Monday, January 28, 2013

Gym update

Went to the gym again too - I didn't make it much over December and most of January, for various reasons, but went to Body Balance today and I actually feel good about it.  I like my legs.  I hate my belly fat, but I'm sure that I looked thinner than less week (probably it was water rentention last week, but psychologically looking less fat helps), my balance is improving (very slowly) and I am able to extend my legs a little bit further.  They aren't straight yet, but they are less bent than they used to be.

I feel good.

Supergirl - Power

Given the current state of the DCU I have decided to invest my energies in re-reading older stories that I enjoy.  As part of this, I am planning to slowly replace my individual issues with trades, and am re-reading the books as they arrive in the post.

I did already own Power but I got the next volume, Candor, last week after reading Candor went back to Power.

Guess what? I really really enjoyed it.  I remembered disliking this on my last read, so I was happy that I got a lot of out of it this time round.

A lot of criticism of this series was around Kara being bratty and angry, and not like the sweet, innocent pre-crisis version.  Well, this change in character has never bothered me, partly because I hadn't read pre-crisis Kara when this series came out.

I have written before about how I empathised with Kara's anger (being a bit of a snot nosed meanie towards my family myself).  Given what Kara has gone through it makes sense to me that she's pissed off, bitter and defensive.

But, really, she's not.  She has moments of extraordinary sweeteness.  She's chatty.  She wants to make friends - she forms real bonds with the women on Paradise Island.  She respects Wonder Woman.  She's lonely and she wants friends.  She's kind.  She gets stroppy when she's sidelines or disrespected.  She wants to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions.  She gets pissed off and starts hitting people when they start on her.  In this trade she fights with Power Girl, Superboy and the Teen Titans.  The key thing here, is that they attack first. She's gone to meet them, to make friends, and gets beat up, because of the other character's personal issues.  She's got a temper so she hits them back.

The fight with the villains (Harley, Clayface and Ivy) are part of her hero training plan.  That's her job.  The fight with the Outsiders is a training exercise, and the Nightwing scenes int hat issue are cute.  They show a soft, very sweet Kara, infatuated with a good looking Dick Grayson.

 Her verbal arguments with Superman and Batman are understandable.  She's not a child, she is nearly an adult, she can look after herself, both in fights and in everyday life.  She should be allowed to make mistakes.  They won't kill her.  In fact, the biggest mistake she makes in this issue, going to fight Luthor alone, she solves. without violence.

The fight with the JLA is all dark Kara.  I find this split personality thing very interesting, and I wonder if it had been done by different creators, would it have been more popular?

I enjoy Kara meeting the key teams in the DCU.  For heaven's sake she's Superman's cousin!  Her place is amongst the heavy hitters.  She has no friends, apart from the Amazon's, but when she leaves paradise Island they stay there.  She needs friends in other geographical places, unless she wants to stay with the Amazon's forever.  She has been given the role of 'superhero', without much choice, so of course she will seek out other heroes, her peers.

I suppose I should mention the art.  It has been roundly mocked (by myself as well) for portraying a super-torso.  Kara has been given a very short skirt (and seemingly no knickers).  Sometimes the art is a little lifeless, especially when you compare it to Michael Turner's art, which is in a very similar style to Churchill's.  Nevertheless I like it, and there are a few panels and pages that I really enjoy.

So what else do I like?  There are two things, mainly.  One is that she is mentored by Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  They are the trinity, it is their responsibility to tutor her.  They are the most important heroes on Earth  and the role models for new heroes.  She deserves their attention.

 But do you know what I really like?  It's that she's more powerful than Superman.

She outflies him.

Les is spying on her with state of the art technology and Kara picks up on this.  Superman and Batman don't.

Poison Ivy kisses Kara and the synthetic kryptonite Ivy is wearing in her lipstick has no effect.  It got Superman though.

She holds her own against both Power Girl and Superboy, not through experience, but through strength.  She takes control of Cassie's lasso (apologies for blurry picture).

She also escapes out of Raven's clock.  No one does that.

She outsmarts Thunder (again, apologies for the blurry picture, I really need to get a scanner).

