30.3.10

Kiki's Delivery Service

The weakest Miyazaki film I've seen so far. Still incredible, sure -- this guy doesn't make bad films. But I found Kirsten Dunst rather hysterical. And the cat is no Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Moreover, the first half of the film meanders a bit too much. And while the world is meticulously constructed, it doesn't compare with what Myazaki has created elsewhere.

Would it be too outrageous to say this is Myazaki's film about capitalism? Guffaw if you like, but when Kiki realizes that earning a living doing what you love makes it harder to love it... that encapsulates the frustration of having to balance fulfillment with selling yourself to live. Miyazaki's heroines are always uncomfortable with barter. Living in the big city, Kiki is forced into it. The pressure of her work saps her magical ability, and she has to go chill out -- find that inspiration again. A holiday in the woods and a pep-talk from an artist helps, but what really does the trick is saving Tombo -- letting someone else in. Independence is hard. Sharing the load, especially with someone who shares your passion, makes life in the big city easier. Just look at the wife and husband team that run the bakery.

Is Miyazaki suggesting that girls in big cities need husbands in order to survive? Maybe. The fact that he doesn't patronize saves his skin. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing Myazaki present some boy-heroes that are as selfless, and as vulnerable, as Kiki.

28.3.10

How I love Brian Lee O'Malley...

Ramona Flowers: You're all over the place.

Scott Pilgrim: But I'm so sincere!

Ramona Flowers: Sincerely lame, maybe.

25.3.10

Dollhouse Season 1 recap (part 2)

Episode 7
As before, opinion has been revised in a positive direction. I DID like Caroline and her friends this time around. And the idea that corporations treat human beings like animals IS a powerful one. The Ballard sideplot WASN'T boring. The break-up scene was very well written -- sensitive and witty. Good stuff all around.

Episode 8
Those ballads at the end of the episodes need to be chucked out. Otherwise, one of the best episodes of the season. Saunders as unwilling patriarchal oppressor is brilliant. Team Whedon haven't knocked out stuff like this before.

Episode 9
Security Man is DIFFERENT to DeWitt. The latter envisions a world where fulfilling people's fantasies, even if they are lies, is beneficial. It makes people human, even if other people are being used. Security Man has no time for such idealism. He is only interested in controlling the tech, keeping the house safe and running. He is just a paternalist, DeWitt is a paternalist who tries to help people. And BOTH have their views shaken up. DeWitt loses her idealism. And Security Man, fucked by the system, loses all investment and faith in it.

This show is a work of genius!!!

Episode 10
Topher is rather sympathetic in this one. I do like the fact that the writers leave out the end of his birthday, so that we don't know whether his fantasy goes to sexy places or not. There was no flirting between him and his geeky playmate. Then again, he has no moral qualms about what the Dollhouse does. If his fantasy WAS sexual, he would have no problem with indulging it. Does Topher have a sex drive? Maybe Season 2 will provide an answer.

Episode 11
Hey Ballard! November, like, hasn't been imprinted? She won't switch and kill you, OK? You CAN save her. Did Espenson slip up? Or is Ballard so fixated on Echo that his brain stopped working?

Episode 12
That black president line was SOOOO CORNY! Would have been better if there were black people on the show. Where's that guy from episode 7! He was great!

There were two things going on here, and I only got one last time. Yes, there's the stuff about not being able to erase who you truly are. When Alpha and Omega become superheroes, they turn out different. But WHY are they different? Caroline is driven by the need to find her purpose in the world -- find out who she is. Karl William Kraft / Alpha HATES who he is. He has destroyed his previous life. He wants to be someone better, the best. And when you are up on that pinnacle, everyone else is worthless, like Karl William Kraft was.

And I noticed how all this chimes with the "be your best" mantra the wiped actives keep chanting. That quest for perfection only makes for empty human beings... when it doesn't make monsters.

And then there's the whole Alpha-Ballard angle. Both want to be princes saving the imprisoned princess. But Alpha wants to elevate, Ballard only to restore. Which is why one is the villain and the other a hero. A hero? I think so. Ballard's fantasy may be objectifying Caroline, but the fantasy is still about making her a subject -- a real person. That's fascinating. I'd wager that a lot of our good works come from the fantasies we have about ourselves. You can't escape that. That's what being human IS. It just goes to show: fantasies can be a good thing.

