GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Mark Clamen’s Review ‘The Almighty Johnsons: Family Dysfunction of Heavenly Proportions’

The series has a relaxed pace, quite unlike other shows of its genre. The best of the first season, and its greatest charm, lay in the feeling that it was in no rush to get anywhere in particular. Scenes go on a little bit longer than you’d expect, and the characters (and the series) are often happy sitting exactly where they happen to be. In fact, when I first tuned in, as much as I enjoyed the early episodes, I wasn’t sure what the story was, or intended to be. There didn’t seem to be a season there, far less a multi-year story! (There was also the question of how it was to negotiate the How I Met Your Mother problem, where every new female character to enter a room might be – and really probably isn’t – “the Frigg.”)…

…A new era is coming, and the Johnson brothers seem destined to be at the centre of it. But there is nothing epic about it, Norse or Hollywood. It all happens in small scenes, without grand special effects – at barbeques, in alleys behind bars, and in the stacks of public libraries. The groundedness of our boys (a fridge full of beer, the trials of daily life and loving) is what consistently keeps the narrative from floating off to Asgard. The result is a playful and sometimes even blasé attitude towards to the story’s own mythic centre: a half dozen gods and goddesses piling into an old station wagon to do battle against their enemies, or a goddess whose gift appears to be a preternatural ability to organize parties, or when one of the brothers starts dating someone who is literally Hel, etc. The series is often laugh-out-loud funny precisely when it plays straight, with a character simply laying out the absurdity of a situation in the plainest possible terms and then taking a pull from a pint, or when Axl filters new revelations through the limits of his Star Wars-centric imagination.  For example, here’s how Mike Johnson explained why he kept certain aspects of their family history from his younger brothers for so many years: “I mean, what was I meant to do? Tell a bunch of bloody kids their mother is a fucking tree?”

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2

 

No real spoilers, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is basically the Gaia Hypothesis in story form. And it’s pretty good.

“That being said, the sacrifice of a smooth ride for Quill gives us a really interesting movie. This is the most oddly-structured Marvel film since Iron Man 3, with the cast spending a large chunk of time apart while our focus is trained on anything but an impending cosmic threat. That threat does come, make no mistake—but the fact it takes a while to arrive only helps the story. It feels like an escalation rather than a last-second addition, and the film’s constant ramping of stakes, scale, and tension makes for a genuinely tense third act.” [Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: After the Ugly Laws by Sunaura Taylor

‘Perhaps we need to ask how we can assert both our humanity and our animality. How do those of us who have been negatively compared to nonhuman animals assert our value as human beings without implying human superiority or denying our own animality?

On some level identifying as animal has always felt right to me. As a small child I went through a short period where I would bark like a dog when people spoke to me. I didn’t do this out of shyness; according to my parents, I did it because I truly wanted to be a dog. My parents were understandably horrified. Not only did they have to deal with the social implications of having a small child in a wheelchair, but now she was barking, too.

I’m sitting in a cafe in downtown Berkeley as I write this. I have retrieved all of the objects I need from my bag and arranged them on the table in front of me. To do so, I had to put my mouth on the edge of my computer pad and bite down, wiggling it loose from my bag. I then pulled it out and laid it on the table, reached for my keyboard and did the same. I repeated this a few more times until I had everything I needed.

When I use my mouth instead of my hands in public, I realize I am transgressing boundaries, not only of able-bodied etiquette, but of the ways in which one is supposed to inhabit a human body. We use the mouth for language and for eating, yet it is deeply private, an orifice containing germs and breath and slobber. The mouth is sexual. The mouth is animal.

Hands, however, are human. Humans are supposed to have opposable thumbs and dexterous fingers. Like walking upright on two legs, human hands have been said to represent our big brains—as hands make and use tools, they opened the door for human culture to emerge. Hands represent our physical agility and separateness from other species.

I feel animal in my embodiment, and this feeling is one of connection, not shame. Recognizing my animality has in fact been a way of claiming the dignity in the way my body and other non-normative and vulnerable bodies move, look, and experience the world around them. It is a claiming of my animalized parts and movements, an assertion that my animality is integral to my humanity. It’s an assertion that animality is integral to humanity.

