Monday, December 20, 2010

#talkaboutit Rough Sex, Boundary Pushing, Expectations

This has been retweeted in #talkaboutit for a bit, it's Louis C.K. doing standup. Transcript and thoughts below the cut.

#talkaboutit No Word for "Let's Fuck" for Nice Girls

[Trigger Warning for description of rape]

When I was about 11, my family was watching a Chinese serial about Temujin, or Genghis Khan.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bradley Manning and Where Assange Supporters Are Getting It All Wrong

So ya'll, I am so sick of talking debating with rape apologists right now on Twitter. If these mofos were even paying attention to capable folks like Kate Harding and Sady Doyle in the first fucking place, we wouldn't even have to engage with why what Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann did was so problematic. So, no, I don't even want to talk about Assange, because frankly, the man sounds like a fucking prick

I want to talk about Bradley Manning instead. Glenn Greenwald at has a very good article about Bradley Manning and the details of Manning's incarceration. At the moment, Manning "has been held in intensive solitary confinement.  For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell.  Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions" despite being "a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems". Why?

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Is A "What About The Men?" Post

Today is the anniversary of the murder of the 14 women at l'Ècole Polytechnique Montreal, 1989. On this day 21 years ago, Marc Lèpine purposefully went into a classroom of engineering students, separated the men from the women, made the men leave, shot the women, then wandered the school finding more women to shoot at. In 45 minutes, he had killed 14 women, with the rationale, "I hate feminists."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Random Story Time

When I was in Morocco, we had a tour guide called Mizouri Abdul. "Like the American state?" my aunt asked. "Yes," he replied. He tried to pronounce her name, but couldn't, and said, "I call you Mississippi!"

He was an incredibly funny man, and the first thing he taught us was how to say "UN-BE-LIE-VABLE!" in his very specific, overexcited way. (He also taught us how to say Shukran.) He also had the habit of stopping with a grandiose wave of his arm to indicate some sight with a proclamation, "wherever Mizouri stop, is a beautiful picture to take!"

One day on the bus my aunt called "Mizouri!" He barely turned around to response, "Yes, Mississippi!"

He regaled us with stories of his wedding night and was very frank about his love life, told us about the hard work his monarch did for the country, was very firm in his opinion that Saddam was a hero, and since he had to take care of us, he had to mutter his prayers even as he led us through Casablanca. In Old Fez, he said, "don't go far away, because if you get lost-" he pointed to the sky "-you might end up on the moon," because Old Fez is kind of a maze to stupid tourists like ourselves (and amazing).

Anyway, there wasn't a point to this post - I was just thinking about him tonight. Morocco made a huge impact on me; memories of it were a factor in taking Arabic in uni. I did not have a completely good time in Morocco - it was singularly one of the worst holidays I've ever taken with my mother, who was displeased with my choice of an undergrad English degree in Canada and had no qualms about shaming me in front of the other tourists, and my aunt, who decided to take my mother's side against me (despite having had the same fight with her own mother, a generation ago).

But for all that, memories of Morocco still remain a balm. I want to go back someday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Metaphor For the Left

In a lot of discussions in school, there're a lot of questions which basically have the theme of "Why can't the Left unite the way the Right has?" There're plenty of answers, from my outsider's perspective: the Right groups unite because they're willing to put aside certain concerns, while the Left values these concerns. The Right doesn't care about people being thrown under the bus; the Left is comprised of a large base of people who keep getting thrown under the bus.

The most infuriating answer I see is the one that places blame on identity politics and the divisiveness that comes about as a result of disagreement of tactics and the like. There's this Kumbaya "why can't we just get along" hand-wringing nonsense. So I've been having some severe disagreements with classmates. But after that we can get along just fine.

Here's my metaphor: we live in different houses. Each house has its own rules and household culture. Maybe I like my house neat and you don't mind sloppiness. This doesn't mean we have to fight over our respective ways of handling our houses. It's perfectly okay for us to live in our own houses. We shouldn't be fighting over this, because there're people who are trying to tear down our houses. And when we argue about how to handle our own houses, we're just making their job easier.

The thing is that we're dealing with people who aren't just living in bigger houses, but can hire people to take care of those houses while they're busy sabotaging our houses. They live in gated communities which are safer because they have the means to do so.

So, it's perfectly fine to critique one another's style of running our houses because maybe the dialog will be useful. But we need to learn how to trust each other in running our own houses, and work together in preventing our houses from being torn down. We don't need to be living under the same roof to get stuff done together. We're not all the same. Stop yelling at me about how it's not important for me to spend my time cleaning my house and there are better things I could be doing. 

This metaphor is a work in progress.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Picspam of the Kobo

Today I bought myself the classic Kobo eReader, which is the 1st gen device that is going out of the way to make way for the 2nd gen device. The main difference between the two is this: the 2nd gen device has WiFi, so you can download ebooks directly into the eReader, and it's a smidgen faster. 

I'd been holding out on getting an eReader, mainly waiting for the tech to boom so I could find a device that suited me best, but as it is? There are a ton of books being released in ebook formats right now that I want, great online magazines that release their stuff in eReader formats, and when I last moved from Nova Scotia to Ontario, I was miserable at the book culling I had to commit (and my dad wasn't pleased with the four banana boxes of books either). 

But with the Kobo classic going out, the local Coles was selling it for $128. I visited it a couple of times, asking completely different sales assistants each time if I could have a look, admiring it, wondering what colours I could get it in, wondering if it was a good investment, compared to other eReaders out there. 

The fact is, there aren't very many stores which sell eReaders, and today I made the decision that I had to get it, but put it off until later, later, later, and then I went into Coles at the end of the day, and found the Kobo priced at $99, so there wasn't a reason not to get it anymore. Now what follows is a major, major picspam. You've been warned!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Response to: "Trauma Time: A Still Life"

Stewart, Kathleen. "Trauma Time: A Still Life." Histories of the Future. Eds. David Rosenberg and Susan Harding. Duke University Press, 2005, pp 321 - 338.

