Monday, December 19, 2005

Reconstruction 5.4: Femscape

Our newest issue. A great issue by Ximena Gallardo C. and Kim Wells!

I'm the review editor of Reconstruction, so if anyone is interested in reviewing for us, feel free to leave a comment on this site or email me with "reviewing for Reconstruction" as the subject.


Reconstruction 5.4 (Fall 2005):
Guest Editors: Ximena Gallardo C. and Kim Wells

Ximena Gallardo C., "Beyond Cyborgs?"

C. Jason Smith and Ximena Gallardo C., "Oy Science Fiction: On Genre, Criticism, and Alien Love: An Interview with Marleen S. Barr."

Diana Dominguez, "'It's Not Easy Being a Cast Iron Bitch': Sexual Difference and the Female Action Hero"

Susan A. George, "Pushing Containment: The Tale of the 1950s Science Fiction Vamp"

Andrew Gordon, "Contact: Little Orphan Ellie"

Lorna Jowett, "To the Max: Embodying Intersections in Dark Angel"

Helen Merrick, "Alien(ating) Naturecultures: Feminist SF as Creative Science Studies"

Susan J. Wolfe, "The Trouble with Trills, Gender and Consciousness in Star Trek"

Review Essays
C. Jason Smith on Brian Attebery’s Decoding Gender in Science Fiction

Joe Bisz on Justine Larbalestier’s The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction

Carlos Hernandez on Lillian Robinson’s Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes

Melissa Purdue on Mary E. Bradley Lane’s Mizora: A Prophecy

Luke Vassiliou on Ximena Gallardo C. and C. Jason Smith’s Alien Woman: The Making of Lt. Ellen Ripley

Michael Benton on Octavia Butler’s Fledgling

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush Authorized Spying on American Citizens Without the Use of Warrants

(Courtesy of Wealth Bondage)

Bush Backed Spying on Americans

Bush stands firm over spying row

Philip K. Dick: "If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."

The link was added by me--it just seemed appropriate.
(Courtesy of The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension)

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
by Philip K. Dick, 1978

Well, I will tell you what interests me, what I consider important. I can't claim to be an authority on anything, but I can honestly say that certain matters absolutely fascinate me, and that I write about them all the time. The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?" Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?


In 1951, when I sold my first story, I had no idea that such fundamental issues could be pursued in the science fiction field. I began to pursue them unconsciously. My first story had to do with a dog who imagined that the garbagemen who came every Friday morning were stealing valuable food which the family had carefully stored away in a safe metal container. Every day, members of the family carried out paper sacks of nice ripe food, stuffed them into the metal container, shut the lid tightly—and when the container was full, these dreadful-looking creatures came and stole everything but the can.

Finally, in the story, the dog begins to imagine that someday the garbagemen will eat the people in the house, as well as stealing their food. Of course, the dog is wrong about this. We all know that garbagemen do not eat people. But the dog's extrapolation was in a sense logical—given the facts at his disposal. The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get inside his head and imagine how he saw the world. Certainly, I decided, that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans do. And then I began to think, Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. And that led me wonder, If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe, it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too diffrently, there occurs a breakdown of communication... and there is the real illness.


It was always my hope, in writing novels and stories which asked the question "What is reality?", to someday get an answer. This was the hope of most of my readers, too. Years passed. I wrote over thirty novels and over a hundred stories, and still I could not figure out what was real. One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for her philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." That's all I could come up with. That was back in 1972. Since then I haven't been able to define reality any more lucidly.

But the problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups—and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it's all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it? What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy to reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And—cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Beratta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you, and you should love him.

So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.