I do not mean this in a metaphorical way. It is not that we are like animals or that the idea of animals is integral to who we are—although both claims are true. It is that we are animals. A fact so boringly commonplace that we forget it—perpetually.’

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Get Out

Finally got around to watching this. Was worth it.

“There are few more frightening monsters to conjure than racism, after all. It’s a topic the genre has brushed up against—with the black protagonist of Night of the Living Dead, a rare sight in 1968, or in Bernard Rose’s 1992 classic Candyman, in which the titular figure in part represented America’s history of slavery and repression. But racism is still a surprisingly uncommon subject matter, and Peele addresses a more insidious fear—of the fallacy of America being a post-racial society, and of the nightmares one can imagine under that benign surface.” [Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Nina Paley on The Gaia Hypothesis

“The Gaia Hypothesis posits the Earth’s biosphere is a single living organism. Living organisms by definition reproduce. How would a planet’s biosphere reproduce?

By sending reproductive cells of some sort to other planets.

Much (possibly most) of the Earth’s biosphere consists of bacteria. In fact most animals, including humans, consist largely of bacteria. Animals are mobile housing units for bacteria.

Humans are a peculiar animal. We’re creating our own extinction event. We seem hellbent on exploiting and destroying “nature,” yet we are part of nature, produced by nature. Why would the biosphere produce homo sapiens?

An extremely popular belief of our time is that humans will colonize other planets. Many humans consider this a more worthy goal than preserving biodiversity on Earth. Humans are willing to trash this planet in order to reach others.

It is vanishingly unlikely humans will survive on other planets. But it is likely we will reach other planets. We will not colonize other planets with humans, but with bacteria.

Humans are Gaia’s way of sending bacteria to other planets, thereby reproducing.

…Over billions of years, these pioneering bacteria will evolve, growing a new biosphere of diverse life forms. A new, living planet – another Gaia – is born.”

[Via]

See also:

Is The Girl With All The Gifts antinatalist?

Gods in our machines. 

What we talk about when we talk about post-apocalyptic stories.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Alt-Right Jane Austen By Nicole M. Wright

“There is a reason that alt-right adherents claim Austen for themselves, and it isn’t because their Dear Leader, who has not read a book in years (according to his own biographer), is a closet Janeite. By comparing their movement not to the nightmare Germany of Hitler and Goebbels, but instead to the cozy England of Austen — a much-beloved author with a centuries-long fandom and an unebbing academic following — the alt-right normalizes itself in the eyes of ordinary people. It also subtly panders to the nostalgia of the Brexiters, with their vision of a better, bygone Britain.”

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: What’s Behind Pop Culture’s Love for Silent, Violent Little Girls?

“Because as soon as the embargo for Logan broke, my feed was filled with film writers, including many female film writers, claiming that Laura was “kick-ass,” “a little badass,” or “#goals.” Gut reactions don’t lie, but I couldn’t help but think that here we are, a bunch of smart, opinionated adult women, identifying with a silent little girl.

And that’s fine. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Laura and her ilk aren’t characters. And their age and increasing silence has become a handy crutch for writers who might otherwise have a harder time bringing female leads to life. (Look to the lackluster characterization of Stranger Things’ Nancy and Joyce for evidence of this.) So while the device aims for gee-whiz novelty — A little girl who can fight? Now I’ve seen everything! — it ends up being a part of a fusty and familiar trend in genre writing.

But the age issue is not as telling as the silence is. One only need to look to Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark — another killer girl paired up with a gruff older man — to see how far a modicum of thoughtful writing can take you. Arya is rebellious and prickly, and as the seasons go on, defined by her personal code and desire to avenge her family. But the way she communicates — with her teachers, with her allies, with her enemies — is how we see her grow and gain a better understanding of the world and her own values. Part of this can be chalked up to the benefit of long-term TV storytelling. And part of it is that Arya exists on a continuum alongside many other interesting female characters and does not bear the weight of being The Girl.