Just when I thought I couldn't top the obnoxious theorizing that I was reading about intellectualism earlier today, I just read something that did. The article: Trauma Time, by one Kathleen Stewart. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Malaysia Day

So before I run out of Malaysia Day, I should say something about it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Body Issues: Conversations My Body Has

"We really should eat something before we go out," one half of the reasonable brain said, as we set out on our evening walk. "I know it's early, and by the time we get back it'll be dinner, but we really should eat." We'll call it Less-Conscious Brain, or LCB for short.

"We'll be fine," said the other half of the reasonable brain, the one actually in charge. We'll call it Conscious Brain, or CB for short.

"Peckish," said the stomach. 

"But not too hungry?" CB asked.

"Not yet," the stomach replied.

"Good, off we go then."

About 200 meters into running, everybody was complaining. 

"It's too hot in this sweater!" said the shoulders.

"I can't handle the burning!" cried the chest.

"Our knee pistons are knocking!" the legs complained. "It's been too long since we ran."

"We ran just a month ago," CB groused, but slowed down and we walked. We meant to hit Sanctuary Park before turning back. A little before we got there, we felt a drop of rain.

"Oh, look it's raining now. Now can we go home and eat?"

"Okay, fine."

We walked home in general silence, mostly contemplating tomorrow. When we got home, the complaints started again.

"Hungry!" the stomach piped up.

"We need to change," CB said, shrugging off the jacket. We sat at the computer, played a bit of Echo Bazaar, tweeted our return home, listened to a few more songs on the Walkman.

"This is ridiculous, we really need to eat. We just used precious calories!"

"And this is supposed to mean anything when we've been sitting on our ass all day?"

"Don't give me that," LCB sniffed. "You're the one that ignores us when we need to do stuff. Like finish editing that essay. Or laundry. Or call the telephone company."

"The food can still wait."

"Still! Hungry!" the stomach cried.

"Hang on, hang on. Do we even know what to eat yet?" CB said.

"What is there to decide on? There's corned beef and rice. That's what we've been eating the whole week."

"There's also a couple of eggs left. Shall we have fried rice? How about fried rice? That would be fun, wouldn't it?"

"Hungry!" the stomach roared, and released a bit of gastric acid to make its point.

"Okay!" CB wasn't stupid; it liked to ignore the stomach but not that much. "Okay, fine, we'll cut up some luncheon meat."

"One day, we'll get on some drugs that'll make you actually listen to us and do what we want rather than reason your way through what we don't want," LCB complained. "One day."

"Yes. But you know... that one day comes only when I feel like we want to."

"Yeah well, fuck you too."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Malaysiana: Independence Day, or Lack Thereof

While in Canada, I tend to miss celebrations that I should be aware of, like the Lunar New Year, or Adilfitri, or Hungry Ghost Month (which is happening now, should be ending soon). August 31st was Merdeka Day, or Malaya's Independence Day. It's the day when the British left Malayan leadership roles after dicking around with us for a few hundred years. 

At the last Steampunk World's Fair, I kept referring to how the British colonizers left our shores, but left their mark behind. (Moniquill rightly put me in my place by reminding me that "the colonizers never left ours".) The thing is, I was being simplistic. After the British left, we had their parliament system, their education system. We were and are still dependent on business from the West. We still use the economic success of the West as a yardstick against which we measure our own growth. (Seriously, what is there to grow? In the West Peninsula we are a small small land, and hell no are we going to destroy the natural forests of East Malaysia to slake capitalist lust.)

When I was a child, I used to turn on the television to watch the Merdeka Day parade. It was the highlight of the year for me; I still love parades. For some reason, it registered in me that gaining independence was the highlight of my nation, the best thing we ever did. Then it was overshadowed by the building of the Petronas Twin Towers and being named piracy capital of the world. I thought we were doing okay for ourselves. And for most part, we kinda are. 

But time away from home, and my studies, have made me question what it means to be independent. Not as an individual - I don't understand that at all, because I'm still living on my parents' funds (hello privilege) and while I was supporting myself for a while, that quickly went down the drain. I mean, as a nation. In today's global village setup, it seems there is no single nation that is completely self-sufficient, unless it eschews systems of dominance and capitalism and refuses to participate in the race to improve their standing in international politics and protect their interests (which are probably as simple as "don't get fucked over by the big boys"). 

In today's world, what does independence mean? 

I want to say, it means that we have agency to act for ourselves, to speak for ourselves, to stand on our own accomplishments. Except, what does this mean? Why is this so important? And if it is, how good are we at it?

This is a hard post for me.

I've been talking about the aftereffects of colonialism on Malaysia, considering how badly hit we were, how we're coping. I went to visit an uncle who lived through WW II in Singapore, and when he referred to the British in pre-independence days, he called them "the colonial masters". He said it in a way that was sardonic, full of awareness of how bad and yet true the term was.

When I told my dad and brother this, my dad said, "yeah, I don't have a colonial mindset like that. Must be a generation thing."

And you know, I can't get behind that. I don't believe we've truly cut ourselves off from the old masters. If we did, we might not place so much focus on going to Western universities, because local universities aren't "recognized". We might not be so nice to white foreigners who come visiting, as opposed to the brown and black ones that come to work and help our economy. We might also not be so antagonizing in our desire to cut ourselves off from all Western influence, particularly more liberal values, which are perfectly compatible with our cultures but we say they aren't, we're Asian, we're not like them. Would we define ourselves so much against the West if we were truly free of the mindsets they imposed on us?

So, the fact is, there was no Merdeka Day post because I didn't feel in the spirit of national independence anymore. It's incongruous with how I feel inside, because I'm in such a good place in my life right now, I feel like I'm much closer to merdeka in my spirit, but that is because I've come to recognize and accept that my country's illusion of independence from the old colonial masters is just that: an illusion.

