Friday, June 10, 2016

You Must be Wondering What Type of Creature am I

This picture is from the "Shit I See at Work" folder. It is common for this guy to rest on objects near the water, or on the ground, which is where I found him. Although, there wasn't any large standing bodies of water around.

The Common White Tail dragonfly, also known as the Longtail Skimmer, plathemis lydia, can be found from the East Coast of North America all the way to the West. I posted about other dragonflies before. The Common Whitetail and August Meadowhawk are from the same Libellulidae family, although the whitetail is at least three times the size, one of the largest in the family. Some classify the Common Whitetail in the genus libellula, but others contend that it is a separate genus and should be classified as genus plathemis.

Check out those cool wing patterns!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gotham's Bonnie Parker

She is DC's Bonnie Parker. She is Gotham's Mallory Knox. She is Mary Brunner in clown makeup, and a murderous Esther Greenwood. Harley Quinn is the most unlikely star of the Batman villains rogues gallery.

Considering how mostly male and mostly sexist the comics industry was (and still is, although it has become better) in the 90s, the development of Harley Quinn is pretty interesting. As you scroll down, I have added additional Harley Quinn art, which shows the evolution of the character's costume, from completely covered catsuit, to almost nothing. Pretty indicative of the male dominated industry.

Initially, she was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the Batman Animated Series as a sidekick and foil for the Joker in episode 22 "Joker's Favor". Arleen Sorkin should also get credit for creating Harley Quinn as well, as her blueprint for the character was used by Paul Dini.

Harley Quinn initially was supposed to be a one act character. She fits into the Joker's clown motif, and acts as an extension of his unpredictable violence wrapped up in a novelty circus theme. She was so popular with audiences, that she moved from the animated cartoon universe into the mainstream comics continuity, where her character became far more developed.

Her origin sets her up as a victim of the Joker's. Harleen Quinzel was a former gymnast turned psychiatrist intern at Arkham Asylum. While there, she is manipulated by the Joker, who preys on her insecurities, and past heartbreak. She falls in love with him and helps him to escape. When Batman brings the Joker back to Arkham, Harleen Quinzel has a mental break and becomes Harley Quinn.

Fans who like to root for the villains can add Joker and Harley Quinn to a long list of partners in crime. The "us against the world" trope has been romanticized in Thelma and Louis, Natural Born Killers, and Heathers among others, and are all influenced by the real life Bonnie and Clyde. When Harley Quinn is depicted as Joker's equal and partner she is seen as an outsider revolting against the system, along with her likeminded boyfriend.

However, after understanding The Joker as an apathetic, sociopathic, homicidal madman, it is difficult to accept that a character like that would have the empathy to allow for a normal loving relationship. This then would lead to the realization that Harley Quinn has been victimized from the beginning. Their story is no longer romantic villainy, but terrifying, hopeless, and violent seduction.

Eventually the Joker/Quinn relationship falls apart, as all crazy romances tend to do, I suppose. Harley Quinn breaks free from the Joker's emotional hold, and struggles to become her own woman. At the moment, most Harley Quinn stories revolve around overcoming her past and reconciling her former relationship.

This character is an unlikely feminist hero. In fact, I'm not
truly sure if she qualifies as a feminist hero at all, but her struggle with and against victimization, and sexist emotional, social, and physical violence certainly echoes the real life struggles of countless women.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Poll Position: Too Good to be True?

Recently there was a poll taken regarding the name of the Washington, DC football team. It pretty much matched a similar poll conducted in 2004 which showed a large number (9 out of 10) of American Indians support the mascot and don't find it offensive. The poll was conducted by the Washington Post (the hometown paper of the Washington football team. They polled 504 American Indians from all over the country.

The full story as reported in The Washington Post, the International Business Times, and Market Watch is linked below.

There are a few things I noticed about this poll:
  1. The Washington Post claims responsibility for the poll, however, it isn't clear if the franchise had a hand in it also.
  2. 504 people doesn't necessary make a good survey size, especially since the registered Indian population is closer to 3 million (Yes, we make them register). Also, The Post claims the 504 people were polled all over the country. But what is the demographic background of the survey size? How many are urban Indians? How many live on reservations? How many from the Oneida Nation that strongly oppose the name? Age demographics? Education level? Are they football fans? What tribes are they from? Are they 100% card carrying Indians, or people who may have one half-Cherokee great grandfather? These sorts of things make a difference.
  3. I find it very interesting that this poll seems to exonerate Dan Snyder from looking like a heartless racist opportunist.
It is easy to read a headline and take it at face value. People do this all the time, and never bother to read between the lines, or realize what the story leaves out, possibly on purpose. According to this poll, the Washington football team has been vindicated. They have proof again that they aren't in fact racist, despite all of the other facts to the contrary. They polled a few actual Indians and those they polled almost unanimously said Redskins is not a racist term. Awesome! Story over, bring on the new stadiums and jerseys and put away those protest signs and radio ads!