As dark Kara, she has enough willpower to use a Green Lantern ring, against it's owner.

She beats Carter with his own mace, she escapes Canary's cry, she outsmarts the Flash.  She uses x-ray vision to locate an invisible Martian Manhunter.  She takes down nearly the entire Justice League.

Sure, Superman makes a little speech about how he is more powerful than her, but I don't believe it for a minute.  He may have more experience, but she has more raw strength.  I think his speech is an intimidation tactic to get dark Kara to give up.

I would have loved to see this powerful Kara continued.  But it wasn't really focused on again.

This trade showcases how powerful Kara Zor-El is.  She is a force to be reckoned with.  And she's smart with it.

And that's why I like it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Aaaaanandd relax.

I handed in my BSL Level 3 portfolio yesterday.  Now I have to wait for the internal and external verifiers to acccept it.  I should hear in about 12 weeks.  My portfolio was the final hang over of stressful things from 2012, and I am so glad it is now over.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wonder Woman

Screen shot from the last page of Justice League of Amazons.  The issue is ridiculously slashy, mostly due to the cheesecake art.  I can't believe a group of women pose like that with each other without getting up to sexy hijinks off panel.

Still, taken simply, it's good fun.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

More on Suzanne Moore

Julie Burchill responded to Moore's article with an absolutely disgusting, hatefilled, vile, repugnant piece bullying trans people and making out that her friend Moore cannot be wrong, just because she is her friend.  It is awful.  I am too old and tired to expect everyone to change their ways and be accepting of all groups within society, and I certainly don't expect Burchill to accept trans people as their declared gender, but I am appalled by the venom and outright bullying nature of the article.  If you're going to disbelieve trans people's life experiences and feelings that's your perogative, but for gods sake you can control your language and there is absolutely no reason to be that vile and hateful to anyone.

Nuclear Unicorn responded here.
In it she writes: "We do have a problem with “call-out culture” in our feminist and queer communities, we do have a problem with unchecked egos and with activist-cum-academic aesthetics becoming more important than material results. There is a real, meaningful discussion to be had about whether the Tumblr-isation of activism has been a wholly good thing, or whether it breeds reflexive semantic policing at the expense of necessary work."

I agree with her comments about the problem with the feminist communities.  It's a point I was trying to get at with my previous blog about Moore.

Something else I was trying to explain in my previous blog, and I have no idea how successful I was because I hit publish quite late on Thursday night and my brain was dead, is that I think there is a lot of value in solidarity and working to stop capitalist injustice.  I think capitalism is at the root of a lot (not all) of society's problems.  So in terms of that, I agree with Moore, there are big battles to be fought and we do need to look at the big picture.  However, solidarity must extend to everyone affected by capitalism, and that also includes trans people.  So it is not acceptable to make jokes at the expense of a group historically and currently punished and discriminated against for their gender.  It is even more ludicrous and wrong to then vilify and direct abuse against that group.

Stella Duffy also responded to Moore, (before Burchill's article came out) and I think she writes mostly a reasonable, fair, measured, honest article (it's a bit defensive in places, and does seem to put some blame onto trans people and their allies, but at least she's calm and honest - we can talk to her).  The way social justice is discussed on twitter can be classist and educationalist.  Sometimes tweeters expect their readers to understand all terms, and if they don't, the response is 'go educate yourself! it;s not my job to do it for you!'.  Apart from being really smug and self righteous, this argument falls down for me, because while it is absolutely not the responsibility of any oppressed group to educate their oppressors, if you are engaging someone who has hurt you, or hurt a friend of yours, if you are in discussion with them, if you respond to or take note of them, then if you not just out to hurt them, the polite responsible thing to do is to engage and educate them.  This can be as simple as pointing them to a website that explains things.  If you are not willing to educate them why are you responding to them?

And yes, I absolutely understand anger against people who are rude, or dismissive, or discriminatory towards you.  I understand outbursts of anger.  I do not understand exprressing a wish that someone can cervical cancer, dies in a fire, and gets stabbed.  I am also aware of the tone argument that gets thrown back in feminists etc faces.  I am not criticising anger.  I am criticising online 'activism' that consists of yelling 'chekc your priviledge' or similar at people and doing nothing more.