And I think, once we as a people come to accept that we have been indelibly marked, and once we stop defining ourselves against the West, and once we stop resisting ideas and values that we think are imported from the West, but really can be found in our own cultures, then I'll think it'll be more truthful to say we've achieved Merdeka.

Otherwise, it's all politics. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Magic Dolphin: "First Kiss", No Boundaries

This is a new series I'm starting and updating whenever I feel like fan-squeeing. In this series, I will share and analyse songs by Alexander Rybak, a Norwegian pop idol, with a folk-classical background, best known for winning Eurovision 2009 with a landslide victory. You can also find this series on my Tumblr, under the tag "Alexander Rybak is a magic dolphin from outer space". 


Deep in your heart
There's a small hidden room
And you know that I hold the key
You're gonna travel all over the world
Places where I'll never be

Someday you'll marry the man of your dreams
And I will be crying all night
But there is a secret that both of us know
That's why I'm feeling alright
Yes, there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why I'm feeling alright

There may be
Smart guys and tall guys - whose stronger than me
Ten times the charmer than I'll ever be
But one thing, Maria, I sure didn't miss
Your very first kiss

Need I say more?
The feeling is pure
And I felt the warmth of your lips
Though the time will go on
And the seasons will change
I'll allways think back on our kiss

Someday the runway will carry you home*
And I will be smiling all night
Cause there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why I'm feeling alright
Yes, there is a secret that both of us know
That secret belong in the night

There may be
Sharp girls and short girls - whose sweeter than you
Ten times the lady and one of a few
But one thing, Maria, you sure didn't miss
My very first kiss

Deep in my mind there's confusion and hope
And I know that you stole my thoughts
I'm gonna travel all over the world
Searching for someone to hold

Don't say it's over
When I'm underneath**
Let's see if our feelings unite
Oh, there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why we're smiling tonight
Yes, there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why we're smiling tonight

There may be
Someone who truly believes love is blind
But I beg to differ there's two of a kind
They will find each other
And that is a real bliss
Our very first kiss

In case you were wondering-

I'm in the midst of changing my template and overall blog design using Blogger's Template Designer. It's not the greatest, but the best I can do. Commentary is welcome. Unless you read this through a feed, in which case it probably doesn't affect you anyway. But comments would still be nice.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Write: Loving Relationships

So recently the video by Rihanna and Eminem went big and caused a lot of discussion all over the blogosphere, but browmfemipower's post is the most compelling and is the one I would highly recommend anyone to read. It's challenging to read, because it doesn't speak to me. It's painful to read, because in a way, I'm one of the people she's pushing back against. But these are reasons why it is absolutely necessary I and everybody else have to read it. She doesn't want people linking to it because she gets shit from people who just can't grok with what she writes, because if you want an alternative perspective, she will give it to you, and it will be shoved into your mouth without benefit of the silver spoon that you're probably used to.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

To Comfort the Disturbed, and Vice Versa

This is my third guest post at Jeff Vandermeer's Ecstatic Days. Which was supposed to be my second but it took a long time to write it. Original post here.

A few years ago, when I was a wee one in the social justice blogosphere (ok, who am I kidding, I still am), I read a quote that went, “Read six disturbing things a day.” A little after this, I ran across a saying, a kind of motto, that ran thusly: “Comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable.” 

The motto is a modified version of a longer saying about newspapers, “Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward” credited to one Finley Peter Dunne.

What I really like about fiction in general is that it does both. The SF/F genre has even more potential for comforting and disturbing, because of the slightly-beyond-reality elements the genre has to offer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Enthusiastic Consent

This was originally written for Jeff Vandermeer's Ecstatic Days. I can't remember what the impetus was, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with Feministe. It's been linked all over - Jim Hines linked to it too! Original post here.

Sometime back my brother went for holiday in Phuket (not so extraordinary, I’m afraid, since Thailand’s right next door to Malaysia), and he told me he was hoping to put the moves on a woman he found attractive.

“You got condoms?” I asked.


“Don’t forget to get consent.”

“Of course!” said he, indignant that I could think otherwise.

“Enthusiastic consent.”

“Oh yes yes yes,” he replied eagerly.

“Actually, one-up that: enthusiastic participation.”

“Hmmmm…” he turned thoughtful, as if it was a whole new level. Which it is, and a step further from what I want to talk about today.

(I got the concept of enthusiastic participation from Hugo Schwyzer a few years back.) The concept of enthusiastic consent has also been expounded at length in the wonderful anthology Yes Means Yes!, conversations from which are continued at the Yes Means Yes! Blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Quick Introduction to Malaysian SF/F

This post was originally posted at Jeff Vandermeer's blog, Ecstatic Days, at which he very kindly asked me to guestblog for a bit! See the original post plus comments here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

We Are A Sick Sick World

Okay. Kek sei. Seems like every time I want to wind down in preparation for something stressful, something pops up that I just cannot ignore.

Recently, Hiroshima held its annual memorial ceremony to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, and for the first time, the U.S.A. sent a delegation to the ceremony. But Japan is angry! Because U.S.A. has offered no apology for the bombing. Over 250,000 people, civilians, died as a result, from the bombing itself, or from the radiation aftereffects. 

There are some people who actually believe that just because Japan committed many war crimes itself during WWII, that Japan deserves no apology for the heinous death toll inflicted upon its civilians[1]. Still others believe that because Japan refuses to acknowledge its warcrimes, such as the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death March, because there is no outrage over this silence from Japan, that there is no reason to honour Japan's dead. 

OK look. 

