The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, June 07, 2010

Too hard a knot for me to untie

"It is too hard a knot for me to untie..."

Took Jason to the Circus on Saturday, same day Tananarive got home from New York. My favorite part was actually when someone flubbed a stunt, which happened a couple of times--once with a tricky trapeze move, once with a very tricky balance stunt (they repeated the "walking a ball up an incline" stunt, and got it right. Impressive). Cute clowns, a unique juggler juggling big geometric frames (never seen that before), and one gorgeous circus girl who was flexible enough to fold in a suitcase, and later gave us a demonstration of some form of Latin dance that made me totally believe the statistic that Latins are the sexiest people on Earth. I turned to Tananarive and soberly informed her that she had my permission to learn to move like that. Good Lord. I guess I must have seen stuff like that on television, but never in person. The level of energetic control, separation and precision was just awesome. I'm thinking it was some kind of Brazilian dance, frankly, because it looked like a combination of some kind of South American Indian and African fusion. Like nothing from Europe or Asia or Polynesia, that's for sure.

One thing it made me think of: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know that those guys have their own form of yogic discipline. I also know that people who work with them describe the feeling of grappling with the most advanced practitioners in a way that made me think of the male version of movement like THAT. Boy oh boy, would I love to see a porno film with experts in the male and female versions of that movement quality. Is that wrong?
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It's kind of interesting how the discussion of Israel brings out such passion in people. There are ways in which Jews seem more measured in response than many Christian Americans. Varying reasons for this are offered by either side of the argument. As I've made it clear, I absolutely believe in Israel's right to exist, but think that they've made serious mistakes--like all human beings, especially those under pressure, will do. The fact that the blockade runners aspired to martyrdom doesn't make them "Terrorists." In fact, it makes them about the opposite: they hope to demonstrate that it is the other side which uses violence and terror as a primary weapon. This doesn't necessarily make 'em nice people, although I approve of the tactic. But the mislabeling of their efforts and tactics makes the fur on the back of my neck stand up. As soon as people distort language or reality for one purpose, it is reasonable to question everything they say.

This is, of course, the problem with the corruption of the term "terrorist," which has come to mean "any non-uniformed enemy" in the popular lexicon, as opposed to "a person who specifically uses terror, usually by attacks on civilian populations, as a tool to weaken political will" (that's my definition, which seems to be in alignment with Webster's and Wikipedia). The attacks on the WTC were certainly terrorist acts, but the linguistic distortion began rather swiftly, referring to them as "cowardly" (err...cowardice generally relates to someone UNWILLING to risk life and limb. This seems to be the wrong use of the term). I get it, though, and instances of this kind of thing are probably universal, to be found in the popular culture of any people preparing to go to war--distortions which make the "Other" seem sub-human, or at the very least, not as good as "us." It is interesting to watch this at play even in America's Civil War, where brothers fought each other, labeling the other side as weak, cowardly, dishonest, traitorous, etc. etc. This all seems totally natural, and in fact it seems damned difficult to get people to the point where they will kill one another unless there is this kind of disrespect. You see it in High School football game pep rallys. In school yard fights. One of the most fascinating things to me is the ethic that allows professional warriors to kill each other WITHOUT such emotions.

You definitely get this in the Left-Right split. While I generally listen to Left-leaning radio if I'm in the mood for political theater, I get totally disgusted with the hosts who position their positions as the only representatives of truth, justice, the American Way, and so forth. So I'll flip over to the Right Wing station, and sometime they make more sense...for a while. Sigh. This is an aspect of human nature that is probably a survival value, and it makes little sense to push against it. It is, as the Bard said in Twelveth Night, "Too hard a knot for me to untie."
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Saw "Splice," and despite my antipathy for mouth-rapist Adrian Brody, thought it was pretty darned good, a throwback to the David Cronenbergian school of distorted-body horror. Basically, you have a married pair of geneticists working with recombinant DNA, who make the mistake of thinking they are sane, or are making sane rational decisions. They are not. The woman is disturbed, the husband a total spineless dishrag. And the human-animal hybrid they produce does nothing we haven't seen before in movies like Species or Embryo, but does it with a sense of creeping doom that is really cool. Without a lot of explicit gore, and with some REALLY nicely executed effects (almost flawless) they tell the tale of "Dren" ("nerd" spelled backwards), an artificial being who...well, that's the story. And it's well-told. A cautionary tale about science and sanity. I really liked it. An A-, if you get into stuff like this.
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Apparently James Cameron is going to give his opinion about the Gulf Oil spill tonight. Should be interesting. He has genuine knowledge of deep-water work, is said to be a straight-up genius (by people I serious trust with such judgments) and has a science-fiction writer's imagination. This could actually be interesting.
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14 comments:

Marty S said...