Except, the fact remains the team is named after a skin color. It is a team owned and run by non-Indians who make a lot of money off an image of a person that does not represent them in any way. There is no poll that will change that, no matter how high the percentage.

not actually what Dan Snyder looks like...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sorority Slump? Fuck that Noise

Dead Sara
Pleasure to Meet You
Pocket Kid Records, 2015

Emily Armstrong -- vocals, guitars
Siouxsie Medley -- guitars
Sean Friday -- drums
Chris Null -- bass

  • Suicidal
  • Mona Lisa
  • Something Good
Bands with such strong debuts sometimes struggle to follow up with another hit record. Redoing what was successful never seems as genuine, and recapturing any sort of magic can often be difficult. Successful follow up efforts are usually not just copying what happened on the last record, but learning and evolving musically into something better. Dead Sara's second record is definitely not a carbon copy of the debut. Produced on their own indy label, and funded by Pledge Music (just like Better Nature by the Silversun Pickups), Pleasure to Meet You shows how the band has expanded their songwriting to incorporate other rhythms, sounds, melodies not heard on the first record, but still reflect the personality of the band.

This album is as optimistic and uplifting as it is devastating. Some tunes are much more positive and happy than their first record. But there are still songs that cover some of the darkness found on the debut. I think, as a whole, these songs cover the spread on who Dead Sara is, and what they are capable of.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nerds Cannot be Satisfied: Star Wars Edition

Man oh Man, did I enjoy the new Star Wars movie!

Episode 7: A New Hope The Force Awakens was pretty brilliant, all things considered. Not only did we receive a new start to a stagnant franchise mired in controversy (those prequels still piss me off), we also recieved a rebuttal to this joke:

The fact that there are almost no other women in the entire first trilogy didn't occur to me for a long time. Now that I'm aware, I can't watch it without finding it strange. Most of the characters and extras are all dudes. The abundance of female speaking and non speaking parts in The Force Awakens make the older trilogy all the more weird. I found this more realistic dynamic made the whole film much more enjoyable.

Of course there are detractors. Fans can not be satisfied, remember? It has been pointed out that The Force Awakens follows the plot to A New Hope almost exactly. The main character tries to get off a desert planet to join a rebellion, ends up storming a castle, and ultimately blows up a superweapon. Sounds familiar?

This doesn't bother me though, as Star Wars is, above all else, an homage to classic mythology. Hero stories are often cyclical, so it makes sense that the modern version would be also.

There have been complaints about the villains. Kylo Ren is kind of a big baby. I'm okay with this. The dark side embraces hate, anger, and fear. They aren't exactly characteristics of strong, intelligent individuals. It would be surprising if the next sith lord wasn't an unhinged cry baby.

someone has daddy (granddaddy?) issues
Snoke and Hurr and Phasma didn't get truly developed. I'm ok with this also. In the original trilogy, we didn't even see the emperor up close until the 3rd film, and he's the most important villain. In the prequels (shudder) we received a new villain in each film, and they were introduced and dispatched before being developed at all. I'm sure these new bad guys will be fleshed out as the films roll out. I'm not worried.

Also, I have seen Daisy Ridley thrown under the bus as being not a good actress. Wooden acting and flat dialogue delivery are major concerns for these critics. However, if we are going to compare this new lead character to other Star Wars films, she is lightyears ahead of Hayden Christiansen. Even young Mark Hamill had similar issues in his first major role. This complaint could be chalked up to sexism. Besides, I'd take Rei in The Force Awakens over Luke in A New Hope in a second.

Personally, I think it is awesome that female fans finally have another Star Wars character they can identify with, who isn't a damsel in distress half the time. Strong female characters matter. If you don't believe me, check out the link below.
Click for Nerdist article
Despite the obvious reprisal of the original film, I think overall The Force Awakens was a success. It provided everything Star Wars fans needed. We needed assurances that the franchise would be in better hands than George Lucas's. We needed good connections between the original trilogy's characters that we loved, and new ones. We needed a strong compelling story to propel us into new adventures. I feel like this is a good beginning. The nay sayers can all go to hell, nerf herders.