Friday, July 29, 2016

Three fascinating facts about gender and apologies

Just read Sorry, but it’s complicated | language: a feminist guide This is more interesting than I expected it to be. Three essential bits for me:

1. "Some studies have found women apologizing more than men, but others have found no difference."

2. In a test of gender and class, gender matters, but class trumps gender: "the most effective apology was by a male manager, followed by a female manager, a male subordinate and finally a female subordinate."

3. Women apologize far more to each other: "More than half of all the apologies in the New Zealand data—55%—were cases of women apologising to other women. Apologies from women to men accounted for about 18% of cases, apologies from men to women for about 17%, and apologies from men to other men for just 8.5%."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Eddie Glaude's impromptu definition of neoliberalism is pretty solid

From Michael Eric Dyson vs. Eddie Glaude on Race, Hillary Clinton and the Legacy of Obama's Presidency | Democracy Now!:
Well, a neoliberal economic philosophy involves a kind of understanding that the notion of the public good is kind of undermined by a basic market logic that turns us all into entrepreneurs, where competition and rivalry define who we are, where the state’s principal function—right?—is to secure the efficient functioning of the economy and the defense, and creating the market conditions whereby you and I can pursue our own self-interest. And part of what that does, if we only read it as an economic philosophy and not understand it as a kind of political rationale producing particular kinds of subjects, who are selfish, who are self-interested, who are always in competition with one another, then we lose sight of how neoliberalism attacks the political imagination.
You may think that's just a definition of liberalism, but historically liberals tried to balance public and private enterprise. Education's a fine example: liberals believed in good public schools, while neoliberals promote charter schools and organizations like Teach For America that undercut public education.

Bad behavior all around: on grumbling authors, agents who charge writers for pitches, and aspiring publishing people who shame writers

Because David Benjamin's post is still public, I'll share the link: My Latest Rejection, #319: Jennifer Johnson-Blalock. But if you're tempted to join the people who're mobbing him, please finish this post first. I'll make it as brief as I can.

I learned about this story in the wrong way. First I saw Steve Brust sharing a link to this tweet by John Scalzi:
In the comments, someone provided a link to a screen capture of the post and the existing comments at How to get yourself blacklisted, a blog by Passive Guy who "hopes to work at a publishing house one day".

Mention a blacklist, and my hackles rise—I was born during the Red Scare and grew up very aware of all the blacklisted leftists of the time. We didn't believe in blacklists. Dave Van Ronk tells this story:
"Years later, I was talking with him [Oscar Brand] and expressed my disgust that that he, or maybe someone else, had put on a show with Burl Ives, who had outraged us all by naming a string of names in front of HUAC. Oscar just quietly said, “Dave, we on the left do not blacklist.” Put me right in my place."
So I read David Benjamin's post as the writing of someone who was under attack for committing a social mistake, which means I read it about as charitably as anyone could, and I still winced at some of things he said about the agent in question. I doubt Benjamin himself would deny that the post is mean-spirited.

But I also had some sympathy for him. Scalzi's tweet left out a very important fact: Benjamin didn't just get rejected. He paid $50 for the privilege in what I consider a scam. Traditionally, money flows from agents to writers. Reverse the direction in any pay-to-play scheme and serious ethical issues arise. This doesn't mean agents should never take money for doing anything other than agenting—being paid to teach classes and give speeches about publishing is fine. But once you're engaging in one-on-one sessions at rates like $50 for ten minutes, to my mind, you've crossed a line. The US minimum wage is $7.25; if you're getting paid in ten minutes as much as a minimum wage worker is paid in seven hours, you should be doing more than exploiting the hopes of aspiring writers, and you should not be surprised when disappointed writers vent.

I have no idea how popular Benjamin's blog was, but the fact that his rant is his most popular post suggests he did not expect it to get the attention he's gotten. He seems to have been doing what humans do, grumbling among friends without realizing that on the internet, you're always one public post away from social suicide.

Because the internet is vindictive, Passive Guy at How to get yourself blacklisted is providing screen grabs to make sure Benjamin cannot try to escape punishment. I think Benjamin's right to leave his post public; I advised that in How to survive a mobbing (that mostly happens online).

But Passive Guy is wrong to join in the Name and Shame Game. Publishing etiquette includes the principle that you don't shame people lightly. (You save those stories for the bar.)

Scalzi was right not to name Benjamin or link to anything that did name him. I'm naming him because (1) he hasn't taken the post down after a day of mobbing, and (2) the poor bastard can use some defenders because people who hear of the uproar will google his name.

I admit, I'm not the best defender because I agree that his insulting of the $50 for 10 minutes agent went far beyond her not providing him with anything useful in return for his time and money.