The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. George Orwell made this clear in his novel 1984. But another way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. If you can get them to see the world as you do, they will think as you do. Comprehension follows perception. How do you get them to see the reality you see? After all, it is only one reality out of many. Images are a basic constituent: pictures. This is why the power of TV to influence young minds is so staggeringly vast. Words and pictures are synchronized. The possibility of total control of the viewer exists, especially the young viewer. TV viewing is a kind of sleep-learning. An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion. In addition, much of the information is graphic and therefore passes into the right hemisphere of the brain, rather than being processed by the left, where the conscious personality is located. Recent experiments indicate that much of what we see on the TV screen is received on a subliminal basis. We only imagine that we consciously see what is there. The bulk of the messages elude our attention; literally, after a few hours of TV watching, we do not know what we have seen. Our memories are spurious, like our memories of dreams; the blank are filled in retrospectively. And falsified. We have participated unknowingly in the creation of a spurious reality, and then we have obligingly fed it to ourselves. We have colluded in our own doom.

And—and I say this as a professional fiction writer—the producers, scriptwriters, and directors who create these video/audio worlds do not know how much of their content is true. In other words, they are victims of their own product, along with us. Speaking for myself, I do not know how much of my writing is true, or which parts (if any) are true. This is a potentially lethal situation. We have fiction mimicking truth, and truth mimicking fiction. We have a dangerous overlap, a dangerous blur. And in all probability it is not deliberate. In fact, that is part of the problem. You cannot legislate an author into correctly labelling his product, like a can of pudding whose ingredients are listed on the label... you cannot compel him to declare what part is true and what isn't if he himself does not know.


If any of you have read my novel Ubik, you know that the mysterious entity or mind or force called Ubik starts out as a series of cheap and vulgar commercials and winds up saying:

I am Ubik. Before the universe was I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.

It is obvious from this who and what Ubik is; it specifically says that it is the word, which is to say, the Logos. In the German translation, there is one of the most wonderful lapses of correct understanding that I have ever come across; God help us if the man who translated my novel Ubik into German were to do a translation from the koine Greek into German of the New Testament. He did all right until he got to the sentence "I am the word." That puzzled him. What can the author mean by that? he must have asked himself, obviously never having come across the Logos doctrine. So he did as good a job of translation as possible. In the German edition, the Absolute Entity which made the suns, made the worlds, created the lives and the places they inhabit, says of itself:

I am the brand name.

Had he translated the Gospel according to Saint John, I suppose it would have come out as:

When all things began, the brand name already was. The brand name dwelt with God, and what God was, the brand name was.


Such is the fate of an author who hoped to include theological themes in his writing. "The brand name, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him." So it goes with noble ambitions. Let's hope God has a sense of humor.

Or should I say, Let's hope the brand name has a sense of humor.

Link to Read the Entire Speech

Friday, December 16, 2005

Culture Pulp

Portland based film critic/cartoonist Mike Russell's Culture Pulp is a weblog of writings and comics. They are hilarious and very intelligent--a great combination.

Do yourself a favor and check out the archive of Culture Pulp comics

(Courtesy of Green Cine Daily)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Culture War

(Courtesy of Wealth Bondage)

"It's usually easy to tell where a person stands in the culture wars, but whose side is someone on when his Christmas decor is a blood-spattered Santa Claus holding a severed head?"

Murderous Santa Display Draws Stares


War on "Happy Holidays"

How the ACLU Didn't Steal Christmas

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Weisman/Cooperman: Conservative Christians Say Fighting Cuts in Poverty Programs Is Not a Priority

(Courtesy of Hysterical Blackness)

A Religious Protest Largely From the Left: Conservative Christians Say Fighting Cuts in Poverty Programs Is Not a Priority
By Jonathan Weisman and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writers

When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.

That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.

"It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important," said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson's influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. "But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that."

Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees," he said. "They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."

At issue is a House-passed budget-cutting measure that would save $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds and paring agriculture programs. House negotiators are trying to reach accord with senators who passed a more modest $35 billion bill that largely spares programs for the poor.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Charlie Kaufman: "Maybe you have the one thought that’ll change everything for me."

