Archive for December, 2010


Christmas

Jesus and Santa tiedHad a good Christmas, I did.

Among other things, got a stationary bike on which to flay my cardiovascular system as well as a very nice weight bench for pushing and pulling various masses.

Gave Kris an iPod shuffle, which she had been coveting ever since we ordered one each for the boys.

The children made out quite well too.

Spent a lot of time with exended family both before during and after the day itself. More of that to come this weekend.

Pulled a joke on the wife by putting a crappy $1 dollar kitchen knife of the kind she had been pining for in her stocking. She was very gracious and did not complain at the quality but merely decided, internally, to go out and buy her own self a bloody good knife at the next opportunity. She later almost used the implements in question when she unwrapped the high-quality version of same that I had gifted her under the tree and realized what I had done.

She in turn, gave me a “gift from the heart” in the form of a bit of sappy doggerel verse in a very nicely wrapped box. I pretended to be touched though I know at one point as I read through it I had that ‘glazed’ look. Nevertheless I tried my best to spare her feelings. Later I learned she had done it on purpose and the poem was a thinly disguised list of clues as to what the real present was, the stationary bike aforementioned. It’s a quality stationary bike. I’m very pleased. Though I am, perhaps, more pleased that my wife did not produce that horrible poem in earnest.

Our second youngest daughter had the last laugh when my wife opened her final present and discovered that it was an old cutting board she’d been missing for a week or two. The daughter responsible dissolved in giggles. Well done, my offspring.

The New Racism

Idris Elba as HeimdalFor starters, racism is real in today’s America. It exists. I’ve seen it.

Now I’ll go on to point out something I’m finding endlessly amusing.

Background is required. Several months ago, centering around the release of Avatar: The Last Air Bender, there was a great deal of discussion concerning the whitewashing of that film and whitewashing in general. Folks were angry that the producers of Avatar had cast white actors to play characters that most people would imagine as asian from the TV show and story. Great anger and acid accusations of racism were leveled at said producers. Much of the attention, I suspect, was paid because of M. Night Shyamalan’s involvement with the film.

I only heard about the uproar over Avatar because a friend of mine jumped in with both feet and shrieked in outrage with the best of them. Personally, I thought it was a molehill, but my apathy doesn’t, or shouldn’t, take away from the feelings of others on the matter.

Now enter the Thor film from Marvel Studios, and Idris Elba cast as Heimdall, a Norse deity. Again we have some folks getting a little upset over the casting. You see, Idris Elba is black, and most people would assume that Heimdall would be white, being Norse and all.

So, in one case we have whites being cast in roles that people imagine, reasonably, as asian and in the other we have a black man being cast in a role that people imagine, reasonably, as white. Same exact disconnect in both cases. The studios are clearly GETTING THE RACE WRONG when they’re choosing the actors to play these imaginary characters.

Cue the same uproar. The same bitter sarcasm. The same rage. … The crickets.

No one seems to care that a black man is playing the part of a norse god. I certainly don’t and I think the few people that do are racist, a bit nuts, and perhaps dangerously so.

Yet now we see, a little uncomfortably, that those who objected so loudly to the casting of Avatar share a slice of their root philosophy on race with these people.

You’re both racist. Deal with that and let’s all move on.

Bonus link: My friend Dan Wells has posted on this same topic over on his blog. As always he is erudite and fascinating.

Nancy Fulda and bias

Just got linked to this great article on bias by Nancy Fulda, via Howard Tayler. She’s apparently his sister-in-law and an accomplished researcher and deep thinker.

Very well put and well written. Highly recommended.

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed ZakariaJust found a guy named Fareed Zakaria.

I’m really impressed. This article, which he wrote for Newsweek in the aftermath of 9/11, was amazing. In its tone and basic ideas I feel vindicated that it says many of the same things I’ve been saying for years. And Mr. Zakaria has actual creds to his name, not just seat of the pants armchair theorizing like me.