The fact that I still don't know why Boyd is in the Dollhouse is frustrating the hell out of me. He gets asked this by Ballard here, and he just mutters 'there's always a girl'. ARRH! Who's the girl? Is there a girl? When is season 2 coming out??

Ditto Ballard, but I said that last time.

Finally, Whiskey. What's up with that, huh? Is that Dr. Saunders speaking when she says 'I know exactly who I am'. Is it Whiskey that hates Topher so much? As this episode has shown, answers will only arrive when we know who the person was before they were wiped.

Episode 13
Many questions raised, a lot of them to do with Whiskey / Saunders. Because we know next to nothing about her, basically. Also, Boyd. Why did he have to flee? What was his deal, anyways?

We know more about Caroline, Ballard, Victor, Sierra, DeWitt and Topher. Their scenes all made a kind of sense. If the show wrapped with this episode, I would have been satisfied. Even Alpha got a namecheck. Apparently his twisted genius ended up being useful.

Song at the end was written by the writers, because they could not afford to buy one. My opinion? The song here was BETTER than all the ones we heard previously. More please!

This episode flattened me when I first watched it. Just an incredible ride. If anything, the second time around lowered it slightly in my estimation, just because thematically it was summing up (quite bluntly, if awesomely) rather than saying anything new. Still, it WAS an awesome apocalypse. And a final episode IS supposed to sum up. So not REALLY a criticism, is it? I'll shut up now.

18.3.10

Shutter Island

S from over here set up a blog! A very exciting development indeed. His thoughts on Shutter Island, which we saw yesterday, are over here. And no, I really didn't get the blindingly obvious twist at the end. Shows how smart I am...

Anyway, the review is spot on. It's Martin Scorsese doing a b-movie. Which means it's not a very good b-movie (much too long), nor is it up there with Scorsese's best work (which has actual characters). A failure all round.

Also, should mention that this blog had its first birthday last month. We are now a year old. Long live Dollhouse Hothouse!

Incognito

Sean Phillips just gets better and better. I love the character designs here. Really simple and classic. Pulp history weighs heavily on this comic, and like Hellboy, it manages to recreate that sensibility while giving it a modern twist.

Also, can anyone else do chiseled jaws and bee-stung lips so perfectly?

Brubaker is, of course, great. What struck me with this were the moments of comedy amidst the noir misery. Zack Ovekill punching the wall and saying "ouch". You need that little break from the shadows. Brubaker should definitely give in to the silliness more often.

16.3.10

Dollhouse Season 1 recap (part 1)

Because I'm obsessed. Also because you find out new things the second time around, which is a sure sign that the show is worth investing in. Or that I am an idiot.

Episode 1
Why Echo was hired rather than a real negotiator WAS explained. The client wanted 'clockwork', and Dolls are always better than real people. Giving Echo weaknesses was explained at length, and I buy it. That IS how human beings work. Excellence always has a motive. People thinking the show is stupid just aren't getting how clever it is.

Episode 2
What is Alpha doing?

Episode 3
Shows how certain constructs of femininity fuck up men as much as they do women.

Episode 4
Better than I remember. The midwife scene, the marble scene, the painting scene, all comment on innate and learned abilities. Also, action was pumping.

Episode 5
Toph and Saunders were hilarious. Did not give the funnies enough credit.

This was a problem:

'The blind girl is looking at you in the eye, do you know what that means? It means God brought me here. He has a message for you. And that message is MOVE YOUR ASS!'

Not the sort of language you would expect from a Christian girl. A bit far, Mr. Minear.

Episode 6
First time around, did NOT understand the bit at the very end where Echo decides to finish the engagement herself. Whedon describes it as very dicey, but for me some of the ambiguity of the final scene is lost. The fact that Echo chooses to participate in someone else's fantasy suddenly makes the whole thing less problematic. It's still a warped happy ending, but I preferred it when it was just warped, and the happy ending depended on which side (Joel or Echo) you take.

Whedon is very coy about the themes of the show in his commentary. Which is fine, since the issues are sensitive, and you don't want to offend people. I do wish he was more confident about putting HIS views out there. But the episode is about NOT pontificating, so I guess it's appropriate.