Japan has fucking issues. I have issues with Japan's fucking issues. LOTS of people who pay the least bit of attention to Japan's role in WWII have issues with Japan's fucking issues. Namely, the fact that the Japanese government refuses to acknowledge these war crimes, refuses to even teach young Japanese about Japan's heinous massacres, refuses to apologize for abusing women kidnapped and forced into military brothels, refuses to apologize to other countries and crimes perpetrated on civilians in other countries during Japanese occupation -- the list goes on. JAPAN HAS ERASED ITS OWN HISTORY. From what I understand, Japan's history books portray Japan as a victim that was dragged into WWII. Even Japanese people have issues with Japan's fucking issues. Japanese activist Tamaki Matsuoka recently released a film documentary interviewing Japanese war veterans admitting their role in the Nanjing Massacre, despite harassment from fringe groups who deny the war crimes. 

I have so much damn fucking outrage towards Japan, that when I researched more on what happened during WWII, I hated Japan for a while. I hated not only Japan, but I hated Japanophiles around me who thought Japan was so fucking cool and awesome.

However, Japan's devastation of so many lives during WWII in no way justifies the devastation inflicted on hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

There is talk about how, if U.S.A. hadn't set Japan up the bombs, the war would had dragged on for much longer than it did. There is talk about how, until the U.S. became part of the war there was no end in sight. There is talk about how Japan would have invaded U.S.A. if nothing had been done. These are lies that serve to maintain the nobility of American intervention in WWII.

Let me tell you about what I know about Japanese Occupation in Malaya at the time. I know that the Japanese soldiers treated Chinese people very badly (although I cannot remember who told me). I know that sometimes our countrymen, the Malays and Indians and aboriginals, tried to help, but many times, they did not, and indeed, what could they have done? We Chinese diasporans were targeted specifically for our blood links to the mainland. I know that when the Japanese came, the British could do nothing, and we Malayans learnt, bitterly, that the colonial masters were not as powerful as they claimed to be, that they would not do their all to protect us as part of their Empire as it looked like they would (social contract and all), that we as Asians had the power to rule over ourselves, that white was not as mighty as had been driven into our bones. I like to say that Thailand sold us out, lent the Japanese a backdoor into Malaya in exchange for not being occupied. When I think of the Japanese during World War II, I don't think about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; I think instead of the invasion force arriving past the Thai/Malaya on bicycles, in full uniform with rifles on their backs. I know some of our women were forced into the ranks of comfort women. My older relatives don't speak much about the war, and I have no doubt I lost family then that I could have known today.

I know all this, and I still say: nothing justifies the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. 

To say that Japan's war crimes erases our responsibility towards its civilians is a banal and hateful thing to say. Innocent people never deserve death because of what their governments do. Just as 9/11 victims didn't deserve what happened to them without an apology. 

Nothing justifies war and nothing justifies the kind of mass-murder of civilians like all participants of WWII inflicted on each other. There are some of us who have personal stakes in Japan's culpability during WWII, me included. But refusing to apologize won't bring back the dead. It won't make the pain go away. 

I said it in aqrima's, and I'll say it again here: It is so so sad to see how violence has poisoned our minds that we cannot see beyond the hurt done to us to see that these wars hurt other people too. That this is a race of righteousness, that there's a competition here on who had gotten it right, who was on the side of good and who was on the side of evil and needed punishing.

It was war. When you join in any kind of fight and hurt innocent people for it, you bear responsibility for your own actions. You don't say that just because others have also hurt innocent people you have no obligation to show some respect to the people you have hurt. It's hateful, brutal, unkind, and inhuman to refuse to acknowledge other people's pain, because you are hurting. You're not the only one hurting. And the fault doesn't lie in the civilians who died at Ground Zero of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, so why did they deserve to die? To maintain American sovereignty? Don't make me fucking laugh - America was already powerful then, powerful enough to ignore the rest of the world if it had wanted. 

Yeah, okay, Pearl Harbour. And then what? America retaliated on its own Japanese-American citizens, that's what. Don't think the rest of the world is so stupid that we cannot see that USA, too, has its hands covered with the blood of innocents. Don't think that by quoting the numbers of civilians dead at Japanese hands and guns, you could possibly justify the numbers of civilians dead by American bombs. DEAD. IS. DEAD. These are human beings we're talking about, no matter which side they were on, no matter what country, no matter who did what to whom. Each of these lives were and still are precious to someone else, someone who is not us, who is just as innocent of these war crimes as we who were uninvolved are. None of us are in any position to downplay the horror these people had to live through. 

Yes, Japan has war crimes it has to apologize for. There are victims and survivors still alive, like the Japanese government is waiting for them to die so it never has to give them justice. But so what? Like this justifies the mass-murder of hundreds of thousands of Japanese people? Is this really justice? No, it's not. Refusing to give Japanese people an apology, some closure, some justice, for the heinous crime perpetrated upon them by U.S. America is NOT going to make up for the fact that Japan refuses to give Chinese, Filipino, Malayan peoples apologies, closure, and justice. The lack of graciousness displayed by a country so powerful it can afford, and should model, such a gesture is appalling. 

It is the height of obnoxious privilege to state that Japan shouldn't want apologies for Nagasaki and Hiroshima because of what it has done to other countries. Speaking as a person coming from a country that the Japanese occupied and that is also affected by U.S. imperialism, this sentiment is frankly insulting. Actually, speaking as just a human being, this sentiment is frankly insulting, and it is sickening to know that I share a living breathing world with sick people who think that killing other human beings is in any way justifiable.

Time and time again it has been proven that when we devalue other people's histories, when we claim that one story is more important than another, when we refuse to acknowledge other people's pain - that is when we are at our worst. Wars don't come about because we are at our best; they came about because certain person in power are at their worst and have full capability and desire to inflict pain on other human beings, and the people they lead condone their violence towards others. Today, these damages done to each other is done through corporations, but the underlying principle is the same: the refusal to acknowledge social responsibility towards each other.