“Maybe you have the one thought that’ll change everything for me. The one thing I haven’t considered in my relentless, obsessive, circular thought process. Is there that one thing? Is it possible for one person to impart any transformative notion to another person?”

Charlie Kaufman Script for Being John Malkovich (New York: Faber and Faber, 2000), p, ix.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ignacio Ramonet: Brazil's Soiled Hero

Brazil’s soiled hero
By Ignacio Ramonet
Le Monde diplomatique

‘NEITHER Brazil nor the Brazilian people deserve this,” said President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, shaken by a four-month-long corruption scandal involving ministers and leaders of his own Workers’ party (PT). The scandal was jubilantly revealed by the media and worsened by public accusations from politicians under fire. It swept through the political scene with the force of a hurricane, and the saga has come to resemble a television soap series (1).

It is alleged that Lula’s close associates, especially José Dirceu, his “civil chief of staff” (which is equivalent to a prime minister), organised a vast system of kickbacks to secure the votes of deputies from parties allied with the PT (2). About €10,000 a month was paid to each bribed politician from a slush fund that had been fed with public money.

It is also alleged that the campaign leading to Lula’s election as president was funded by a sophisticated system of embezzlement that had been set up in 2002.

So far there is no proof of the personal involvement of the head of state. Nor would it seem that the political leaders of the PT implicated in the scandal lined their own pockets. They were the corrupters rather than the corrupted, acting for the greater good of their party as they saw it.

Since January 2003 the PT has governed with the support of various allies. But that support does not give it a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. So it has been forced to seek the neutrality or support of large conservative parties: the Brazilian Social Democratic party, the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement and the Liberal Front party.

In Brazil, parliamentary representatives are traditionally independent of the parties whose badges they wear. They readily change allegiance and are therefore highly susceptible to all forms of corruption. As in many other countries, corruption is a constant factor in politics, whatever party is in power.

This time, however, with the PT in office and Lula as president, the people of Brazil hoped political corruption was a thing of the past.

The PT had made morality its main election platform. It had claimed again and again that “participatory democracy” in the cities and states where the PT held power was the best guarantee against corruption. And it had invented and exported the idea of the participatory budget as a model for the collective control of public finances. After all, wasn’t Lula, a man born in poverty who, by the force of his will and intellect, had made his way against terrific odds, the very example of an honest politician?

The present disappointment is proportionate to the hopes raised by Lula’s election in October 2002, when it seemed a new era had begun, an era of social justice for Brazil’s disinherited masses (3).

Yet to some people the scandal came as no surprise. The left wing of the PT, like the Movement of the Landless and other powerful social movements, had long warned against the aberrations of a government that was reluctant to implement essential social reforms but, egged on by the International Monetary Fund, had happily pursued an economic policy far removed from its promises to the electorate.

The amazing thing is that, in the process, the PT had appealed to corrupt rightwing parliamentarians to push through rightwing legislation.

Naturally, the conservative parties, which have been wallowing in corruption for decades, have now taken the moral high ground. Washington is shedding no tears for Lula. His innovative South-South diplomacy has been a source of irritation, as is Brazil’s pivotal role in a Latin America which is driven by the new Venezuela-Cuba axis and the increasingly left-leaning Argentina, Uruguay and Panama.

Addressing the nation in August, Brazil’s president presented his apologies, claiming to have been “betrayed by unacceptable practices of which I was not aware”.

The next election is due in October 2006. Will Lula have succeeded by then in restoring the bond with Brazil’s people, who made an icon of him but then saw their dreams shattered?

Translated by Barry Smerin

(1) A detailed chronology of the scandal is accessible at Mensalão scandal, which is on the website of the Wikipedia free encyclopaedia.

(2) The Liberal party, Brazilian Communist party, Socialist People’s party, Democratic Labour party, Brazilian Socialist party, Green party and the Brazilian Progressive party.

(3) See “Viva Brazil!”, Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, January 2003.