He also talked about a bunch of stuff that didn't really occur to me: the contrast between the way Dushku and Oswalt look, for one. Which just goes to show that the things I read into Whedon's work may just be me making things up. Or to refine that a little: giving my answers to the questions Whedon asks. There, that sounds better.

Ubik

A fun ride. I wasn't really looking for more when I read it, which was foolish, since it's Philip K. Dick. The solution to the mystery definitely went to profound places. This is my schema for unpacking the central metaphor:

Jory - Devil
Joe Chip - Man
Ella - Woman / Angel
Ubik - Holy Ghost
Dr Sonderbar and Son - Father and Son

Although immediately afterwards, we have Runciter's notes being cast as scriptures -- grains of truth in a constantly shifting, deceptive world. Does that make Runciter God? Or maybe Moses? Or maybe I'm reading into things too much? Like I always do.

Very nice twist at the end, but what does it mean? I guess Dick wanted to break down the barriers between the two realities, and demonstrate that the forces working in one were present in the other. There are Jorys and Ellas in our world too. You can find Ubik everywhere, although it's quite difficult to actually get access to it.

The fact that Ubik is presented in the guise of different commercial goods at the head of each chapter is a nice final touch. It's what that society values most. Is Dick bitter about that? Or maybe he's looking at something deeper -- our scientific achievements have replaced God as the cure for all ills. We find Ubik not in religion but in a spray can.

12.3.10

Dollhouse Unaired Pilot

And you thought the Dollhouse posts had gone away!

As I understand it, this pilot was canned because the network wanted to up the cars and money and guns and women. Whedon gave them what they wanted, and the result was one of the most off-putting opening segments of a show ever. He caved. I recognized the fact that he caved, and I forgave him. You put up with a lot when you're in love.

My infatuation might make my opinions suspect and perhaps compromised, but may I just say how I thought the original blueprint was a lot better than the one Whedon had to tape together after his UNIQUE VISION OF GENIUS was HACKED TO PIECES by the network. I should pause here to add the required DIE FOX DIE! fanboi battlecry, and with that we can move on.

Some notes:

Swimming pool opening scene as a metaphor for birth. And for Whedon, quite a subtle one. Very nice.

The first talky-talky scene was more problematic. The whole idea was pretty unconvincing, and the actors didn't get to grips with it that well, Dushku in particular. But at least it was doing the irony thing that Dollhouse would continue to do over and over again in the standalones. Don't be dominated by men. Go back to your mum and get a handle on yourself. Less subtle, but still nice.

Talk. Lots of talk. I'm gonna plant the flag for talk, actually. A lot more interesting than the cars and money and guns and women mentioned above. The exposition felt slightly contrived (this was a problem with the aired pilot as well), but what the hey. Interesting talk! That is still a rare and valuable commodity in American sci-fi shows.

Most importantly, the episode was about Ballard. Instead of the season arc unfolding slowly, which just left us wondering when things would heat up, the central confict was set up straight away. THEN the show could have pulled back to do standalones. Without the structure of the season laid out, Dollhouse just seemed to meander around aimlessly, hemorrhaging viewers. In fact, the point of the standalones was to make comparisons between the dolls and various opressed characters, and so demonstrate the pertinence of the Dollhouse idea. But that's not enough for most viewers, and rightly so. Dollhouse, the way it turned out, just didn't give you enough of a broader picture to invest in. This unaired pilot, even with its faults, did.

11.3.10

Capitalist Realism

...being a book by Mark Fisher, known to most as k-punk. I haven't read it, but I just attended a talk he gave at my university. Penetrating the rhetoric wasn't easy, but as far as I understand, the argument runs as follows:

The shift from a industrial to a post-industrial economy happened in 1979, when the US put up interest rates and deregulated capital and labour markets. This was sold to workers as a liberation from oppressive factories, and many bought into the 'neoliberal' ideology. However, they were duped. Jobs have become very insecure, while at the same time encroaching more and more on our lives. Today, workers are both expendable and always on call. Without the clear-cut division between blue-collar and white-collar classes, the former have been left with nothing to push against. They have been freed from Fordism only to be abandoned.

My finely honed historian's sense of detail rebels at the amount of generalisations in the above exposition. (Which countries are we talking about? Which workers have been stranded?) But let's leave pedantry aside, it's very tedious. The analysis is solid enough. Onwards.