Refusing to apologize is condoning the violence perpetrated on innocent people. Not just on the Japanese, but on ALL victims of World War II. 

You want to talk about how America triumphed over evil when Truman decided to drop the N-bombs? How American won the war and saved the rest of the world from a longer war? Fucking excuse me, but the rest of the world already fucking lost when the World Wars started in the first place. And we still lose, because now we know the horror that can be inflicted by nuclear bombs, so kyrios being what they are, U.S. America lives in paranoia of other people's bombs and rags on everybody else who it thinks might have their own bombs. 

Yeah, we are a sick sick world, because we believe that atrocities will end wars. And instead of reeling at our inhumanity, we applaud and defend it, because clearly it worked... for members of that one over-privileged oppressor group that continues to profit and live off the backs of everyone else who suffered and continue to do so. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Brief Response to Recent Insensitivities

I already said my piece over in the offending LJ but I can't let this go. This bothers me so much. For the longest while, I was just all ":O IDE" but I've been sitting on this, just getting more and more angry, so if I don't get it out, I think I might burst.

Writing a book is in no way anything like a deathmarch. If you think writing a book is anything like a horrible event in which actual people have been forced to suffer and still feel the historical ramifications of, you may want to check your ego.

And if someone tells you that the term is deeply loaded with haunting histories and shouldn't be trivialized to describe something like writing a book of fiction, maybe you should just say sorry and never use the word ever again, instead of defending the use with ridiculous excuses like "mythologizing language".

I know it is incredibly difficult to drop certain words entrenched in our vocabularies (I still sometimes substitute Judeo-Christian exclamations as expletives, but I try hard to find other ways of expressing myself) but seriously it is not that fucking impossible. Especially if you claim to be a writer. Whose job kind of entails looking for new ways to express yourself.

Oh, and while we are talking about "mythologizing language" let's have a look at what we're talking about. We're talking about the use of the word "deathmarch", which calls up memories of persecution and pain and anguish and death. Of real people.

I do not understand why this, or any other terrible event, should be allowed to become "banal and mundane". Or how, if we don't trivialize them, we allow the people who perpetrated them to win (I don't even understand how anybody, particularly a writer who identifies with a minority group with training as an anthropologist, can even say this with no hint of irony). It seems to me that these events were perpetrated in the first place because the death of and murdering other people was seen as banal and mundane. So if we rendered these horrifying events as banal and mundane, we'd be no better than the people who killed and murdered.

Let's also talk about mythologizing, okay? Mythologizing generally means "to render something into myth". This is not a dictionary definition, but I think most of us will agree that's what the term means. Myths are stories of folks of dubious historical status to provide us with narratives that help us make sense of the world. Like Greek gods. Or the Monkey King. Or comicbook superheroes. Myths, from my own limited understanding, help us reconcile to the world - that the world is like this, and not that, for a reason.

If we refuse to allow historical tragedies that destroyed real people to lose the meaning and power that they have - if we refuse to forget them - if we refuse to allow their erasure - this is not rendering them into myth: this is giving power to remembering the history that shapes identities today. To disallow us from remembrance because it weighs us down is to belittle what little freedom we have. Dominant powers already enforce and encourage a cultural amnesia on formerly colonized spaces to maintain an illusion of independence and peace. So many of us pretend that a history free of bloodshed will produce futures without bloodshed, when in fact, these histories reverberate in our bones and the bloodshed manifests in the little cruelties we inflict on each other on a daily basis.

It strikes me as ridiculous, sickening, privileged and dismissive when anyone would want to conflate historical tragedies that destroyed real people with writing a book. I understand the fiction writers are given to over-exaggeration and fanciful imagination, but after discussion on discussion on discussion last year about erasure, history, patterns of privilege, and harm reduction, it isn't fucking disingenuous anymore to claim that intention matters. It's downright willful ignorance.

If you are interested in context, check my LJ.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Spaces for Kids

While I was taking in my mom's blanket from the clothesrack outside, I noticed the kids playing on the porch of the semi-detached house on the corner of the street diagonally across from my family's house. It'd been so long since I saw children playing there, I was a bit startled in the back of my mind. The first owner had been Encik Kamaruddin, who I remember most because he owned rabbits (back then, the brick wall was a wire fence, so we could peer across the drain at the rabbit enclosure). The house has always been owned by Malays, although for a while, it was rented out to factory workers. 

Subang Jaya, old Subang Jaya especially, was built for raising families. Most of the houses here are built to suit lower-to-rising middle-class families, and growing up, I knew a lot of nuclear families.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Language Disconnect: Poetry, Culture, Points of Reference

On Tumblr, whatwillsuffice shared a beautiful poem called "HAVING A COKE WITH YOU" by Frank O'Hara. I have never heard of Frank O'Hara before this, nor the poem, but it is absolutely lovely, because it talks about the experience of being in love. Let me show it to you:

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

 I don't actually get all the cultural references in this. I don't know San Sebastian and I don't know what it's like to stand around a tree on a warm New York night at 4am, and I don't know the Polish Rider or the Nude Descending a Staircase or Marino Marini (I do, however, understand Leonardo and Michaelangelo). This despite the fact that I'm pretty heavily invested in "Western" culture, but I don't get all the cultural points of reference. What I do get, however, is that this dude digs whoever he's with, so much, that he's willing to ramble on about all this minutiae of Stuff That's Important To Him, because the love is so overwhelming, he has to share. This isn't a poem about me or for me, it's about the poet, and the poet's lover, and this is cool. But it is a poem that makes me want to dig deeper and get all the references, because it's about love, written in a way that I would think about love, but unique to this dude.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Musings on Art and Duty

Larry Rivers, who I previously had no knowledge of until the other day, did a film series in which he filmed the breast development of his daughters, asking personal, sexually-charged questions like, "have boys started noticing yet?" From the article in the New York Times, one daughter made it clear that this made her uncomfortable, and that she was pressured to participate. The film series affected her adversely, leading to psychological problems during her teens. She wants the film removed from the archives of the New York University. NYU responded by saying they would keep the film out of public consumption for the duration of the daughters' lives. The Rivers Foundation's director, David Joel, is quoted as saying, "I can't be the person who says this stays or goes. My job is to protect the material."