As an aside, I am coming to really loathe the words 'educate', 'social justice', 'offend' and 'hurt'.  I think we throw them around without really thinking about the meanings and I think there must be other ways to express their meanings.  If I was to talk about these issues to people outside my online activist sphere, using those terms, people would think I was a huge prick.

Which brings me to my next point, we need to be able to make our point, to campaign, to discuss issues in terms the ordinary person on the street can understand.  If we don't, if we can't, we will become as useless and out of touch as staid, boring, white haired, old professors.  We will cease to affect change for the average Jo on the street.  We will have no relevance and we will lose sight of the aim of feminism - to improve the life of all women (and men) everywhere.

I probably have more things to say but that will be it for now.

Super Silly Sunday

Photo by David Ngo.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Comic reviews for w/c 2nd January 2012.

I think I'm going to start posting the dates of when I picked up my comics, otherwise when I get too behind with reviews it will get confusing and you readers and I will start thinking I picked up 20 titles in one week.

Onwards.  Spoilers ahead for Teen Titans 15, Superman 15, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 19, FF 1, Thor 3.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Suzanne Moore

Suzanne Moore said something recently which made a lot of people angry:
"the desired body for women is that of "a Brazilian transsexual"

She called it a throwaway comment, which no doubt made people more angry.  Not surprising, it's an exoticising, reductionist statement which sexualises trans (women's) bodies.  It's thoughtless and in a climate where trans people are regularly and routinely discriminated against, it is not helpful.

Then she wrote this article that a lot of people took as a fake apology/non existent apology, which also made people angry:  I don't care if you were born a woman or became one.

Now, I read this article this morning and tweeted that "I like this article. Flippant comments aside, I appreciate her stance".  This wasn't well explained by me and is not descriptive of all my thoughts around the article.  As I don't think Twitter is the place to have in depth conversations I said I would blog about it.  So here we go.

I am not writing this to counter or reinforce any particular person's viewpoint or comments.  These thoughts are my own, as I understand them.

Part of the reason I don't view this article as an apology, is because she doesn't appear to want to apologise, or pretend to apologise.  So I don't understand why people are focusing on that.  The article starts off by talking about Bowie, presumably prompted by his recent single, so I don't think she ever wanted it to be an apology.  By all means, be pissed off by the fact she hasn't apologised but I don't think it makes sense to view it in terms of a (non) apology.

There are a lot of things I dislike about her article, but there are some things I do like.

I do not like (quotes from the article in bold, my comments are below each quote):

I was a waitress and I served them (trans people) breakfast at 5am and they were so kind to me. Many had had botched surgery in Morocco and their lives were more than difficult.
I think she's put this in to show she respects and likes trans people, and that she gets on with trans people.  The problem is that meeting, getting on with and feeling sympathy for a small group of trans people is largely irrelevant.  It's possible to get on with people and still consider them second class in some way.  The comments about surgery are a bit odd - this isn't really important to the article at all.  I expect that she's included it as it's how she relates to trans people - through their surgery - which is offensive.

Mostly this (transitioning) seemed to be an obsession with secondary sexual characteristics: peeing sitting down if they had been a man, wearing horrible lumberjack shirts and refusing to wash up if they had been a woman.
Ugh.  This is reductionist, dismissive and horrible.  It illustrates quite clearly that she doesn't care about trans people experiences and is willing to use them to back up narrow minded prejudices.  if what she states is the case, there are any number of reasons why trans people might choose to fulfil gendered behaviours - even me, with my limited understanding, knows that one option is that 'doctors*' insisted that their trans patients had to act in set gendered ways in order to be approved for surgery.  Another reason might be because they just wanted to - and there is nothing wrong with that.

However I mostly think she's talking bollocks and that her observations are cherry picked and made up to support her own view.

*I use the term doctor loosely here, because anyone acting like that clearly doesn't have the health of their patient in mind, which I think should be a requisite for a doctor. 

