Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Being Sick and Long Reads

So I've got my annual flu and have been more-or-less out of commission for the past few days. I even had to cancel classes for the first time in my long and lustrous teaching career. It's one of those really annoying types of the flu where you can't really concentrate for more than five or ten minutes at a time, so doing any work, even the most mindless of it, is pretty much impossible.

But on the plus side, it has given me a great deal of time to catch up with my best friend, the internet. I actually keep a series of bookmarks for just such occasions -- full of long reads that you don't want to bother with on a normal day, but when you have nothing better to do than lie on the couch and moan, they're fun to delve into.

The best of the long reads I've read today focuses on Costacos brothers and their poster empire. If you're of a certain age (read: basically my age), these posters were a huge part of your childhood. In the pre-internet era, these were as close to memes as anything that existed; often the nicknames the Costacos came up with filtered their way into actual sports broadcasts and the wider sports mythology surrounding players.

If nothing else, the article is great for having collected a good number of classic Costacos posters in one place, and is definitely worth a look. Not included, however, is my most favorite of all of theirs; the Kirby poster below that hung on my bedroom wall for pretty much all of my childhood. And actually still hangs on my bedroom wall now, because I am an overgrown child.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Separating Artists From Their Art...

A friend passed along this comic recently, the first panel of which you can see right here (though I encourage you to go read the whole thing). The short version is that a lot of the most prominent musical artists from the 60s/70s (a/k/a/ the baby boomer pantheon we'll be forced to hear about 'til they all die off) were just truly shitty people who did really terrible things. Whether it be Jimmy Page kidnapping a child to become a de facto sex slave or John "Give Peace A Chance" Lennon routinely beating his wives and children, a lot of the rock gods of the era (and let's be frank, every era) were reprehensible in their personal lives.

But we rarely if ever think about that while listening to their music, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Specifically, should we be thinking about these things? And to what extent should the general shittiness of the artist come to discount the art they create? Does Led Zep's music become out-of-bounds due to their collective shitty behavior? Does the fact that John Lennon had a walk-in humidor closet to store his vast collection of fur coats (not a joke, that's actually true) mean we can never listen to Imagine again (besides, of course, the fact it's a terrible song)?

More specifically, I've been thinking about this because I recently found out the lead singer of one of my most favorite (and I mean super duper favorite) Minnesota-based bands raped a friend of a friend in high school. Granted, because criminal charges were never filed and thus there was no investigation, this is technically just an accusation. However, given how underreported sexual assault is, combined with the fact that the victim is likely to reap far more negative consequences than the perpetrator if they do come forward, means it's pretty damn rare anyone fabricates claims of sexual assault. In this specific instance, I'm very inclined to believe the accusation due to the parties involved and the particulars of the story (sorry about being so vague -- the person in question does not really care to speak about this, and it's not my place to publicly out either party).

Since learning of this, I have had a really difficult time listening to said band. In fact, I've gone so far as to take all their music off my ipod and computer (which, again, was a lot of music. I really, really liked the band in question), not so much out of some sense of righteousness, but because I would start to feel queasy every time one of their songs popped up on shuffle. But that's really just a temporary, knee-jerk solution, and I don't really know what to do going forward.

And that's where the tricky questions come in -- knowing what I now know, it technically doesn't make their music any different. It's still some interesting, complex music combined with introspective and moving lyrics. But yet, I can't shake the fact that most of these music and lyrics are written by a rapist.

Yet somehow, I have no problem listening to music created by other people who I either know to have or have very strong reason to suspect have done much the same, or even worse. I'm sure part of the reaction is the personal connection to the story, but that really shouldn't make it any different. Further complicating things -- if I stopped listening to all the music created by people who have done reprehensible things, would I still have any music to listen to? And does my listening to the music of people who have done horrible things in some way signify my tacit approval, or at least acceptance, of those acts? Or can we truly separate works of art from the horrible things the people who created that art may have done?

I honestly have no idea, but it's an interesting question to wrestle with...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Phew! Good Thing Racism Doesn't Exist Anymore

As most people are probably aware by now, Adrian Peterson (a/k/a All Day, a/k/a Purple Jesus, a/k/a clearly the best running back of all time) had a terrible week. Late last week he was informed that he actually had another son he was not aware of, and he met that 2 year-old child for the first time as he lay dying in intensive care after having been beaten to death by his mother's current boyfriend.