Steve: With respect to the Israeli blockade I believe you are really missing the central point and falling for the strategy of Israel's enemies.
You are right not every person seeking martyrdom is a terrorist by the dictionary definition. But they are pieces in an attack against the other side.
Look at it as a chess game. While I am far from an expert at chess I know that chess openings are more about position then gaining opponents pieces and that a good chess player will sometimes sacrifice a piece in order to gain position.
Israel has enemies that want to destroy her. Unlike firing rockets and sending in suicide bombers which to some extent are meant to remove enemy pieces, sending in unarmed "Do gooders" to destroy the blockade is a move meant to destroy enemy position. If they win this stratagem they will have opened the door to future ships carrying arms to enter Gaza unopposed. When people of goodwill fail to recognize that what ever else you call them these anti-blockaders are enemy pieces being used by the enemy to create a position on the board which will lead to an eventual enemy victory. So in this case Israel must maintain its position on the board by maintaining the blockade.

Marty S said...

On the question of moral issues with respect to the blockade and the plight of those who live in the Gaza strip. The Gaza strip contains about one million Palestinian "refugees" Why are they still refugees 62 years after they fled to the Gaza strip. The answer is Egypt and the Arab league denied them citizenship and kept them in refugee camps. They did this as part of their long term campaign against Israel. Imagine the protests in this country is Arizona tried to treat their illegal aliens the same way. By rounding them up putting them in "refugee camps" in the Arizona desert and denying them the right to apply for American citizenship.

Scott said...

Reading the description and seeing the word terrorist made me think, Yeah, terrorists, like Gandhi.

Mike Ralls said...

>It's kind of interesting how the discussion of Israel brings out such passion in people.<

A good book I just read on why this is so is Israel vs. Utopia. I recommend it, though I disagreed with much of it.

>There are ways in which Jews seem more measured in response than many Christian Americans.<

For what it's worth, although I consider myself a strong supporter of Israel, I am not a Christian. Or Jewish. (Full disclosure though - I am married to an atheist of Jewish decent who's grandparents survived the Holocaust.)

>The fact that the blockade runners aspired to martyrdom doesn't make them "Terrorists."<

Not in and of itself, no.

Although the ship being financed by terrorists doesn't exactly make one want to extend them the benefit of the doubt;
http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/terror-finance-flotilla
"The Turkish nonprofit belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization known to finance terrorism called the Union of Good (Ittilaf al-Kheir in Arabic). Notably, the Union is chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known best for his religious ruling that encourages suicide attacks against Israeli civilians."

>This doesn't necessarily make 'em nice people, although I approve of the tactic.<

The tactic on the ship that got all the attention was to use sloppy violence against skilled professionals.

>This is, of course, the problem with the corruption of the term "terrorist," which has come to mean "any non-uniformed enemy" in the popular lexicon<

And the traditional fate of a captured non-uniformed enemies who used violence is the hangman's noose, in most cultures and times.

Frank said...

I wonder what Turkey would think if Israel started sending "humanitarian" aid to the Kurds?

Steven Barnes said...

I don't think I'm "falling for the strategy." I'm aware it's a strategy, but that doesn't invalidate part of the point--that this situation is grayer than the pro-Israel lobby paints it. They attack as "anti-Semetic" anyone who questions Israel at all--which is an understandable reaction for people in a survival posture. I don't believe in discussion being attacked. The conclusion may well be that, as unfortunate as the results were, Israel had the right to act as it did, or that almost any other country or people, under similar circumstances, might have done the same. They do NOT have the right to control the conversation, however.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, terrorists, like Gandhi."

Really? How many people did Gandhi stab?

Shady_Grady said...