The radical fluidity of gender vaporised.
Errr, trans people getting surgery does not equate to gender fludity being vaporised.  I'd argue that getting surgery and living as your self identified gender is actually pretty fucking radical, considering the shit that trans people put up with (including the stupid comments in this article).  But then again as a cis person I am not the right person to lecture about trans experience (it would be nice if Moore also understood this).

Some trans people appeared to reinforce every gender stereotype going
And?  I don't see the problem here.  A few things -
I wonder is Moore would criticise cis people for fulfilling gender stereotypes.
This opinion is probably as seen through Moore's own eyes, not seen through trans people eyes.
If this highly subjective statement is indeed true, and if that is indeed a problem, 'some' does not invalidate 'all'.

I speak as a white woman of privilege, though I was indeed born in the wrong body. It should have been Gisele B√ľndchen's.
So here Moore is mocking and invalidating trans people's experience and feelings.  I am willing to accept that she perhaps wasn't intending to do this, but was intending to make a joke.

There's one more bit I take issue with, but I'll deal with that at the end as it will only make sense in view of the rest of the article.

Things I do agree with, in part (quotes from the article in bold, my comments are below each quote):

For this I have been attacked on Twitter for "transphobia". I made it worse – well why not? – by saying that I don't like the word. I don't think it adds to our understanding of the complex webs of hatred it invokes, but instead closes down discussion.
First off, I think that the word transphobia is highly highly useful, relevant and absolutely needed.  For without it it becomes much much harder to identify, discuss and fight against discrimination against trans people.  So I disagree with her when she says it doesn't add to the discussion.  I think it's quite disingenuous of her to say otherwise.

But, I do think that sometimes some people attack other for being transphobic and use that to shut down discussion.  This is different to what Moore is saying, but on first read of the article that's how I took it.  This isn't the fault of the word 'transphobic'.  It's down to people.  Blaming it on the word itself is wrong.

I absolutely understand why trans people wouldn't want to engage in education and discussion on every single issue of transphobia, but my feeling is that it is allies who put forth accusations of transphobia and then refuse to discuss it.  Sometimes I think people get accused of transphobia without the accuser considering the context in which things were said.   There seems to be a moral high ground in some social justice circles whereby if you accuse someone of being discriminatory you are automatically right and so don't have to engage with them further at all.  Well, sometimes people misunderstand other things and sometimes people express themselves badly and I don't think we should hang people out to dry because they've said a couple of stupid things.

I don't have evidence for this - it's just my feelings about twitter discussions (where I do a lot of my reading nowadays) and I am perfectly aware that my feelings are just as subjective and likely to be ill informed as Moore's statements above.  But all these feelings informed my reading of Moore's article so when I got to the bit in bold above, I went, hmm, she's right.  Except as I said in the second paragraph of this point, my reading of her words is different to what she said.

Intersectionality is good in theory, though in practice, it means that no one can speak for anyone else. It is the dead-end where much queer politics, feminist politics and identity politics ends up. In its own rectum. It refuses to engage with many other political discourses and becomes the old hierarchy of oppression.
I do think she has a point here, especially about the heirarchy of oppression.  I know that's not how intersectionality is supposed to work, but in practice that is sometimes what happens.  Where do you go with creating a cohesive, campaigning movement when you have a lot of disparate interests and identities?  Sometimes you end up with campaigners shouting down those not as enlightened as they are and refusing to engage, in a similar manner to both.  Again, this is an issue more with people than with the theory itself, I think.   I would be interested to hear Moore's reasons as to why the theory itself is fundamentally unsound.

Then again, I absolutely believe that feminism must take into account racism, ableism, ageisim, homophobia, biphobia and so on.  So I think this means I am stuck in an ideological rut, unsure how to reconcile the two views I have.

It makes me ill that meritocracy is the ruling-class myth, that policy is not about economics but rancid ideology.  
So here I think she's saying she's less traditional feminist and more economist (with a feminist leaning).
Well I can't argue with that.

I wanted to say again that feminism is not a white, middle-class concern: look at Sierra Leone, Egypt, India.
Correct.  But unless you decide she is not primarily a feminist, this conflicts with her earlier comments about intersectionality.  It does fit with the idea that she's more marxist economist (or perhaps Lockian?  Is it Locke who developed the idea of the social contract?  No matter, for the next couple of points let's pretend I'm right in calling her a Marxist economist).