Well, that's great, I guess. Yay for folks who are doing their job, and in this case, to preserve material. 

Okay, um, why?

Let's look at the facts here: this is a film which is built on the exploitation of helpless persons. One of said persons has come forward revealing just how damned exploitative it is. Hell, even within the film itself, Larry Rivers says in a voice-over that his daughters "kept sort of complaining". This was a film meant to push the boundaries of societal approval. 

Looks like those weren't the only boundaries pushed. 

Look. When you create art that banks on the participation of other people, it is abusive to make them do something they don't want to do. Plenty of people have to do stuff they don't want to do, every day, which doesn't necessarily enrich their lives in any way. And in this case, these girls did stuff that not only did not enrich their lives, but affected them badly. 

Art that pushes boundaries, folks, is the province of the privileged. If you create art that doesn't push boundaries, that guarantees returns, you're probably doing it because you need those returns. If you are in any position to create art that you know will create some pushback, that you know might lose you fans and their patronage, you are more than likely in a very good position where this loss won't affect you significantly, and that is a sign of privilege

Which means, you know, you are in a position where you have options. And among these options, the choice to create art that doesn't depend on hurting other human beings.

Guess which option Larry Rivers did not take in the making of this film series?

The fact that it is getting preserved in the first place is another sign of privilege. The fact that people are defending it, yet another notch illustrating that this man, although dead and gone, still has power over his art, that others will rise to protect it as they feel he would want them to. 

So when David Joel says something stupid that runs along the lines of "I sympathize but my job is to protect this material" he is also really saying, "this film, built on exploitation of this woman and her sisters, is much more important than this woman herself." That duty to a dead abuser's output is more important than the right of a person to lay to rest her abusive past the way she sees fit.

So let's talk about art. I firmly believe that art has power. Like revolutions, art can be an act of creation, or of destruction. Art reflects the world, as much as it influences the world. It is informed by the culture from which it is produced, as much as the culture around it will look to it as a model for how it should be performed.

At the Pursuit of Harpyness, in comments, baraqiel gave a thought-provoking anecdote on how engineers are taught that their technical knowledge gives them power, and that sometimes the data comes from unethical sources, and how valuable / necessary is that technical data which is procured through killing other humans? And supposedly, engineers are the most unfeeling of professions - artists are supposed to be feelers as well as thinkers.

In the preservation of art, something has got to go. There is a reason why there is a filtering process, a judgement process, in which people decide what to keep and what to throw away. We keep things of value, because we see a continued benefit in having them around. We throw away things that no longer have value, because we need to make room for other things of potential. We also throw away things of detrimental value, because they are symptomatic of social ills that continue to eat at our societal consciousness.

David Joel is implying that he, as a curator of sorts, has no sense of judgement, because his "job", his function" is to preserve these materials. BULLSHIT. The function of preservation should not override the judgement of a human being to weigh, ethically, the value of preserving something that has caused pain. He also implies that the ethical value of any piece of work is meaningless beyond its immediate effects. BULLSHIT, AGAIN, because anybody who pays the smidgen amount of attention to art and how it has functioned in our societies knows that it is meaningful beyond its first moment of creation and immediate effect, that it continues to affect long after its creators have move on, that its effects cannot be controlled once we have relinquished control of it.

Here, Ms. Tamburlini has shown that she does not want to relinquish control of something that has exploited her in the past, that she was forced to participate in. But does she get it? No, because apparently, despite the fact that she's part of this material, she's not allowed to have any say in what happens to it. She's not allowed to touch it or mess with its otherwise pristine preservation. 

We know what happens when arts get taken out of context. Appropriation, for one. A different interpretation that we cannot control, because we're not in the heads of our audience, can be attached without our meaning to. If I do an art nude, and I release it, I cannot help the fact that someone somewhere may take it and use it as masturbatory material, and the only way to really prevent that is to not do art nudes. However, I can weigh the benefits and costs and decide, nope, someone wanking off to my art nudes does not hurt me or anybody participating in the making of the art, and I can create art nudes that do not exploit anybody without their express permission. This can get lost in a few decades when someone can just go "this is a rubbishy piece of art." Thus, it rests on me, right here and now, to decide if I want to run that risk, and can I live with myself knowing I have released something out into the world that might be rubbish? 

This Larry Rivers thing is even worse, because he knew he was affecting his own family adversely by demanding their cooperation, and only a sociopath goes on with such a project knowing that it is causing huge discomfort, even psychological problems, for those he is responsible for. And NYU and the Rivers Foundation continue this sociopathic decision by deciding that the people whose lives were affected matter less than the preservation of artistic material. This is where I would accept, "it's just a ____," because in this case? Compared with the well-being of someone who was hurt in its making? It really is just a piece of film. 

I come at this from an artistic, ethical standpoint, because I'm not interested in legalese. Legalese has been used to hurt and destroy other people, and it is constantly abused. And I cannot, cannot fathom how anyone could be so cruel as to preserve the memories of sexual abuse and exploitation as "art". 

I'm not part of any artistic community, except NaNoWriMo, so I can't speak to the ethics of the artistic community as a whole. I do feel, as an artist and as a believer in art, that art is a powerful tool, and like, all powerful tools, should be used for good. And I cannot fathom how this film is in any way a strong contribution to the artistic world. At all. Maybe I'm missing something and someone will concern troll me on Why It Is Important To Preserve Clearly Exploitative Material.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Meaning of Everyday Things: Shoes

So people, while I was doing a bit of Rybak fangirling and thinking about how things aren't just things (contrary to what one might think, these two things do not always clash, and in the case of my Rybak fangirling, always match like happy bonobos), that most things we have and do have some meaning of some sort, I was thinking of examples of how to explain this concept: that some thought goes into actions we choose and decisions we make. And I thought, even our shoes have meaning. 