What’s more, a story about a group of lab escapees is very different, thematically, than a story about a bunch of born mutants. The X-Men, with their myriad origin stories and socioeconomic backgrounds, represent the collective experience of discovering who you are — an oftentimes horrifying discovery at first — and then growing up and into your own strengths and weaknesses. Laura and her peers, on the other hand, are trauma survivors, defined by a thing that happened to them. That’s every bit a valid story, perhaps more resonant with these times, but years of experience at the movies tells us that it’s far more subject to writerly laziness. Hopefully the success of Logan gives whoever inherits the X-23 story license to think outside the damaged-woman box. But so often these writers invite such horrific circumstances on their characters — needles! Bright lights! Vats of mysterious liquid! Straitjackets! — that they have no fuel left when it comes to the person herself. Inventing forms of torture, it would seem, comes easier to them than inventing a complex human — or mutant.”

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Legion TV show


Feeling bummed about that Logan ending? Watch this to take your mind(s) off it. The season is getting really, really good.

“It’s a reasonable question, given that the show circles around the David Haller character, who has been wreaking havoc across the superhuman-redolent Marvel Comics universe for decades. But Legion is an odd duck. In an era where the global entertainment economy is fueled by a thick stream of barely distinguishable superhero movies and television, Hawley’s project feels blissfully unique.” [Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Youtube Channel that teaches you how to live in your car

Cataloging here in case we become hobos.

In other news, our book is for sale here.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: The Girl with All the Gifts – 2016 Film

We had heard about the book, but didn’t know it had been made into a film so quickly. For a low-budget movie, it was really good.

Anyone read the book?

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Lego Batman Movie

Excellent commentary on dualism.

Watch it.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Vulcana

“Kate Roberts, nee Williams (“Vulcana”), the famous lightweight strongwoman was born in 1883 of Irish parents in Abergavenny, in Wales. When she was young she loved running without rest, climbing to the trees and all those things that girls were not supposed to do. Being a middle school student she surprised her classmates by carrying the weighty school organ. With strongman William Hedley Roberts, better known as Atlas, they toured music halls, in Britain, Europe and Australia, performing as “The Atlas and Vulcana Group of Society Athletes”. Atlas and Vulcana introduced themselves as a brother and a sister, even though they lived de facto as a married couple having many children which they kept with the troupe. Kate took the artistic name “Vulcana” when was performing with strength demonstrations in the “Music Hall of London” (alone or with Atlas). Her specialty was lifting men.

Vulcana reached the peak of her strength and popularity in about 1910. On May 29, 1913 at Haggar’s Theatre in Llanelly, she lifted a challenge bell that rival strongwoman harda failed to raise after twenty-five minutes of trying. Vulcana was triumphant in France, impressing the “l’Halterophile Club de France” with her feats of strength, earning her a medal from the “Father of French Bodybuilding,” Professor Edmond Desbonnet, and the cover of La Sante par les Sports. She was honored with over one hundred medals throughout her career. Her best-authenticated feats were bent press with her right hand of at least 124? lb (56.5 kg), with some authorities accepting a press of 145 lb (66 kg).

Although her power stunts were not especially innovative, being the typical for strongwomen, Vulcana was the first woman who included in her repertoire the unique stunt, so-called “Tomb of Hercules” which had been performed just by few powerful men. This act consisted in supporting a big platform placing on the abdomen of the performer who leans backwards on the floor by the hands and legs. The wonder is that two horses with their attendants stood on that platform and leave it for a few seconds. She struggled against the custom of wearing corsets considering this part of women’s equipment to be unnatural that was an instrument of torturing grandmothers of that epoch. There are a lot of legends about her strength and courage. It is said that once, in Paris, she caught a thief, grabbed him and took him to a police precinct. In 1898, at the age of thirteen, she stopped a runaway horse in Bristol. She freed a wagon stuck in Maiden Lane, London in October 1901 by lifting it before astonished witnesses.
She rescued two children from drowning in the River Usk in July 1901, for which she received an award in gratitude. On June 4, 1921 the Garrick Theatre in Edinburgh caught fire on an evening of the Society Athletes’ performance. Vulcana risked her life to save another act’s horses, and came away with serious burns on her head. For this she won commendations and an award.
Vulcana and Atlas moved permanently to London in the 1920s, and retired from performance in 1932. Vulcana was hit by a car in London in 1939, and was conscious when she heard her own death pronounced. She suffered brain damage, but partially recovered, and briefly outlived Atlas and her youngest daughter, both of whom also died in 1946.”

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Strong Women

“Sometime in the late 1800s the appearance of strong women became more prevalent in sporting events and were also a common attraction in circuses where they would showcase their superhuman strength. This in turn paved the way for other rule-breaking girls such as female wrestlers and bodybuilders….