Article Link

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Richard Pryor: 1940-2005

Richard Pryor was a groundbreaking comedian that pierced through the shell of 1970s mainstream America... I remember as a little kid my parents receiving a copy of "Is It Something I Said?" for a Christmas present and I wanted to hear it played. My parents, of course, with older generations present, squirmed uncomfortably and made some excuse about the record player... later I played it myself and learned about a new culture. It was revolutionary humor, it was cultural storytelling and it kicked open the door for others to follow him. It is often remarked that what was most remarkable about Pryor was his simultaneous rage and vulnerability... soemthing I could understand.

Green Cine's collection of early tributes

Also check out Jill Nelson's "Pryor Convictions"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Quote For Our Times?

(Posted by "Anonymous" at Bluegrass Film Society)

"Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, it's still there."

Philip K. Dick

Will Ferrell: Dubya on Global Warming

(Hosted by One Good Move and courtesy LiP Media)

Will Ferrell, as George W., talks about the dangers of global warming and gets attacked by a pop-up book. Earth to America!

Dubya on Global Warming

Friday, December 09, 2005

Colin Wilson: Excerpt from The Occult (1971)

(Courtesy of Jahsonic)

But there was, equally, a positive side to Crowley. This emerges in Seabrook's account of Elizabeth Fox's experience at Thelema. She was the "film star" who somehow avoided becoming Crowley's mistress. Seabrook says that before she came to Cefalu she was in a depressed condition due to too much night life and bath-tub gin. Crowley dismayed her by telling her that she must begin with a month's solitary meditation in a lean-to shelter on the cliff-top. When she objected, he pointed out that there was a boat leaving the next day. To comply, she had to meditate naked, except for a wooly burnoose that could be utilized on chilly days. The shelter was completely empty; the latrine was a lime pit outside the "tent." "She would have, said Master Therion, the sun, moon, stars, sky, sea, the universe to read and play with." At night, a child would quietly deposit a loaf of bread, bunch of grapes and a pitcher of water beside her.

She decided to give it a try. The first days confirmed her fears. Sun, moon and sea are all very well, but if you feel bored, they are boring. For the first days she felt nervous and resentful. By the nineteenth day, her chief sensation was boredom. And then, quite suddenly, she began to feel "perfect calm, deep joy, renewal of strength and courage."

There is nothing strange in all this, although few people know it. The mind must be made to stop running like a wristwatch. It must be persuaded to relax and sit still. Its hidden fountain of strength must be persuaded to flow. This is the secret of the Hindu ascetics who sit still for years. It is not penance, but a continuous trickle of deep delight. What is more, this is an automatic process. Our subconscious robot will adjust to any conditions if it is given long enough. It adjusts to stillness, so that the stillness ceases to cause boredom. For you have boredom when nothing is happening inside you. And nothing is happening inside you when the outside world keeps the mind distracted. If the outside world is distracted for long enough, the inner power-house begins to work.

(This brief excerpt is from Colin Wilson's excellent volume The Occult 1971. New York: Vintage Books. pp 374-375)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dennis Lim: Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno: A horror movie brings out the zombie vote to protest Bush's war
by Dennis Lim
Village Voice

"This is a horror story because most of the characters are Republicans," director Joe Dante announced before the November 13 world premiere of his latest movie, Homecoming, at the Turin Film Festival. Republicans, as it happens, will be the ones who find Homecoming's agitprop premise scariest: In an election year, dead veterans of the current conflict crawl out of their graves and stagger single-mindedly to voting booths so they can eject the president who sent them to fight a war sold on "horseshit and elbow grease."