The central thesis put forward by Fisher is as follows. As our lives have become more autonomous and flexible, so have the methods for regulating and controlling them. Before, oppression came straightforwardly from the capitalist bosses. Now, it's ideological and internalised. Everyone is indocrinated to think business sense is the only way to run things. This ideology is reaffirmed through assessment forms and targets. The pressure to perform is no longer applied from outside, but from WITHIN YOUR MIND. It's constant and suffocating, doesn't improve productivity, and just generally makes you feel kinda down.

So. Capitalism isn't the only realistic way of organizing society, and yet the neoliberals have convinced absolutely everybody that it is. It constantly oppresses us, and yet we are unable to formulate any critique of it. It makes us unhappy, and yet it is ideologically bulletproof. These two propositions seem kinda strange when you put them side by side, don't you think? Is belief powerful enough to override everyone's true interests? Are we all THAT easily fooled? Maybe capitalism's success lies in the fact that, apart from the various abuses skewered by Fisher, quite a lot of people don't mind it all that much. I mean, assessment forms as tools of oppression? It's quite a paltry form of coercion, isn't it?

Explaining why people consent to 'business ontology' etc. doesn't require some grand neoliberal conspiracy, in my view. Most people consent because it doesn't oppress them very much. All that said, I'm not advocating that we should ignore those that ARE oppressed. Job insecurity is not a good thing. Target culture isn't either. But for me, these problems don't cause enough resentment to delegitimise a market economy. They don't make capitalism unrealistic.

10.3.10

Breathtaker

An obscure Vertigo comic written by Mark Wheatley. Two superheroes: a succubus siren who leeches life from others, and a regenerating muscle-man -- Wolverine meets X-Factor's Strong Guy. Created by government nasties (what else?) and you can guess how it ends.

Wheatley keeps all the characters human. Both Chase and The Man feel remorse for what they have done. And yet they have killed people using their superpowers. And yet we're supposed to like them. All very confusing. I don't really know what Wheatley is trying to say, really. Apart from the obv government is evil stuff.

But it almost doesn't matter, because boy is it a gorgeous comic! Marc Hempel has impeccable design sense. He's a brilliant caricaturist. He can capture complex and conflicting emotions in a single expression. Some of the best comics art I have come across, basically. Definitely worth checking out...

7.3.10

Ke$ha vs. Uffie

(A Facebook conversation I had with SLEAZEBALL's Buckminster Richman a few days ago. Harry is in many ways the godfather of my internet presence. Our wall-to-wall conversations is where I got confident putting my ideas down in writing, where I found my "voice", what got me to start blogging in the first place. The following is the sort of thing we would get up to. It all started with a status update...)

Harry Buckminster Richman:
Before Ke$ha sucked, she was fat and sucked even more. http://bit.ly/9BdspO

P:
That's just MEAN! Web-bullies! Also, Tik Tok is horribly, horribly awesome. The phunky beatz!! Better than Gaga, anyways...

Basically, I like Ke$ha despite disapproving of everything she does. Not basic at all, actually. She is corrupting little minds. Thru coercively glorious choonz. I'm so torn!

Harry Buckminster Richman:
P, there is a reason you like Tik Tok; it is absurdly like an Uffie song, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUqFm0mhTYY (in fact, somewhat like two, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RA-lXK0c0g , listen to both) which was made like three years ago. And it does so without the pre-fab rebel from American Apparel attitude that Ke$ha has.

P:
Harry: turns out Ke$ha is ripping off something even more horrible. I find the cuter reworking more tolerable, tbh. Better chorus, for one thing. And Uffie... pretty much the most odious pop personality I have ever come across? 'Odious' isn't a strong enough word, really. There ARE no words for this kind of evil. You can't like THIS, surely?

Off to listen to dubstep and grouch...

Harry Buckminster Richman:
P, it doesn’t surprise me you don’t like Uffie, no one really likes Uffie. I kinda do like her. But that is besides the point. The point is that Ke$ha can suck my balls.