When I say "women", I don't much care if you were born or became one. I am with RuPaul: "Honey, we are born naked, the rest is drag." What I do care about is something that is deeply old-fashioned: solidarity. I may not be your colour or your culture, or share your sexual preferences, but open your eyes to what we need to do. This is not some glitch in the uber-sexual matrix; this government makes Thatcher look like Shirley Williams. The boot is in your face if you are not one of them.
Correct.  See my comments above about her being more of a Marxist economist than a feminist.

So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little ... irrelevant. Other people's genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract. I am asking for anger and for alliances. Less divide and rule.
Yes, well, the problem with this is that when you use the word irrelevant it gets up people's noses.  People start thinking you find them irrelevant.

As for the comment about genital arrangements, well, trans people are far more than their genitals, and if Moore had done any research or put any thought into trans people's lives she'd have realised this.  Again, she's reducing trans people to their genitals.

Regarding the comments about the social contract, I refer you back to my Marxist economist comments.  If you do not take an economic viewpoint of the problems of society you will not agree with her.  One of the many criticism of Marxism is that it does nothing to help women.

On the other hand, she is quite keen on the social contract.  Under the social contract government has a responsibility to care for it's citizens.  In return citizens pay taxes and agree not to riot.  Now under this concept, government should care for everybody and protect them from harm.  That includes it's trans citizens.  And come to think of it, under the social contract government *must* understand intersectionality or it cannot fully protect everyone.  Hmm, I'd not thought of that before.

Lastly, I wrote this bit at the start of the post but don't know where to fit it.  So it gets bunged on the end.

Some people are offensive and will always be offensive - I don't know that I expect all of them to apologise, get over it, get better. I find the manner in which twitter continuously asks people for apologies and berates people for any mistake made quite venomous.  I don't think it works.  I don't find it agreeable.

I now think this post may be a bit of a mess.

The new 52 isn't working for me

So, before making the weekly pilgrimage to the comic shop on Saturday I asked twitter for opinions on what the good Marvel series are.  I have expressed my frustration about DC's titles here before.  My feelings aren't lessening so I am considering dropping most of my DC focused pull list.

My problems with the new 52 are many.  I appreciate they wanted to provide an all new jumping on point for new readers.  I appreciate they wanted to revitalise their intellectual property.  However, part of the reasons I love DC's comics is the 70 odd years of history you get with each title.  That tightly wound continuity, the banter and Easter eggs you get within titles.  The knowledge that what is happening in one title will impact upon and be referenced by other characters - maybe not in the same week, maybe in a years time, or five years time.  I loved discovering what each new chapter brought and immersing myself in the world.  I loved building up the history of the cities, the houses, the philosophies, the religion, the characters, the technology, the leaders, the poor, the everything.  Most of all, I loved how the old DCU worked.

Now I don't have that.  Not in my titles.  My current pull list (for new 52 titles) is:
Animal Man, Green Arrow, Superboy, Demon Knights, Birds of Prey, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans.*

I used to buy 20 odd titles a month.

But for those I am buying, all those series have been restarted from scratch.  I was getting Justice League and Aquaman.  Aquaman wasn't rebooted (much) but Justice League was.  I know Batman and Green Lantern kept their history but I am not interested in reading them regularly.

Now the DCU is just 5 years old I cannot understand how Batman has had so many teen sidekicks.  I have no idea how the old Justice League stories that I love fit in to the new history.  Guy Gardner's origin has changed (he's now no longer an ex-teacher but an ex-cop) and I am just not interested in reading a rebooted version of him.

Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen - one of my favourite couples in the DCU - no longer are a couple and haven't even met yet.

Superman is no longer a source of hope and compassion.

Wonder Woman's backstory has been pulled away from the women led utopia.  She is no longer an inspiration to me.

Supergirl is an entirely new character, losing all the history and humanity the Gates/Igle run put into her.

Superboy has been rebooted, yet we seem to be retreading the same old ground.

Birds of Prey is all new, and again, has lost all the rich history.