The dizzying high point of Showtime's new Masters of Horror series, the hour-long Homecoming (which premieres December 2) is easily one of the most important political films of the Bush II era. With its only slightly caricatured right-wingers, the film nails the casual fraudulence and contortionist rhetoric that are the signatures of the Bush-Cheney administration. Its dutiful hero, presidential consultant David Murch (Jon Tenney), reports to a Karl Rove–like guru named Kurt Rand (Robert Picardo) and engages in kinky power fucks with attack-bitch pundit Jane Cleaver (Thea Gill), a blonde, leggy Ann Coulter proxy with a "No Sex for All" tank top and "BSH BABE" license plates. Murch's glib, duplicitous condescension is apparently what triggers the zombie uprising: Confronting an angry mother of a dead soldier on a news talk show, he tells this Cindy Sheehan figure, "If I had one wish . . . I would wish for your son to come back," so he could assure the country of the importance of the war. The boy does return, along with legions of fallen combatants, and they all beg to differ.

How fitting that the most pungent artistic response to a regime famed for its crass fear-mongering would be a cheap horror movie. Jaw-dropping in its sheer directness, Homecoming is a righteous blast of liberal-left fury (it was greeted with a five-minute ovation in Turin, the most vocal appreciation seeming to come from the American filmmakers and writers in attendance).

At once galvanic and cathartic, Dante's film uncorks the rage that despondent progressives promptly suppressed after last year's election and that has only recently been allowed to color mainstream coverage of presidential untruths and debacles. For all its broad, bludgeoning satire, Homecoming is deadly accurate in skewering the callousness and hypocrisy of the Bush White House and the spin industry in its orbit.

Zombie flicks, with their built-in return-of-the-repressed theme, have always served as allegories of their sociopolitical moments (as demonstrated mere months ago by George A. Romero's prescient pre-Katrina class-war nightmare, Land of the Dead). Dante, the Roger Corman protégé who went on to direct Innerspace and both Gremlins movies, has been known to embed wayward subversions in Hollywood genre pieces (he also previously attempted an all-out political satire in the 1997 HBO movie The Second Civil War, just out on DVD). But Homecoming, very much a movie on a mission, casts aside metaphor—it derives its power from its disconcerting literalness. The zombies do not represent—but are—the unseen costs of this futile war. Implicit in the film's unapologetic bluntness is a sickened urgency, an insistence that this is no time for subtlety.

"If you're going to code the message, which is the way horror movies have always done it, that's fine, but it's not going to reach an audience like a movie that's overt, and this is not exactly subtle," says Dante. "Somebody has to start making this kind of movie, this kind of statement. But everybody's afraid—it's uncommercial, people are going to be upset. Good, let them be upset. Why aren't people upset? Every minute, somebody's dying in this war, and for nothing. To establish

Link To Read the Entire Article

Masters of Horror

Also of interest Inspector Lohmann's two-part analysis of the current cultural relevance of zombie imagery:

Part 1: Zombies

Part 2" Zombie Pedagogy

Monday, December 05, 2005

New Film Adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly

I cannot believe it! Someone (actually Steven Soderbergh/George Clooney, et al are producing and Richard Linklater is directing) has finally decided to go through with adapting Philip K. Dick's novel A Scanner Darkly...

I don't know though, I'm not a big fan of this "live action photograph overlay" technique that Linklater favors (see "Waking Life"):


A report from the Philip K. Dick trust:

A Scanner Darkly: Film Adaptation

Can anyone though truly bring to life the true subtext of this powerful pulp novel. Philip K. Dick's exploration of the incestous, symbiotic relationship of chaos/order, law/crime, yin/yang, and so on and the reproduction of this destructive/creative duality within us all... even more disturbing for some may be the conclusion that we all have that dark side and feed it one way or another. Mind your addictions folks...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Which Action Hero Would You Be?

Must be bored... but at least I can live with the answer!

Roguish,quick-witted, and incredibly lucky, Jack Sparrow is a pirate who sometimes ends up being a hero, against his better judgement. Captain Jack looks out for #1, but he can be counted on (usually) to do the right thing. He has an incredibly persuasive tongue, a mind that borders on genius or insanity, and an incredible talent for getting into trouble and getting out of it. Maybe its brains, maybe its genius, or maybe its just plain luck. Or maybe a mixture of all three.