And they do, okay! 

I will explain why. And be aware, Moff's Law is in effect.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I've been remiss on writing these days. It's not from lack of ideas, or even lack of inspiration. It's mostly from lack of energy, and the weather.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quick Rant: Websites for Women

Forbes just released a Top 100 Websites for Women. Feministe, Feministing and Jezebel are on it. But... that's it. The rest of it? Lifestyle blogs, work, mothering, all very important, yes!

But, where is Shakesville, which covers all sorts of feminist issues, providing insight on how media and culture affect women's lives? Where is Love Isn't Enough, a blog about parenting and how to raise non-racist children? Where is the Pursuit of Harpyness, which discusses self-esteem, academia, pop culture, and other such issues relevant to women? Geek Feminism, resource and discussion for and about women in the still-male-dominated IT industry, HELLO? Racialicious may have more focus on race and pop culture, but they still lean towards questions of gender, they just don't limit themselves to that! Feminists with Disabilities too! Oh wait, disability isn't a women's issue, okay. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Malaysiana: Cheering for Cheer 2010

Sometimes, I like to take note when boys are doing the smashing of the gender binary. 

There is a national cheerleading competition every year here in Malaysia, which got its start several/a few years ago (depending on how you calculate time - I know its first year was before I left for Canada, so that's quite a long time from my perspective). I've never actually seen it in person, but there's always one splash page in the newspaper, featuring the teams in some sort of cheerleader-y pose, with the name of the team and what school they're presenting. 

The first year this happened, I noticed that there was an all-boys team, and I thought, that is so awesome! Good for the boys. I hope they do their best. And from what I read later on, they certainly did. 

There are a lot of gender stereotypes floating around, many of them stemming from the West, about how men should act and what women should (not) do. I've noticed that some of them just don't have any roots here, like women taking husband's surnames and staying out of tech jobs, so, it doesn't really surprise me that much that cheerleading would be seen as somewhat feminine but not locking out boys entirely. But I was still very impressed, because we do get some North American influences, and that there are more all-girl cheerleader teams than all-boy ones shows that. 

This year, out of eleven teams featured in the national newspaper I was reading, three of them are all-boy teams, one of them is the male counterpart to an all-girl team from the same school. 

It's not perfect, obviously, because there'll always be some residual ideas and stereotypes that even the teams will hold on to. But I think it's a nice start, seeing boys and girls cheerleading, competing and having fun with it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ally Issues: On Juneteenth vs. Helen Keller Blogswarm Days

Helen Keller Blogswarm Day came and went, and since I knew about it beforehand, I'd already made a promise to write something for it. This, despite not being Helen Keller's birthday, or even the day of her death. 

At the same time, Juneteenth came and went, an actual day of celebration. 

And from here on out, this post is going to be All About Me. Even though I know it ain't about me.

Happy Helen Keller Mythbusting Blogswarm Day!

June 19 is the designated day for Helen Keller Mythbusting

Image: A grey banner divided in three parts. A photo of a young Helen Keller is in the center. On the right, it reads “Political Activist. Radical Thinker. Suffragist. Pacifist. Journalist. Socialist. Who was she?” On the left it reads “Helen Keller Mythbusting Day 2010″

I first learnt about Helen Keller through a calendar book of sorts in which each day was marked with something of significance to the date. The item was illustrated by a blond girl at a waterpump, one hand pumping, the other hand under the rush of water. Her eyes were wide and looked rather bewildered and lost (she was also blonde and blue-eyed). I learned that she was blind and deaf, until her teacher taught her how to read and write through impressions on her hands. 

I did not know her teacher was also deaf blind until much later.

I only caught snippets about Helen Keller later, and saw a picture of the first story she typed up; I think it was a re-telling of Cinderella, but I can't say for sure now - I only know it was a famous fairytale. I remember being impressed that she could do that deaf and blind. I also saw a movie in which she was a character, touching a soldier's lips to hear him. 

Here's the thing, though, until Anne at FWD talked to me about Helen Keller Mythbusting Day, I didn't really think much about what else she had done in her life, besides being generally awesome in how she managed to live a full life while being deaf and blind. And then it was, wait, what?

What do you mean, Helen Keller was a political activist? A radical thinker? I knew she travelled and was a speaker, but I always assumed it was all about disability - obviously that would be her main concern in life! I visited her Wikipedia page, and lo, stuff I didn't know about this amazing woman.

I let her disability cloud my entire perception of her, and am thus ashamed, and now, I exhort ya'll who read my blog to hie on over to FWD's Blogswarm post, into which many links and discussions about Helen Keller, and other incredible women with disabilities, will be shared. Or, if you have some myths to bust about Helen Keller yourself, write a post and share! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Malaysiana: Rumination on May 13

Some context for non-Malaysians
On May 13, 1969, riots broke out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. These were racialized riots, between the majority Malay and minority-but-still-sizeable Chinese factions, a result of racial and religious fractioning between political parties of the people. Malaysia was still a very young country at the time, and had not really had much time yet to grow used to its multi-cultural identity now that the overwhelming British influence was gone. I would still argue that the Malaysian identity is still in flux; cultures take a long time to change and syncretize with each other. 

Since then, May 13 has become a force under which we have all rallied to do away with race-based politics, with a certain degree of success. We recognize now that we are Malaysians - born, bred, raised in similar environments and contexts, with a shared history (that can also be called propaganda), in a particular cultural context that is similar but not quite exactly the same with neighbouring nations.

