But if it's a heroine, she's always going to have some love interest with whom her life is deeply intertwined. It's a theme that's been overwrought. Even in Sex and the City we couldn't escape the idea that part of life is finding a good man to settle down with, and that Breaking Up Is A Big Deal.

What happens is we get a whole society of women who think that without men, they have no lives, who are constantly haranguing each other on Why Are You Still Single, and are incomplete, unfulfilled. We get bullshit like Twilight, and every single bloody cheesey romance novel where attraction based on being desirable and looking desirable, works out to be True Love. And further on, the idea that women have to mold themselves to be the perfect submissive wives for men.

I swear, if I have to deal with any "got any boyfriend?" at home, I am going to up and leave the room, or say, "no, thank goodness."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter

Really, just the name and the cover alone should make anybody want to pick up this little gem. I don't like horror, and I don't like zombies (I know, travesty, I know!), nor do I like the tagline on the cover (“She loved her country. She hated zombies”) and the blurb on the back, which unimpressively, simplistically presents the book's premise as “can she dedicate her life to saving her country when her heart belongs elsewhere?” sounds rather wishy-washily like an odd romance novel.

 The book doesn't even open with the titular character, but with a setup for side characters Quimby and Perkins. Quimby is preparing for a night of debauchery when the zombies he's been keeping break free from their prisons, devour the prostitutes he has ordered for the night, and worse, there's photographic evidence. He resurrects Perkins, and thus start their misadventures into the world of the supernatural.

We first meet our titular character as she is writing into her diary things she likes and doesn't like (turtle soup and Sir John Conroy). Meanwhile, the scenes shift around as things as a-shaking - King William dies, and people are dispatched - a succubus to kill the still-ignorant Princess Victoria, and Maggie Brown, a Protektor assigned to protect the Royal Family from demons. They converge on Victoria's bedroom, where she is informed that she is now Queen of England.

Historical fact, drama, swordfighting and ghoulish humour are weaved together to make your basic romantic story even more exciting. Queen Victoria's affection for Prince Albert is maintained within this narrative, built off historical fact from Her Majesty's proposal to Prince Albert, to their children together and the positive effect of the marriage on the nation. When Prince Albert is kidnapped, she insists on going off to rescue him, with little help.

Queen Victoria is portrayed as feminine, strongly devoted to her duty, and she never takes a back seat unless everyone else is, too. Her attraction to Prince Albert is palpable, both physically and emotionally. Unlike the typical romance novel, A. E. Moorat hardly spends time describing her. (Possibly because the figure of Queen Victoria is so well-known, but I don't think that's the case, since Prince Albert is fairly well-known too, but Moorat spends time delving into physical description of him. Either way, the focus on Victoria's female desire and Albert's desirability as a man is a welcome change.) She is a natural fighter, but also deeply sympathetic and compassionate. She is driven by a sense of wanting good for other people, not just romantic love, and still manages to be a flawed, funny character.

Moorat gives us a wide range of characters, and settings within London, from Buckingham Palace to Bedlam. Interestingly, he makes no comment on gender, preferring to depict strong female characters that can stand on their own without delineating the restrictions faced by women. Class, however, is given more attention - Her Majesty has to decide whether or not she really wants to fire actors hired to impersonate herself and Prince Albert, sending them back to dreary factory work by doing so.

The ensemble cast is given mostly equal treatment (the antagonists aren't given that much attention, but if they were, we'd know their plans and there'd be less suspense, eh?), and Moorat shifts the scenes in such a way that the reader doesn't get lost. The language isn't high-flown dense Victorian text either, and the dialogue is very accessible. Also, hilarious if you read it out loud. Double points for historical and literary references.

I was able to read through most of this without my Fail Radar twitching, and upon first read, it's definitely excellent entertainment - it doesn't gloss over any troubles the characters may have, doesn't present everything as cheery and something to laugh at. Perkins' fake leg has its inconveniences, but it's both ghastly and absurd. After the DisabilityFail of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, seeing a character who is disabled and living with his disabilities, still able to talk, make decisions of his own, and even having his disability of needing human flesh catered to, is somewhat of an improvement. Maybe someday we'll get an actual disabled character who isn't a source of entertainment.

But despite that, Quimby and Perkins stole the show, with their gruesome antics and great friendship. Despite the fact that Perkins is a zombie, he retains a humanness within his comedic value, and Quimby clearly cares for him enough to defend and protect him, angrily declaring, "don't you dare call him a gimp!" We're given an awkward, but well-meaning bromance moment between the two. The only moment this slash-fodder-ship is threatened is when Quimby meets one of the Protektors, the "exotic foreigner" Vasquez.

Vasquez's presence puzzled me because she doesn't seem to serve much function besides, be another cool character. She doesn't feel contrived, nor too out of place if you're getting caught up in the action, but I wonder if there's a historical significance to her presence.

The presence of the subplot means that the main plot doesn't overwhelm the story - that of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, both of whom struggle with destinies and duties that threaten their relationship, and yet their relationship gives them the strength to deal with it.

Overall, a delight to read.

Friday, November 6, 2009

PS It's NaNoWriMo

 Bye again for the next month or so! <3

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Self-Tokenism and Processing Halloween

So Halloween!

When I first came to Canada, a friend of mine made me a pair of cat ears cut out from a tissue box and made black with black marker pen, stapled it to a headband, and I dressed in black with a large pair of fuzzy gloves. Thus, did I spend my first Halloween as a cat. We mostly hung out in the dorms, since most of my friends weren't old enough to hit the bars yet. I got pictures taken. Not very good ones.