Captain Jack Sparrow


Neo, the "One"


Batman, the Dark Knight


Lara Croft


The Amazing Spider-Man


Indiana Jones




El Zorro


James Bond, Agent 007


The Terminator


William Wallace


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Bat Segundo Show: Octavia Butler and T.C. Boyle

The Bat Segundo Show has extended audio interviews with two of my favorite authors:

Show 15#--Octavia Butler:

Anne Rice, the advantages of writing vampire novels, research, the ambiguities of "persistently repulsive" material, Fledgling as ripping vampire yarn and multilayered quest story, setting vampire rules, naming character names, the influence of the state of Washington upon atmosphere, Butler's editorial relationship with Seven Stories, Warner vs. Seven Stories, on being categorized as a science fiction author, auctorial labels, Butler's three primary audiences, Dorothy Allison, the influence of criticism, fiction as prophecy, Bush and global warming, education, Margaret Atwood, why Butler dislikes Survivor, the Parable books, why this is the first book in seven years, on writing a "continuous first draft," Butler's working methods, typewriters, technology, Alfred Hitchcock, cell phones, how Butler's computer is set up, T.C. Boyle, on being a baby boomer, being "comfortably asocial," inner introverts, polyamory, sexuality, the science aspect of science fiction, and science fiction vs. fantasy.

Show 10#--T.C. Boyle:

Boyle as one of the original bloggaz, how Boyle arranges his short stories for his collections, John Cheever, how Boyle got into the New Yorker, the current state of the short story market, the future of literature, country music, historical fiction vs. contemporary fiction, the comparisons between "The Doubtfulness of Water" and Water Music, Boyle's working methods and the "continuous first draft," the frequency of watering holes in Boyle's stories, community at T.C. Boyle websites, details on Talk Talk, the influence of history upon fiction, how The Human Fly came to be, political subtext, The Bonehunters' Revenge by David Rains Wallace, observing people and balancing time, the ethics of creating characters based on people, on being prolific, the T.C. Boyle website, the media perception of literature, the New York Times Book Review (Chip McGrath vs. Sam Tanenhaus), the influence of book reviews on writing, reevaluating writers generations later, The Inner Circle vs. Bill Condon's Kinsey, Boyle's "continuous first draft" before computers, technology's influence upon culture and writing, the spoken and visual dimensions of fiction, on being a "nutball perfectionist," and the joys of the word "ventricose."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dana Frank: Bananeras

(I'm currently developing a course on "social movements" and would appreciate any suggestions of movements, books, websites, films, music, art, etc... I haven't read the book below, but it is on my short-list...)

"I want to learn how to defend myself from whoever tries to oppress me, whether it's my husband, my union, or my boss."—a bananera

Women banana workers—mujeres bananeras—are waging a powerful revolution by making gender equity central in Latin American labor organizing. Their successes disrupt the popular image of the Latin American woman worker as a passive bystander and broadly re-imagine the possibilities of international labor solidarity.

Over the past twenty years, bananeras have organized themselves and gained increasing control over their unions, their workplaces, and their lives. Highly accessible and narrative in style, Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America recounts the history and growth of this vital movement.

Starting in 1985 with one union in La Lima, Honduras, and expanding domestically through the late 1990s, experienced activists successfully reached out to younger women with a message of empowerment. In a compelling example of transnational feminism at work, the bananeras crossed borders to ally with banana workers in five other banana exporting countries in Latin America, arguing all the while that empowering women at every level of their organizations makes for stronger unions, the better to confront the ever-encroaching multinational corporations.

When the bananeras of Latin America, with their male allies, explicitly integrate gender equity into their organizing work as essential to effective labor internationalism-when they refuse to separate the global struggle against transnational corporations from the formidable efforts at home to achieve equity and respect-they inspire all of us to envision a new framework for internationalism that places women's human rights at the center of global class politics.