Teen Titans, well Wonder Girl, Solstice and Kid Flash are entirely new characters.  They are not anywhere near the same as they were pre-new 52.  Robin also seems like a new character.   Bunker and Skitter are actually new and I am vaguely interested in reading about them.

The good things are that Animal Man has kept his history, and has always had a slightly odd series of his own anyway.  Demon Knights provides historical context to the DCU.

Another thing I do not like is the way DC is approaching their 18-35 demographic.  They seem to be going for a very narrow interpretation of what this demographic will like, and they appear to be going for mindless shallow fight scenes and little depth of storytelling.  Like the very worst of Hollywood blockbuster films.

Most adult characters have been de-aged to mid-twenties.  I am not interested in reading about characters that are all of an age, and an immature age at that.  I want heroes in their 30s, 40s and 50s.  I want a rich life tapestry for them to draw on.  I want the conflict and discussion that comes when you have a group of people from different backgrounds forced to work together.  I want heroes with different personalities and aims.

Most of all, the stories just aren't very good.

I just don't feel like I'm getting that in the new DCU.

I have a theory about what happened in the DC offices.  I believe they got taken over by Warner Brothers a couple of years before this new 52 started.  I think that someone came in to investigate DC's creative output.  What was selling, why it was selling, who they could sell to, what was and wasn't working and what the potential for new sales is.  Basically to recommend an overhaul of the company so it could become viable.  We all know that the big 2 comics companies are in trouble, sales wise.

I think what happened was that Warner Brothers took over they told the top brass to raise their sales figures or get sacked.  I think the new 52 is a last ditch attempt by the parent company to squeeze some money out of the publishing arm and I think that if it doesn't succeed DC comics will be downsized and only the biggest sellers will continue being published - Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Justice League and anything else that ties into film and TV products.  I think anything that does continue being published will look radically different to what is being published now.

Maybe it will all be electronic.  Comixology has shown that the market is there for digital comics.  I'd be happy with that.

I am not willing to support titles I am not enjoying.  So I am going to cancel Superboy, Birds of Prey and Teen Titans.  Animal Man, Supergirl and Wonder Woman I will continue buying in hardcopy format and Green Arrow and Demon Knights I will buy ad-hoc digitally.  I will dip in and out of titles on the shelves but I will not make myself beholden to any one title. If Wonder Woman, Animal Man and Supergirl don't improve I will probably also drop those. I will replace my old DC floppies with trades.  I will sell the floppies on ebay (or to anyone who wants them) and buy the collections that I treasure, love and enjoy.

I shall try out some Marvel titles.  Because I think they are going to offer me what DC aren't - character depth, history, continuity and complex storytelling.

If you've got this far through, please can you recommend me non-DC titles you think I might enjoy.  As I told twitter, I like pretty art, good characterisation, good storytelling and dinosaurs.

*I also buy Ame-Comi girls and Smallville, but they are not new 52.  It is quite telling that these are my absolute favourite series currently being published.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Peter David has had a stroke

It happened on 30th December (I think) while he was on holiday in Florida.  If you look on his website and start reading from 30th December you will see all updates.
His wife has also posted information on how fans can help, particularly with medical bills:

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Super Silly Sunday

I'd really like to know what issue this is from.  Can anyone help?

EDIT - @nevs_ago_go  confirmed that it is from Superman 680:
I've got this issue.  I should have remembered those panels.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Not a Wonder Woman Wednesday

This image has so many things right with it.  Her pose, her strong, muscular, powerful back and arms.  The intense emotions of regret and sadness.  But then Ed Benes goes and ruins it by exposing her arse.  If he had just given her some pants that covered her arse cheeks, this would be beautiful.  Unfortuantely the emotion and power is mocked by Benes apparent pathological need to display women's arses.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From here.

It's titled 'that time Wonder Woman went on a killing spree'.
Obviously I don't think Wondy would go on a killing spree after reading it, given what i've heard about it (I haven't read it either) I think she would be bemused why something so appallingly written would be so popular.  I think she might be a little tickled by the bondage parts, but I think she'd prefer her bondage written in a different style, perhaps in a style that's a little more respectful to both parties.