She is absurdly obnoxious, and I am utterly surprised you say she is in the least bit corrupting (I am going to ignore her music here, because as far as I am concerned it isn’t her music). She simply comes off as absurdly arrogant, and the worst kind of trashy. If by corrupting you mean making fourteen year old girls think getting wasted is cool (which, as far as I can tell is Ke$ha’s only enduring message - beyond being a rich bourgeois cunt rebelling against all the ‘norms’), then I must direct you to your nearest fourteen year old girl (or guy in fact, but whatever). Every stupid ass kid thinks getting wasted is awesome. If anything, it is unbelievably un-depraved. She is the kind of person you think your parents would hate, in reality your parents couldn’t give two shits about. Even her music is directly about her image, and her image is dirrrty era xtina crossed with Miley Cyrus, with none of the charm of either. So, she likes Jack Daniels I understand - you know who else liked whisky? Well, shit, every band since like ever. If anything, it is shockingly unsubversive.

You know what I did last night, I had some whisky, got tired, fell asleep in my jeans and one shoe. I woke up, showered and went to school. So, yeah, maybe she is being shockingly subversive, saying that you can be a dumb drunk bitch and just live off your upper middle class parents. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see what is depraved about doing something that like everyone in the entire western world does. So some fourteen year old hears this crap, it has no message (at least Britney Spears had *some* message) other than ‘I like being drunk’, well, that seems cool, except that fourteen year old probably sat with her parents whilst her mother drank three bottles of wine and her dad a six pack of Miller Lite.

I’m not sure you can be ‘subversive by (supposed) cool’ now. I think it is just done. I’m not even sure it’d been exciting in anyway if she had said ‘when I wake in the morning I do three grams of blow’ - like, even ‘Oxford Comma’ (which was in ads for the BBC!) says ‘why would you lie about how much coal you have’.

Gaga isn’t subversive because she gets drunk or parties ‘hard’, she creates original, catchy pop songs, and does it all while being that dramafag girl who everyone made fun of.

But, if being rich, attractive, blond and popular has suddenly become rebellious, then please, just ignore all this.

P:
That every kid thinks this is acceptable IS EXACTLY THE PROBLEM. The fact that this ISN'T subversive -- that's a little worrying, isn't it?

I'm uncomfortable with 'everyone in the entire western world' thinking 'you can be a dumb drunk bitch and just live off your upper middle class parents.' THAT'S NOT GOOD, man...

Also, look at this - www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdQv8gCif88&feature=player_embedded

(BTW if yr mean about the video, we can't be friends anymore)

I quite like Gaga, actually. I was just being provocative. But the songs are not to my taste, apart from 'Paparazzi'. 'Paparazzi' is incredible.

Harry Buckminster Richman:
I have no problem with that video, it is just some girls in like Buttfuck, Iowa having fun, and who I am to mandate fun.

In many regards I don’t really have a problem with Ke$ha either. Obviously I dislike her. But, whatever, she is (seemingly) having fun, and however you want to have fun isn’t anything to do with me. But to say she is subversive, subverting what?

P:
Umm. The fact that 12-year-old kids think Ke$ha's attitude is a-OK is something I'm uncomfortable with. That's... not 'subversive' (because teens seem to agree with Ke$ha), but corrupting nonetheless.

You don't seem to like Ke$ha because she's not being obnoxious / shocking ENOUGH. (Why DO you like Uffie?) I have a problem with the whole idea (Ke$ha + Uffie + society in general) of telling kids that getting drunk / having guys trying to grab yr junk / shitting on yr parents is the right way to go. You're not passing judgement on 'however you want to have fun'. I am. Ke$ha et al are selling a idea of happiness that's actually very unpleasant and quite dangerous. (MAN, do I sound like a pensioner!)

Harry Buckminster Richman:
I am not uncomfortable with kids thinking that; kids are idiots. Kids are always going to think stupid things. There is no way around this. I don’t care about anything corrupting kids at all, as far as I am concerned kids should be corrupted more (that sounds gross, I don’t mean it in a Michael Jackson/Macauly Culkin way).

I think there is a difference between being shocking, or artistically forward (which isn’t necessarily shocking) and obnoxious. Gaga puts on extravagance, and however you feel about her, proves the value of being original and the enormous creative endeavor of her performances.

