Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Poor As Lab Rats

People who are oppressed have always been used as lab rats, things to be experimented on rather than real people. Usually those doing the experimenting have a mild twinge of shame and try to keep the experiments secret (Tuskegee) so I guess it might be shocking to the un or less oppressed to see that experimenting done publicly.
For example:

In NYC, a program called Homebase that helps the nearly homeless stay in their homes is using a lottery system to decide who gets help and who doesn't and then tracking the results to find out if the helped are less likely to become homeless than the unhelped.

I know, gentle readers, it's shocking, horrible, awful, that for the sake of scientific results they would leave the fate of the desperate up to luck. Well, maybe it's not so shocking for those of us who play the social services lottery on a regular basis. It's almost always a crapshoot as to whether an agency is going to give you assistance. Did you fill out the gazzilion forms properly? Do you have the right proof of your circumstances? (Lemme tell you, proving that you are actually homeless is damn near close to impossible. And if you can prove you are homeless, you're actually penalized for it when it comes to food stamps because you have no verifiable living expenses).

Homebase is just being upfront about about the randomness of who gets assistance. It's still despicable that just needing help doesn't actually get it for you, but I think I prefer the straight up lottery system to the clandestine methods.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Guilt or Anger and Apologies.

I shared this video in my google reader the other day

I've heard, way too often, people complain about anti-racism work because "I'm not responsible for the actions of my ancestors" and use the guilt they feel (or think they should feel but don't) as a reason to continue on in their little privilege bubble. That's why I linked it. It's a good response to those types.

However, Renee has some pretty damn valid reasons to be pissed off at the video. While watching it, I did have a fleeting thought or 2 about how it wasn't calling people out on the privilege they currently enjoy.(And I get to have only a fleeting thought or 2 because of white privilege, that's what privilege is about). You should feel guilt for those acts of racism (sexism, homophobia, abelism, classism, etc) that all of us with privilege commit at some time or another. You should feel the guilt, make the apologies, and do your best to never ever do it again. The video completely ignores the ongoing acts that perpetuate oppression.

So, I apologize for linking the video without addressing the problems in it. I promise I'll work really hard to not let those fleeting thoughts and criticisms go by without examination in the future.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Netflix says that I like "dark movies with strong female leads"

So you all get 2 movie reviews. One about a famous and awesome real woman, done by a man, and one about a fictional but courageous teenage girl done by a woman. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but here's a spoiler warning anyways.

First, Agora. Rachel Weisz is Hypatia, philosopher, atheist, brilliant teacher in Alexandria right at the crux of the struggle between Christians and Pagans. She is perfect, so perfect that she's more of a pedestal goddess than human being. But I don't care, I'd watch her anyways. Also, it doesn't pass the Bechtel test. (blah blah blah, it's not like she'd have had a best girlfriend to confide in back then, blah blah blah).

That said, for who knows what reason, the director had to throw a rape scene into the movie. Perhaps because Hypatia was only allowed to do things she did in Alexandria because she was considered a virtuous woman, Amenabar threw in a rape scene so that there was some sexual tension. But the movie didn't need it and it would have been better served if the rapey character was shown struggling with the choice between logic and Christianity more. That's a much more interesting struggle than "I want a woman and she doesn't want me".

But watch the movie anyways because 1) Rachel Weisz 2)Hypatia 3) The atheist is the only reasonable person in the city. This ain't no throwing the Christians to the lions, and the Pagans don't come off any better.

Next, Winter's Bone. 17 year old Ree Dolly has to go find her meth making father and get him to appear in court so that her family doesn't lose the home and land he put up as bond. Her mom is nearly catatonic. Ree's the only person looking after her and her little brother and sister. It's written and directed by Debra Granik and Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Ree is amazing. She's tired and terrified and braver that anyone should ever have to be that young.

It's also an interesting portrayal of the codes of violence. There are rules, even in the poorest segments of society, of who you can hurt and how. It's a fucked up kind of chivalry (chivalry in itself is fucked up- but that's a whole other essay). Trying to keep track of the complicated rules of who you're safe with and who you're not safe with and what kind of behavior gets you hurt requires a flow chart, or as Ree says being "a Dolly, bred and buttered".

Winter's bone is sad but really good, and deserves every one of the awards it's up for. And it totally passes the Bechtel test. Some of the most crucial moments of the film are between Ree and the wife of the most feared man in town, and he doesn't get more than a line or two.

So what are you all watching?

Kitchen Squee!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have you all discovered the magic that is smoked Spanish paprika yet? Have you? Cause if you haven't- GO GET SOME RIGHT NOW OMG WHY ARE YOU STILL SITTING THERE READING THIS!!!

No seriously, I just put goulash in the crockpot and used the smoked paprika (and a little of the cheap regular paprika to round it out) and the smell is soooooooooooooo amazing I would eat a hunk of raw meat. I do not think I can wait the 8 hours for it to be done.