Friday, October 01, 2004

On a non-rant tangent, Making Fiends is a totally funny and silly, and cute little flash cartoon. Via /usr/bin/girl.
Worst. Day. Ever.

Well, I was called a racist today by a co-worker, for some odd and arcane reason I'm not sure of. The situation is that my wife's bellydance troupe is going to dance at a restaurant this weekend, but the guy who owns it, of apparently Armenian extraction, doesn't want any blondes dancing because it's not as 'authentic.' And, of course, I find this offensive. Not just because my wife happens to be blonde, but because it's a racist attitude to have. It's like inviting a band to play music at a coffeehouse, but the black member of the band can't come because the owner doesn't want him there. It's not at all like typecasting a part for a play, i.e. casting a black person as Iago, for example. Bellydancers in America come in all ethnic flavors.

So, the co-worker said that I was 'sooo misinformed' and that I just didn't understand his culture. Yeah. I don't understand his culture. Nevermind that I studied cultures in college (I majored in Cultural Anthropology, emphasis mine).

She then proceeded to tell me that my attitude was racist, because I didn't understand his 'culture,' and that I wouldn't have been offended if he had wanted only cute, blonde haired girls to dance. Which is such utter bullshit that I can't even comprehend it (and of course, I'm sure her condescending tone and attitude towards 'cute blondes' is lost on her, but I appreciate the irony). I told her that she was offending me, at which point she said, in a very very condescending tone "Oh, I'm sooo sorry." So I just walked away before I said anything I'd regret. At which point I proceeded to cry on another co-worker's shoulder. Yep. Manager On Duty over here, crying.

I could go into the absolute reductio in adsurdim that is this position of absolute cultural relativism that this co-worker seems to have. But I won't. It's absurd on the face of it. Sure, I could justify my position by pointing out all the barbaric practices that are regularly practiced by other cultures, including female circumsicion and other forms of gender oppression, but I don't think I really have to. If oppressing or discriminating against other people is in your culture, then no, I don't respect it. I understand it. Perfectly. But I despise it.

I don't think that this man, this business owner, this immigrant to my country, understands our culture here in America. Despite our history of shortcomings living up to our ideals, our culture is based on mutual respect and tolerance, and a belief in basic human rights, including the right not to be oppressed or discriminated against, on the basis of ethnicity, religion, ideology, gender, sexual orientation or any other reason. And anyone who doesn't understand these basic values, or respect them, is welcome to stay here. But he shouldn't call himself an American. Because he's not.

And yes, I'm completely for cultural tolerance. But there are things beyond the pale. For example, the Aztecs practiced ritual human sacrifice. That was a part of their culture. It was a deeply held belief that if they did not sacrifice people to the sun, that the gods would destroy the world. This was a sacred belief to these people, so sacred that it caused them to do unspeakable acts of torture and murder. All in the name of religion or cultural belief. But they were wrong. The conquistadors came, and the Aztecs fell, and the human sacrifices stopped. The sun did not go black, and the earth was not destroyed. A belief can be sacred to someone. They can believe it with all their heart and all their soul. But that does not make that belief true. And the moment that their values and beliefs cause them to oppress or discriminate towards me, then really, in a way, they and their culture have declared a type of war on me. And mine.

Look at Armenia, and the surrounding cultures in the Caucasus. There are many balkanized (look at the eytmology of that word, by the way) culture groups, tribalistic societies, essentially, living in a relatively small area, north of Iraq and Iran. It's next to Georgia, and Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. And they all hate each other. In 1992 Armenia invaded Azerbaijan. That's cultural understanding for you. In 1994 a cease-fire left Armenia in control of about 20% of Azerbaijan. I'm sure everyone is familiar with their near neighbors, the Chechens. The Chechens hate the Russians, and vice versa.

What I'm saying with all this is that the attitude of this man is not atypical for the type of tribalistic society that he comes from. And it's also the reason that so many small ethnic groups in the region keep getting attacked by their neighbors. They don't have a culture of tolerance of their neighbors. The kind that America aspires to.