But humans vent with people they consider their friends, when they think they're in the equivalent of a corner of the bar where no one else is listening. People who have not been mobbed online or who do not have massively popular sites do not expect to get mobbed for griping.

Yes, it would be lovely if we were all saints, but we're not, so the best we can do is have pity for those who fuck up.

Part of the pity should go to the agent who took part in the pay-to-play scheme. It's become commonplace; there's no reason for her to feel bad for doing what many do not question. But now that this has happened, the best thing, so far as I'm concerned, would be for her to simply refuse to do more.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Captain Fanboy on Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Dr. Strange trailers, plus Iron Man 2


When I heard DC was going to set Wonder Woman's origin in World War I, I thought it was a silly change done just to make it different from the Captain America movie.

But after seeing the trailer, I realized the change is brilliant for two reasons:

1. Wonder Woman's purpose is to end war—she should be there for the first world war.

2. Wonder Woman's role is to be a hero for women and men who love women—she should be there during the first wave of feminism.

Also, I love the look of the period.

Their take on Steve Trevor and Etta Candy appears to be damn fine. I'm not crazy about the current interpretation of Wonder Woman as a warrior—I prefer the classic Wonder Woman who relies on her wits, physical perfection, and the advanced science of Paradise Island—but my expectations for this movie have soared dangerously high.


I've seen very few of the DC superhero movies because the movie people seem to think we want grim, and while grim superheroes were an interesting thing to do when Alan Moore and Frank Miller experimented with them, ultimately, grim superheroes are stupid because superheroes call for more suspension of disbelief than any other genre, including funny animals.

Why, you ask? Because funny animals have their own universes where they make sense in that universe's terms, but most superheroes are supposed to exist in our real world. Most fantasy and science fiction set in the real world has one change—time travel is possible, vampires are real, etc. But superhero movies have to rationalize things like why Batman dresses up in a suit and beats up petty criminals instead of promoting something like Basic Income to make a world where no one turns to crime out of desperation. Mind you, I'm not knocking superhero stories—I just think any attempt to make them "realistic" is misguided. This doesn't mean I think they should be silly. It means I think that in general, Marvel found the approach I want for superhero movies and DC has not, so far.

Like the Wonder Woman trailer, the Justice League trailer suggests DC finally figured it out. Part of me is sorry they're not connecting their movie and TV universes, but I completely understand the commercial needs at work, and this version of the Flash looks like fun. This Aquaman seems more like Marvel's Submariner, but I forgive that, and I feel a bit prescient for having said a few years back that a rebooted Aquaman should look vaguely like a Pacific Islander. There isn't much Cyborg in this, but he appears solid. I find myself really liking Affleck's Batman. I'm kind of hoping Superman doesn't show up in the first Justice League movie, but I'm sure he will.


I didn't want Benedict Cumberbatch to be Dr. Strange, not because I don't love his Sherlock (I do), but because there are so many fine actors who would do great jobs. Casting him seemed like blatant fan service. But once he was cast, I knew he would do a damn fine job, and the trailer confirms that.

Ideological antiracists are desperately seeking a reason to hate this movie. I would've cast Michelle Yeoh as the Ancient One, but there's nothing wrong with the choice of the androgynous Tilda Swinton as the head of an international mystic order. The silliest complaint I've seen so far was by someone who claimed that the movie calls Tibetans savages, even though anyone with half a brain should be able to see the line is a joke at the expense of the white guy.


I heard the second Iron Man movie was mediocre, so I never got around to seeing it until last night. When it started, I saw its running time was 2 hours and 4 minutes, so I turned to Emma and said, "It's fifteen minutes too long." I was right; simply trimming fifteen minutes would've made it a better forgettable movie. But it wouldn't fix how incompetent the storytelling is. The industrialist villain is painful to watch, and the reveal of the Black Widow is boring—we shouldn't have found out who she was until she went into action. It felt like Agent Coulson was stuck in to promote Marvel's next movie, and Nick Fury's only job is to tell Stark about his daddy. The script needed one more pass before shooting began. The only virtues are amusing bits by Downey and a short fight scene with the Black Widow.

The trailer and this Black Widow action clip are all you need to see if you like Marvel superhero movies but aren't obsessive about seeing every single one:


Captain Fanboy's ratings:

Iron Man movie: C-. The grade is harsher because the first Iron Man was solid work—without that, I might've given this a C+—but there's no excuse for getting it right, then falling so far.

Dr. Strange trailer: A-. I'm not convinced the movie is going to be great, but I'm convinced it might be.

Justice League: A. The movie may not live up to the trailer, but all the things in the trailer make me want to see more.

Wonder Woman trailer: All the As in the world. Please, DC, don't stumble.