Banana workers are waging a quiet revolution in Latin American labor organizing by making women's issues central. Their successes disrupt the popular image of the Latin American woman worker as a passive bystander and offer a new model for international labor solidarity.

Excerpt from the Introduction

"I hope Dana Frank's highly readable and moving book will find its way into the hands of those who know nothing about how, by whom, and under what conditions bananas are grown, as well as by those who do know something and seek to know more from the workers themselves.… Bananeras is a vital accounting of the struggles still being waged."
—Margaret Randall, author of When I Look Into the Mirror and See You: Women, Terror, and Resistance

"This is a wonderful book—entertaining, enlightening, and inspiring. A unique blend of personal stories grounded in a solid analysis of the globalization of the banana economy, the rise of a regional banana workers movement, and the intense internal struggle for gender justice within Latin America's historically male-dominated unions. I couldn't put it down, really!"
—Stephen Coats, Executive Director, US/Labor Education in the Americas Project

Dana Frank is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (Beacon, 1999); Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement, 1919–1929 (Cambridge, 1994); and, with Howard Zinn and Robin D.G. Kelley, Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century (Beacon, 2001). Her work has also appeared in The Nation, the Washington Post, In These Times, New Labor Forum, and numerous scholarly journals. Long active in labor solidarity work, since 2000 she has worked with the US Labor Education in the Americas Project (US/LEAP) in support of the banana unions in Latin America.

Tom Regan on Afghanistan

Afghanistan: signs of progress, but violence surges again: Signs of foreign support, new tactics signal reemergence of Taliban.
By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor

A spate of recent violent and sophisticated attacks have officials in Afghanistan worried that Taliban fighters are receiving assistance or direction from foreign sources. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the attacks increasingly mimic those of insurgents in Iraq, including the use of suicide bombers.

The recent attacks – including at least nine suicide bombings – have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials. Although military forces and facilities have been the most common targets, religious leaders, judges, police officers and foreign reconstruction workers have also fallen prey to the violence.

After last September's elections, when violence was relatively minor, Afghan and US officials had hoped that the insurgency was losing strength. But the Post reports that it now seems that the Taliban were using the two months following the elections to "marshal foreign support and plot new ways to undermine the Western-backed government."

This view was echoed by Robert Strang, terrorism analyst and the CEO of Investigation Management Group, on FoxNews Monday. Mr. Strang said that one of the keys to improving the situation in the country was better control of the production of poppies, which are used to make heroin. Heroin remains the largest cash crop in Afghanistan.

The Guardian reported earlier this month that the US is planning to pull out 4,000 troops early next year, and hand over security for much of the country to NATO troops, led by the British. But Simon Tisdall wrote Sunday in The Observer that as in Iraq, the lack of security undermines the country's hopes for economic progress and political stability. The violence also has some NATO countries concerned for the safety of their troops.

With Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, threatening intensifying jihad against "all infidel forces," worries are growing in Britain and allied countries about the situation their troops will face next spring, especially in the south, as the US begins to pull back. The basic question, as yet unanswered, is what are peacekeepers supposed to do when there is no peace to keep?
Tisdall writes that part of the problem may be President Bush's "wish to declare Afghanistan a democratic success story even if the facts on the ground tell a different story."

Link to Read the Entire Hyperlinked Report

Weltatem: Bush's Bunker Mentality; NPR: Abramoff, Scanlon and the Influence of Money

Highly recommended:

Weltatem provided an insightful response to her viewing of the film Downfall through current political events in the US:

Bush's Bunker Mentality

I listened to this NPR story on the way home from work and was simply amazed at the extent of the corruption in the US government. You know that it is there, but you just don't know how rotten it is... now we are finding out:

Abramoff, Scanlon and the Influence of Money

Calvin and Hobbes: The Lessons of "No Child Left Behind" Politics