While the fact that I agree with him is nice for me, more importantly he speaks to and integrates many of the root ideas that other people skate around in favor of rhetoric. He doesn’t gloss over anything that I could see. While not claiming to be perfectly unbiased (impossible) he does present a solid, clear look at both sides of the issues he’s discussing.

I’ll definitely be looking for and reading more of his stuff.

Wikileaks two

Lots of people out there on the web pooh poohing the idea that wikileaks is costing lives.  They don’t claim that wikileaks hasn’t cost lives. Most of them simply claim that it pales in comparison to the number of lives lost due to actions by the governments wikileaks targeted. A fair point. And, if you assume that the west, the United States and Britain in particular, is corrupt and murderous by nefarious design, you can stop thinking at that point and simply wave your placard. I don’t share that view and find those that do a little long on the yammer and short on the hammer. They speak, confidently, from under the umbrella of freedom, security and prosperity those very governments provide.

There’s another necessary half of the argument, usually left implicit by these rhetoricians. You must also believe that the threats of terrorism and rabid jihad the west is facing and fighting are largely nebulous and illusory. I direct your attention to the New York of nine years ago. You may then stepping stone your way to the present over countless incidents of violence and cruelty deliberately perpetrated against innocents by the very same individuals and their groups that are so necessarily (for this particular argument to hold water) illusory.

The west has not been perfect in its prosecution of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are plenty of examples of western soldiers and leaders doing wrong. Such incidents are few and far between, as evidenced by the attention they get when they do happen.

The massive and pungent irony of the whole wikileaks situation is that wikileaks targeted only the side it is safe to target. Exposing the inner workings of Al Quaeda and like groups is, after all, awfully difficult and dangerous.

As for wikileaks being treasonous, no. It’s only treasonous for Bradley Manning. For folks of other citizenships it’s called espionage.

I’m a pretty straightforward guy. I say that with a little bit of my tongue in my cheek because I’m a fairly accomplished liar. Working for years in the intelligence community will do that for you. It’s definitely a learned skill though, not one that I was born with.

Author’s are accomplished liars. That statement is true on many levels. Fictioneers get paid to make stuff up that is patently not true. Lying, making up stories, is what we do, by definition. At the same time, everyone knows it’s all lies so we’re not deceiving anyone.

But authors are liars in another sense too. We deliberately mislead and deceive our readers. Lately, I’ve been thinking of this as ‘operating behind the curtain.’ And I’ve been thinking about it because I am not comfortable operating behind the curtain yet, as an author.

There’s something in me that feels that if I know it, the reader should know it. I think it comes from being a reader for so long that I naturally occupy the reader headspace. In the reader headspace the reader must know at least as much as the characters know, usually more, or the story feels false and contrived. An author who lets his characters know something that the reader doesn’t and uses that to build tension or mystery is breaking the agreement that I, as a reader, expect him to adhere to. I hate it when authors do it and I really don’t want to do it as an author. It leads me to feel that if I, the author, know it, the reader should know it. But that’s obviously ridiculous when I say it out loud like that.

This gets particularly silly when I feel that I should be surprised, as a reader would be, by my own stories. It’s not something I do consciously, but I’ve started to identify this tendency in myself as an author. Heck, looking back, it makes it obvious why I didn’t know how my first novel was going to end until I was actually faced with writing the last few chapters. Discovering this about myself is good in a ‘knowing is half the battle’ kind of way, but also bad in that it’s a problem I have, since it binds my hands as an author.

Intellectually I know that an author manipulates his readers through misdirection and manipulation but I’ve been having trouble doing it. I daresay Tolkien knew Gandalf wasn’t really dead, or at least that he would come back, long before he wrote that bit. Operating behind the curtain, keeping secrets from the reader, is something I have been unconsciously avoiding when, as an author, I should be embracing it.

As I say, now that I can see what I’ve been doing I can fix it. Heck, I can turn it into a strength. I thought it was interesting, though, that I had the trouble in the first place, considering how much I lie.