The next year, I thought I better put some effort into looking good, and bought a pinafore when I was in Malaysia over summer. Yes. A secondary school uniform. High school uniform. What did I go as? Random Asian Schoolgirl. Had my hair up in pigtails and everything! (My BFF, as I recall, went as an emo chick - argyle skirt and long stockings and effin' big emo frames.) I'm not sure why I thought this was a good idea, but looking back it was utterly an example of tokenizing myself, because I didn't know better. Halloween's a time to dress up, right? As... something, anyway. As something we're not. So I figured, I'm not an Asian schoolgir, and it would be so stereotypical.

Alas, I fed that stereotype.

I don't remember what I went as in my third year of Halloween. But I got into a fight, I think, with my BFF over the fact that generally, I dressed frumpily and she thought I should dress nicer all the time. I was not happy at being judged by my appearance! Especially by the person who's supposed to be my best friend! WTF, BFF! You were supposed to be on my side! Much angst followed.

I don't remember what I did for fourth year onward, but I think I was pretty much done with the whole concept. It was too much trouble putting together a costume. It was right before NaNoWriMo started and I wanted to save my energy and excitement for that.

But it's only now occurred to me just how much pressure there is to look like effort was put in for Halloween - either for the sexiness factor, or just in terms of how much work someone has put into a costume. It seems rather like a lot of energy. People keep asking me what I'm going to be for Halloween and I just can't be arsed to answer anymore. What am I going to say? Maybe I should wear a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt and call myself a Canadian.

But that's tiresome, this whole effort of being something I'm not. Haven't I played that role all my life? What is it about Halloween that makes everyone here in North America want to participate in it? Is it because we have the agency this time to choose the roles we want, instead of being forced into it? Isn't that kind of odd and, well, tragic?

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Pidgin Does Not Signify Lack Of Intellect

I recently received in my inbox an email from my father, who likes to forward me a lot of things that he thinks will interest me. Except of course, he never really realizes just how easily antsy I can get, and how willing I am to pick apart an article. (I used to hit Reply to All whenever he'd send me an email to let all and sundry know what I thought and all the problems with whatever he sent me, so now he wisely BCCs people instead.)

This article was about Miss Singapore, and I can't find the original article, but hree's another one about the same issue. While at the Miss World pageant in South Africa, she inadvertently slipped into speaking Singlish, the Singaporean creole that mixes English, Malay, Chinese and god knows what else. And this was a huge fucking deal because apparently, all beauty queens must be able to speak perfect English, the standard of which is probably set by the English-speaking world that is the UK and North America, I guess. And because Miss Singapore slipped up and showed her real linguistic roots, she is suddenly a shame of the nation!


I've flipped out at people for making typos in advertisements before (made her cry, even, because I took the flyers too seriously), and I've purposefully avoided people whose writing consists of run-on sentences. The former was  freakout and no one took me seriously (as they well should not have). The latter is simply a choice I make in order to limit interactions with strangers that might tax me.

I have also been a Writing Assistant for three years. It means I've read and reviewed, helped edit essays of students, who have all levels of language ability. It was probably where I learned to have a great deal of tolerance for international students, whose problem isn't so much linguistic as it is cultural.

As I grow older and more curmudgeonly, I find my tolerance level for a vast number of things going up. One of them - pidgin dialects.

I had a student once who was worried about not being able to speak English properly. He had a thick accent, sounded like he had razors on his tongue preventing him from enunciating certain words. I told him, it doesn't matter as long as you are understood. Part of being understood definitely depends on the speaker to ensure they have the necessary words out, but otherwise? It's also the listener's job to, well, listen. A person can use flawless English, multi-syllabic words, and still not be understood (you think anybody understands me when I speak academia?).

But with this case, though, I caught a strong whiff of classism in the air. Because as we know, it is only going to be those who are mostly English-educated, Western-educated types who are going to consistently speak flawless English, and have standard English as their mother tongue. Chances are, these people who get Western education in standard English, are the upper middle-class, rich elite. Most Singaporeans speak Singlish. Hell, they're even proud of it. It's a wonderful syncretized form of language. Just like Malaysians have their Manglish (which sounds less pretty, is subject to more variations, and is, I am told, counts as a basilect, which is kinda like creole except not stable).

Part of my changes also comes from acknowledging the hard work that beauty queens have to go through just to get to where they are, and stay there - how many people are willing to go up on stage to be judged not just on looks but also on things like how one walks and talks and what one will say?

Either way, I just think it's ridiculously mean to rag, continuously, and shame someone just for slipping up - once! There is nothing which justifies the shaming she's undergoing just because she slips into the language that she is most comfortable with.

I'm quite sure sexism factors into this somewhere, as well as some weird hero-worship of the English language as if it were the gold standard for communication, but that's another rant for another day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Because Children Apparently Never Have Same-Sex Parents

Scholastic has decided not to include Luv Ya Bunches, a story about four girls, because of its language ("geez," "crap," "sucks," and "God") and because one of its characters has lesbian parents.
“Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs,” adds Kyle Good, a Scholastic spokeswoman, explaining that the title will, however, be available in the Scholastic Book Club catalog.
Nooooo, really? How very generous, giving authours the opportunity to adjust their books to meet "norms". Because as we know, the normal people must be accommodated and we cannot present them with alternate narratives, even a smidgen of an alternative lifestyle, or else the WORLD WILL EXPLODE, or something.

And how nice that the title will still be available in the catalog, but it's not good enough to included among the books that will be on sale, easily touched and picked up by attendees, simply because there are same-sex parents in it.

No, it's something we must watch to ensure its acceptability to the audience at large, and if it doesn't make a big splash and sell tons, well, clearly it wasn't worthwhile putting up front and selling it in the fair! Well, okay, this hasn't happened yet, but who wants to take bets that it will?