I saw Splice and REALLY enjoyed it.
Like a lot of the best movies it examined the horrors in the human heart. That's always where the true monsters are.

The heavy Freudian stuff was quite disturbing. It was good to see a horror movie that was intelligent and wasn't just torture-porn or slasher-snuff garbage.

I would also be very surprised if the writer(s) and or director weren't at least somewhat sympathetic to animal rights arguments.

Shady_Grady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shady_Grady said...

If the Israelis can make claim to a land based on a mythical title over 2500 years prior, why would they possibly think that the Palestinians would give up after 60years? It doesn't make sense. One nation, two peoples, that's the only thing left.

Shady_Grady said...

Why does Israel still have a military occupation on the West Bank?

Why is Israel still increasing Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?

You can not negotiate over how two people will share a pizza when one party is EATING the pizza. Israel is not serious about a two state solution and it's an insult to anyone's intelligence to think otherwise.

The settlement infrastructure has grown to the extent so that an independent Palestinian state would be impossible. The only possible solution left is a unitary state with equal rights for all and special rights for none. If the Afrikaners in South Africa can live with that, it ought to be good enough for Israel.

Frank said...

Shady Grady

You can not negotiate over how two people will share a pizza when one party is EATING the pizza. Israel is not serious about a two state solution and it's an insult to anyone's intelligence to think otherwise.

I'm pretty sure that it is Hamas that is opposed to the two state solution, not Israel. After all, it is still to this day part of the Hamas Charter that they do not accept an Israeli State. The only way Hamas will be happy is with the "Helen Thomas" solution.

I am also sure that Israel is amenable to a two or one state solution so long as in the end there is a country called Israel that is a Democratic State. Hamas is dedicated to the elimination of the State of Israel. It why they exist. So I'm not sure where this lies in your pizza analogy.

Israel has never in the past, nor is likely in the future to give up Jerusalem which is why there are settlements.

Mike Ralls said...

>Why does Israel still have a military occupation on the West Bank?<

Because if it doesn't it will be attacked from the West Bank. The Palestinians have never actually given up the dream of killing every single Jew in Israel so the Israelis have decided to establish the border wherever they please, build a wall along it, and let the Palestinians rot on the other side.

> Why is Israel still increasing Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?<

Because (1) It wants too. (2) Is strong enough to do so (3) It doesn't believe that if it stops the Palestinians will actually be anymore peaceful if they do (And there is tons of evidence to back that up), so why not?

>You can not negotiate over how two people will share a pizza when one party is EATING the pizza.<

War actually works like this:

A: We split the pizza 20% for me, 80% for you.
B: No! I want it all!
[B kicks A in the shins for a minor bruise, A punches B in the face and breaks B's nose]
A: Ow! My shin! Now I'm taking 50% of the pizza and if you don't let me then I'll hurt you more and then I'll take 75% of the pizza!

>The settlement infrastructure has grown to the extent so that an independent Palestinian state would be impossible<

Define "impossible."

>The only possible solution left is a unitary state with equal rights for all and special rights for none.<

Oh, there are lots more solutions than that. Most of them just involve more pain and suffering for the Palestinians than is currently happening.

Just because you don't wish something to happen, doesn't mean it's not a possibility.

The Palestinians have that exact same problem, although it is far more serious for them.

Before a people chose to use violence you have to carefully calculate the cost-benefit analysis and consider the alternatives, and do this with a cold and unemotional eye. Because if you choose to fight, you must remember that you could lose. And not just lose but _lose_ completely and utterly. You could be forced to endure the unendurable.

This the Palestinians have essentially never every done. Pretty much every single time they have just leapt in because they knew that All that Is Good was on their side and they would therefore Triumph With Their Rightiousness!

That. Does. Not. Work.

Anonymous said...

The 9/11 hijackers were not "cowards" by dictionary definition. Nor were the Japanese flyers who bombed Pearl Harbor. But in each case, it was a "sneak attack." (It's a "surprise attack" or a "legitimate use of deception in wartime" when we do it, a "sneak attack" when it's done to us. Human nature.)

American culture conflates the concepts of "sneaky" and "cowardly" so closely that it takes a real effort of will to separate them.

And, of course, anyone who attempts to separate them in commentary is easily (sometimes deliberately) misunderstood by those who don't.