Regarding, Ke$ha and Uffie; Ke$ha is kinda like a simplified red state version of Uffie. Uffie does like partying, getting drunk etc, but she also has an underlying message about a young girl finding her sexuality and femininity, and her power as a woman (she actually was only around eighteen I think when she started releasing songs). She is finding these things whilst getting and drunk and partying, this is her entry point of adulthood.

Ke$ha removes all of this, and almost totally reverses the idea, that you can be drunk and party, but stay a stupid kid. She “ain't got a care in world, but got plenty of beer”.

P:
(I don't think we're gonna agree on this, but it's a lot more interesting than the essay I'm writing. Hope you don't mind...)

I don't know anything about Uffie or Ke$ha (brands or people). But from what you've shown me, I don't see the difference as being that great. Ke$ha is more playful with the whole "finding her sexuality and femininity" thing (boys not grabbing the junk), but both are still responsibility-free party animals. That's not being an adult. Both are stupid kids, Imo.

Also, do you figure out yr sexuality and femininity whilst getting drunk and partying? Do you work out WHO YOU ARE with these activities? Moreover, isn't that method a little dangerous? There are boys out there who want to grab yr junk! Getting wasted is not the best way to deal with that!

Harry Buckminster Richman:
(No, we probably wont, be I too am finding it more interesting than what I should be doing).

I just don’t see ‘boys touching her junk’ as anyway close to finding her sexuality. That is her being somewhat victimized by a sexually aggressive boy. It isn’t playful, it is infantile and uneducated (the kind of thing that someone taught abstinence would say).

Uffie is “like that hot chick that you can't even touch. Like this cold ass bitch and I ain't ready to suck.”

There is a difference there, one is in control of themselves, the other not. I feel like I should make a kinda clumsy point about Ke$ha being manufactured and managed and all that comes with mainstream success.

Well, yeah, surely you do find who you are through partying. At least, you find who you are independently of parental concerns. It is about the closest thing you can do as a teenager to being treated almost adult like (and by adult I don’t mean responsible), and possibly the only times you’ll interact with adults outside of parents or school. Fundamentally, you are sexualized at things like this, and you can either be a continual victim of it and be willfully ignorant of how to deal with it (Ke$ha) or you can see who and what you are to others and control and exploit this (Uffie).

P:
You could argue that Ke$ha IS in control. She is aware of the prospect of junk-grabbing, and she is not ALLOWING the junk to be grabbed. She's not ignorant or victimized. I just find it weird that this sense of control is married to getting crunk, where you can lose quite a lot of control, but I've said that enough already.

I don't know enough about Uffie, but I take your word for it - "You can see who and what you are to others and control and exploit this." I think this is implicit in Ke$ha, but at least Uffie tackles it head on. Props Uffie. Still a control over your IMAGE, rather than WHO YOU ARE, but whatevs. Maybe Uffie talks about being human too...

I was talking to S* about this yesterday. He also thinks Uffie and Ke$ha are fundamentally similar beasts, but that the latter is more reprehensible for cuteing up the "life = get crunk!" message and going after pre-teens. That's MORE evil, while I thought the cuteness made it slightly LESS evil. S is wise. I follow him.

Harry Buckminster Richman:
I feel like we are nearing a point of agreement. Close. I don’t really think the problem is the crunk message, but whatever, it I think we are seeing it from relatively similar position now.

And I’m inclined to say that image generally amounts to who one is, but am somewhat ambivalent about forcefully arguing this, because just saying it sounds kinda dumb to me.

And, I’m still unsure that Ke$ha and Uffie are *that* similar. Mainly because, as I said, Ke$ha feels like some kind of pre-teen, red state version when it comes to dealing with sex and sexuality.

But, I think I am in somewhat agreement with you (and the eternally wise S).

Anyway, the last word is yours to use as you please.

P:
Yep. I've accepted that Uffie > Ke$ha, and I agree with you on why. I'm also clear on why you don't think Uffie or Ke$ha are evil, although I can't agree with you on that. But arguing the case will involve questions of philosophy, and this mental masturbation has gone on long enough, really. People are going to start yelling at us to pipe down and stop being silly.

I declare TRUCE!

*the Whedon-fiend from here, who should really set up a blog of his own. The world needs his wisdom more than they need conversations about Ke$ha.