Unfortunately, it seems also seems to have become a weapon for those who have privileges they want to maintain. Do not question the status quo, because it will, as it inevitably does, lead to questioning the current state of equality between races, which will lead to discussing the racial discrimination faced on institutional levels, which will lead to anger of many individuals, who will go on to cite the many different incidents of racism they or their friends or their friends' friends have gone through, and it all ends up in this unproductive black hole of people getting mutually angry at each other and ending up with harsh generalizations.

Malaysia's Identity Crisis

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 13 Blogswarm Links Post

This is where all Malaysians and residents of Malaysia are welcome to leave links to their participation in the May 13 Blogswarm. For more information, check out LiveJournal and Facebook.

Comments Policy: 
Please note that moderation is turned on for comments older than 7 days. I try to check in regularly, but this may be hard as I will be traveling.

Do not use this place to debate what others have said. If you do and you crash my site in due process, I'll get very irritated at you. That shit is rude. Don't do it. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Write: A Response to Diana Gabaldon

A friend of mine directed me to this post by Diana Gabaldon, who I understand is a successful authoress, about her objection to fanfiction. Her main points boil down to the following: it's illegal, it takes control of the material from the original author, and omg-ew-yuck-what-are-you-doing-to-my-characters.

Fanfiction is not my first choice for entertainment. I find it incredibly difficult to sift though fanfics to find stuff I really enjoy, and I imagine it's like an editor's slush pile. (So, I let other more dedicated people than I do my work for me.) I'm also a fan of reading an authour for their own personal writing style, not just what was written, but how. I've got no guarantee this same experience will be reproduced when I read fanfic. I've written fanfic before, and while it's a pleasant exercise, I don't do it often for reasons of my own I'll explain later.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Malaysiana: Three Stories on Disability for BADD

Sometime when I was home earlier this year, my dad and I noticed this Indian man struggling with a walker in our housing area. He wasn't very old, and we'd seen him, walking, sort of tottering, past our road, along the football field, down a road which has several road bumps, because it's a one-way street passing through several.

Blog Against Disablism Day 2010: My Invisible Disability

I've recently started saying that I have an invisible disability. It's not easy to do, for several reasons. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Writing My Own

Much has been said about writing the Other. It was one of the keystones of RaceFail, and has been the cause of much angst on the part of predominantly-privileged writers who would like to write marginalized cultures without being attacked for it. For a long time, marginalized cultures have been represented by the descendants of colonizers, who benefit from the imperialism of the past and continue to be so: their writings are taken more seriously than that of a marginalized person's, they are more likely to receive a larger platform, they are more often lauded.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Body Issues: A Brief Rumination on my own Butt

I'm going through my clothes right now and giving a way a lot of my old t-shirts. They're actually really awesome (if you guys want, I will take pictures, and if you like anything you see, I will send it to you) but they're a) black and b) mostly too big for me to tuck into my jeans comfortably. Yes, I know, baggy t-shirts never go out of style, and believe me, I'm keeping a couple of them, but on the whole I do not wear them as much anymore, so I see no reason to keep them. I'm phasing the black out of my wardrobe, ya'll.

So, I've also got a ton of shorts, and I refuse to keep those that are too tight to wear comfortably in the near future, so I'm trying them on. Yes, a few really don't fit. I may not agree with What Not To Wear's shaming tactics, but Stacy and Clint were right in one thing: don't buy stuff that don't fit with the secret promise you'll get slim enough to fit.

I'm wearing a pair right now, which is kinda tight, but I can button and zip it up, so I'm keeping it. I don't care how short it is. My bedroom has a wall mirror, so I stood up to see how tight it is. And for some reason, I had a memory surface.

Friday, April 16, 2010

SAAM: "Baby It's Cold Outside" and Not Family-Friendly, Either

The other day, I browsed Youtube for Alexander Rybak videos and songs. I have a liking for the songs he composes, because they tend to be simple, carefree, and non-jarring - just like light'n'easy pop should be. He has some sad songs, some very emo songs, and most of them are all sentimental with a taste of frivolity. Essentially, fluff, but good fluff.

But I was squicked out to find that he covered Frank Loesser's Baby, It's Cold Outside. Now, I understand why he would - it's a pop standard, and has lasted since the 40's. His voice suits that song perfectly, and much of his fanbase is in the Northern Hemisphere, who would understand the song.

The rest of this doesn't have much to do with Rybak, but the song itself and the fact that it is April.

One Year!

One year ago, I started this blog because I noticed that I was posting a lot of non-personal and non-academic  stuff on LiveJournal. I had so much more to say, but I didn't want to flood my f-list with a lot of meanderings on topics which probably interested only me. I noted that Blogger had a scheduling feature, which meant I could write several posts at once, and not overwhelm my readers too much.

Since then, I've moved from focusing on gender issues only, to including issues about race, to touch on LGBT and other such items that do not directly affect my life. I've also started a new blog, Silver Goggles. I've renamed this blog, from Rebellious Jezebel Blogging to Intersectionality Dreaming, because the more I wrote, the more I figured stuff out about myself. 

My thing with this blog has always been about consistent content. It unfortunately trumps the quality of my writing a lot, even though I try to develop the discipline of writing regularly. My writing has always been inconsistent - I am not one of those people who can always deliver quality on demand. 

With the stuff that's been going on in my life right now, I'm all writered-out. When I have a slew of posts, I'll spread them out as they're reader-ready, still on a MWF schedule. But there may be silences. From now on I'll be focusing on quality, not quantity. I may even post occasional fiction, and if it gets too empty here, I'll re-post stuff I've already written from way back when, so people can see how much I've changed.

I'm pretty excited about the upcoming year: I will be going to cons for the first time (Steampunk World's Fair and WisCon), and pursuing a Master's degree in the fall at McMaster University. I loathe leaving Halifax, perhaps for good, but it's another year to decide what to do with the rest of my life. 

I'm looking forward to another year with you ^_^