So the next time some asshat wants to discriminate against someone else, because of their 'culture,' I'm still going to say that they are an asshole and a prick. My stepmother was raised to be racist against black people, and was until the day that I last saw her. It was a part of her 'culture,' if you will. But that didn't make it right. She chose to continue to accept and embrace that arbitrary cultural value, based on no kind of rational reason or justification, even after she was an adult. And for that, she was a racist unAmerican asshole. The same goes for the guy who doesn't want my blonde wife to bellydance at his restaurant. I wish that unAmerican asshole would join the rest of us in the 21st Century.

Rant mode off.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Also, Ableton Live 4.01 is totally cool. And by cool, I mean awesome.

And I've been thinking about Star Wars lately, and the more you examine the story, the more it falls apart. Very very very stupid huge plotholes. I've already posted the one about Django Fett before. Here's another. So Anakin made C3-PO? So C3-PO was like his best friend when he was 6 or 7 years old, right? So am I supposed to believe that when C3-PO shows up in Empire that Darth, aka, Anakin, doesn't say or do anything to acknowledge this? Like "Luke, I am your father, and... Threepio? Threepio? Old buddy, HI! How are you doing? It seems like I haven't seen you in forever!"

I don't know. Also, what about Yoda? It really bugs me that Lucas has never said what his species is. And what does it say about Yoda's moral cowardice, that while all the other Jedi are getting exterminated, first by the stresses of the Clone War, and then by a probably insanely homicidal Anakin Skywalker, Yoda is hiding out on Dagobah? Huh? The greatest Jedi Master of all time, hides while the rest of the Jedi get exterminated?

Another thing. So, when Obi-Wan decides he's going to hide Luke (apparently knowing nothing about Leia), he takes Luke to... Tatooine? To hide him with Anakin's stepbrother? And why in the world wouldn't Darth Vader immediately go there to look for Luke? Also, why is it that Darth Vader senses nothing, nothing whatsoever of his connection to Leia, even when overseeing her torture?

Sorry, rant mode off.

Oh yeah, and if you want to read some GOOD science fiction, read Schlock Mercenary. Howard recently quit his job to pursue his dream of being a full time cartoonist. Good for him. Follow your bliss buddy!
Well, apparently Clint didn't like Excession.

I will be the first to admit that Excession is not Banksie's best work. Especially if you're looking at the Culture Universe. It does tend to be a bit rambly. If you're going to start reading those, you should really start with Consider Phlebas. Very very good. Also, a good introduction would also be the Player of Games.

One of the things I love about Banksie. He creates this almost space utopia, akin in some ways to a leftist Federation as run by excentric robots, i.e. the Culture. And then, almost invariably, his main characters are either fighting against the Culture, or critical of it in some way.

Arguably outside of the Culture Universe, or at least the scope of the Culture Universe, is Against A Dark Background. Here's a brief synopsis:

"When the religious Huhsz cult attempts to get its hands on the Lazy Gun, the most deadly and enigmatic weapon constructed, Lady Sharrow, a former antiquities thief, sets out to stop the Huhsz."

At any rate, sorry if you didn't like it Clint. Thems the breaks.

In other news, Allen's website, Miniscule Wombat, is back up. Also, he's playing at the Hogs Ridge Holler 3 day electronic music festival thingee this Sunday. I won't be able to make it, since I didn't even know about the event until yesterday, so I couldn't get off work, but I wish I could go. 3 days of cool trance, techno and experimental ambient music. What's not to like?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Oh my god oh my god oh my god. Iain Banks has a new novel coming out next week. It seems to be only in the UK as of yet, though.

Also of note, if one likes the works of Mr. Banks.
Illegal Art:

"SEPTEMBER 15, 2004: Michael Bell-Smith and Downhill Battle are seeking submissions for 3 Notes and Runnin', an online music compilation commemorating and protesting The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Case No. 01-00412.
In the case, the court found that NWA violated copyright law when they sampled 3 notes of a guitar riff from Funkadelic's "Get off Your Ass and Jam" for their song "100 Miles and Runnin'". The ruling reversed a district court finding that because "no reasonable juror, even one familiar with the works of George Clinton, would recognize the source of the sample without having been told of its source", sampling clearance should not be required. "

You can listen to my 30 second remix here. Essentially what I did was I took the original 1.5 second sample and twisted it until it was completely unrecognizable. Like a strange lost transmission from space.