New Feminism

Charlotte Raven's article in Saturday's Guardian Review over here. I'm not confident stepping in, knowing as little as I do (I have already offended once). Still, it made me think. Here are some thoughts:

The attack is on 'Madonna-ised' modern woman, who is 'disassociated from pain and victimhood', and who buys into the 'myth of self-invention', who strives to constantly achieve greater things, who is confident, promiscuous, successful. The Sex and the City ideal is probably the easiest way to think about it.

The impact of this construct of femininity on conceptions of porn and prostitution was convincing. Onlookers are persuaded to see sex workers as having chosen their careers, and that there is minimal physical and psychological danger to such work. I used to think that, I'm embarrassed enough to admit. But even a very shallow reading around the subject was enough to dismiss such fantasies pretty quick. For most sex workers, choice barely comes into it.

My problem with the article is the proposition that 'liberated woman' is an oppressive construct. See the difficulty? How can you tell who is liberated and who is not? If women have the freedom to choose, and they choose the Sex and the City lifestyle, are they oppressed? Are they necessarily unfulfilled or unhappy? And the flip-side to the argument: Raven laments the fact that women, bombarded with the Sex and the City feminine mystique, are no longer 'free to choose normality'. Are they not? If modern woman, more than ever before, believes herself free to invent and re-invent herself, will they always go for the same 'self'? Don't we have quite a few cultural constructs of femininity floating around, from which women can pick and choose?

6.3.10

The City & The City

Michael Moorcock has already said it all, really. A masterful mystery story. A fantastic idea. A very interesting metaphor for city life, for imagined communities, for the barriers ideology places on our vision.

Perfect, you could say.

I'm just not sold on one fundamental world-building point. The Beszel / Ul Qoma delusion is maintained only because "breeches" are brutally punished. And yet the authority that watches the border is human, fallible and has limited resources. The book stresses that most of the work is done by the citizens themselves. I guess I just can't buy that: such a grand counter-factual delusion cannot be maintained under its own steam, and with such a thin coersive policing body. It won't hold together. This would never happen in real life.

And that robs the book of some of its power. What was truly terrifying about 1984 was that every way out of the system you could think of was blocked off. Orwell had thought about his world very carefully, and he convinced me (I should say I read it when I was still quite young) that THIS COULD HAPPEN. It is still the most scary horror story I have ever read.

Back to The City & The City, I wonder if Mieville will come back to this world. There are a lot of questions still unanswered. What is the nature of the "precursor" artifacts? How did the "Cleavage" happen in the first place? Finding out the answers will be very interesting.

4.3.10

BBC 6Music

6Music is what I would want Radio 1 to be in an alternative (in more ways than one) universe. It plays pop music that's more exciting, more interesting, more intelligent, than the stuff in the charts. It has brilliant DJs, allowed (more than most) to play what they like. It's the music station I listen to most.

But the rationale for cutting it makes sense. Too few listeners. The 30-50 target audience are well served elsewhere. Not enough public service for the money. It's fair that its duties should be split between Radios 1 and 2.

But will Radios 1 and 2 absorb the programmes, the playlists, the DJs, of 6? I still don't understand why Radio 1 tries to compete with commercial chart pop stations, and Radio 2 with commercial MOR ones. That does not take advantage of their unique position -- to be tastemakers rather than just having to play what people want to hear. Will they take on 6Music's values? I seriously doubt it. That's why I don't want to see 6Music go.

3.3.10

The Lives of Others

Well, I DID like the contrast between the warm glowing yellows of the apartment and the cold metal greys of Wiesler's lair. Also the thing with the doorbell where Weisler looks like a puppeteer... NICE! Sometimes the film gets less clever. Showering away guilt I've seen too many times before, really. And the mourning scene were Georg reaches for the piano was just silly.

Bigger worries: the villain is just that, nothing more. He looks like the Kingpin, for Godsake! Also didn't quite get a handle on Christa-Maria. Her flip-flops upped the tension, but I didn't really get a sense of what was going through her brain in those crucial interrogation scenes. Or ever, really. I blame the writers on this. The actress was great.

Ultimately, you'll like this if you can buy into its rather sweet melodramatic tone. I did, mainly because Ulrich Mühe sold it so well. Without him, I think The Lives of Others would have been a failure. As it stands, a lovely way to spend two hours.