Two parts of the story are incredibly important -- 1) Peterson did not know this child was his until the horrible tragedy had occurred, and 2) even had he known of the child, he did not have custody and there was pretty much nothing short of developing ESP he could have done to prevent this.

But there's another wrinkle to the story -- Peterson is Black, and his dad did some time in prison. A normal human being would think these have nothing to do with this tragic story, but normal human beings do not write for the New York Post.

Notable piece of shit Phil Mushnik wrote possibly the world's worst column claiming this to have all been Peterson's fault because...well, basically because he's Black and Black people are all terrible gang banging murders who care about nothing but themselves, I guess. (Note: the link here is to a scathing take down of the original article. I refuse to give that piece of shit page views).

I encourage everyone to go read that take on the column, but be ready to be foaming at the mouth in anger when you're down. Basically, it would have been less racist if he had just written a long string of racial slurs under a photoshopped pic of Peterson kidnapping white women from a Southern plantation...

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Appropriate Columbus Day Post

As Columbus day exists to celebrate a major event in the history of white people taking things from people of color as if its their birthright, the story of a woman of color who was called a whore for not working for free seems sadly appropriate.

So I urge you to read the words of DNLee, a science writer who was asked to contribute to an online science blog. When she found out she would not be compensated for her work, she declined to participate, in what most of us would call a reasonable decision for a professional to make about their time and effort.

Instead, an editor from the blog in question sent her an incredibly inappropriate response. In response to that, she wrote the great bit linked to above about the role of race and gender in science reporting more generally. Go read it.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

On This Date: R.I.P. Che

"Remember that it is the Revolution which is important and that each of us, taken in isolation, is worth nothing. Above all, always be capable of feeling any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary."

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Definition of Privilege

In a Platonic ideal of the situation every derisive "call the whaambulance" gif was ever made for, I present the apotheosis of straight white guy whining.

The whole rambling letter is totally worth a read, but the short version is that a TA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison had to take a mandatory diversity training and was horrified at the implication that racism exists, and even worse, that trans people exist. The letter hits all the classic "colleges are just liberal indoctrination machines!" notes that conservatives love so much, but is written is such an hilarious unselfconscious manner that you can't help but feel kind of bad for the guy.

Amongst the many crimes he was forced to suffer through, here's some highlights:

Our facilitator spoke openly of politicizing her classrooms in order to right (take revenge for?) past wrongs.
This shit just confuses the hell out of me -- I thought conservatives were all about revenge. And besides, if there never were these past wrongs (as he claims), then what would people be taking revenge for?

We opened the session with chapter-and-verse quotes from diversity theorists who rehearsed the same tired “power and privilege” cant that so dominates seminar readings and official university hand-wringing over unmet race quotas 
That's exactly it -- no one alive genuinely cares about racial equality. Any and all concerns about the fact that, say, one race of people was enslaved in horribly brutal conditions for multiple centuries is really just a ruse so that we can force unqualified Black people into college at the expense of long-suffering white people. But wait, it kind of sounds like this guy wants to take revenge for what he perceives to be past wrongs, but that can't be it, because we know he thinks that's bad.

were forced to share our collective guilt with those from continents far across the wine-dark sea
Pro tip: when trying to say you're not racist, maybe don't refer to people of color as coming from across the sea.

On having to defile his poor, sensitive ears with the notion that queer and trans people exist:

It is most certainly not my job, though, to cheer along anyone, student or otherwise, in their psychological confusion. I am not in graduate school to learn how to encourage poor souls in their sexual experimentation, nor am I receiving generous stipends of taxpayer monies from the good people of the Great State of Wisconsin to play along with fantasies or accommodate public cross-dressing.
Wow! Way to nail it right on the head! Any and all gay people, or simply any people that don't fit his definition of straight, are simply either playing games or psychologically confused. Glad we cleared that up before anyone was tempted to treat them as human beings.

One grows used to being thought a snarling racist
Really? I've never grown used to that. Maybe because people aren't constantly telling me I'm racist. Another handy pro-tip: if large numbers of people continually tell you you're being racist, maybe, juuuuuust maybe, you might actually be a little racist.

Of course, since irony is dead, I can't point out the humorous irony that if a person of color wrote this about, well, literally anything, this guy would talk about how that so-and-so is just a whiner who can't accept the world the way it is, and hey, if they don't like it, no one's forcing them to go to school there. But that wouldn't be because this asshole is a hypocrite, it would be because the entire world is supposed to cater to him.