Another notable strong woman Kate Roberts went by the intimidating name “Vulcana.” In addition to her muscular build and ability to lift heavy weights (allegedly 181 lbs with one arm) she has some fascinating superhero-style folklore attached to her. In addition to saving a couple of drowning kids, Roberts dragged an unfortunate would-be purse snatcher who tried to steal her handbag all the way to the police station by herself. According to various historians Roberts also freed a wagon that had become stuck in a ditch in front of a crowd of awestruck Londoners.”

[Via]

“Frankenstein’s Monster was vegetarian.”

“Frankenstein’s Monster was vegetarian… Frankenstein was indebted to the vegetarian climate of its day…In its associations of feminism, Romantic radicalism, and vegetarianism, Mary Shelley’s book bears the vegetarian word.

For a work that has received and unusual amount of critical attention over the past twenty years, in which almost every aspect of the novel has been closely scrutinized, it is remarkable that the Creature’s vegetarianism has remained outside the sphere of commentary…

The Creature includes animals within its moral codes, but is thwarted and deeply frustrated when seeking to be included within the moral codes of humanity. It learns that regardless of its own inclusive moral standards, the human circle is drawn in such a way that both it and the other animals are excluded from it.

….

Literary critics identify in Frankenstein a distillation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s life and learning, an interweaving of biography and bibliography. Through her father, William Goodwin, Mary Shelley met many notable vegetarians, such as John Frank Newton, author of The Return to Nature; or, A Defense of the Vegetable Regimen, Joseph Ritson, his publisher Sir Richard Phillips, and, of course, Percy Shelley, who had authored A Vindication of Natural Diet and the visionary and vegetarian Queen Mab.

Romantic radicalism provided the context for the vegetarianism to which Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was exposed while growing up.

They argued that once meat eating had redefined humanity’s moral relationship with animals, the floodgates of immorality were opened, and what resulted was the immoral, degenerate world which they and their contemporaries lived.

The ideas to which Mary Shelley and the Romantic vegetarians gravitate tantalizingly overlap: each rewrote the myths of the Fall (especially Genesis 3) and the myth of Prometheus. Each ponders the nature of evil and visions of utopia. In the Creature’s narrative, Mary Shelley allies herself with Romantic vegetarians who uncoded all tales of the primeval fall with the interpretation that they were implicitly about the introduction of meat eating. She precisely situates the vegetarian position concerning these two myths in the Creatures’s narrative. The two preeminent myths that frame her Frankenstein, the myth of Prometheus and the story of Adam and Eve, had both been assimilated into the Romantic vegetarian position and interpreted from a vegetarian viewpoint by Joseph Ritson, John Frank Newton, and Percy Shelley.

Both Mary Shelley and the Romantic vegetarians weave another myth of the Fall into their writings: the myth of Prometheus who stole fire, was chained to Mount Caucasus, and faced the daily agony of having his liver devoured by a vulture, only to have it grow back each night. Besides the standard Romantic view of Prometheus as a rebel against tyranny, Mary Shelley knew of an additional interpretation of the myth. For Romantic vegetarians, the story of Prometheus’s discovery of fire is the story of the inception of meat eating. They accepted Pliny’s claim in Natural History that ‘Prometheus first taught the use of animal food…’ Without cooking, meat would not be palatable. According to them, cooking also masks the horrors of a corpse and makes meat eating psychologically and aesthetically acceptable. Percy Shelley provides the Romantic vegetarian interpretation of this myth: ‘Prometheus (who represents the human race) effected some great change in the condition of his nature, and applied fire to culinary purposes; thus inventing an expedient for screening from his disgust the horrors of the shambles. From this moment his vitals were devoured from the vulture of disease.’

That Victor goes to slaughterhouses not only incorporates into the novel the anathema with which vegetarians beheld it, but suggestively implies the Creature is herbivorous. Since it is only herbivorous animals who are consumed by humans, the remnants gathered by Victor from the slaughterhouse would have been parts from herbivorous bodies.”

-Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ by Randy Malamud

 

‘But now it’s time to accept our impending demise. Those are profoundly difficult words to write, but they are necessary: Our times demand a new rhetorical honesty. It is deceitful and irrelevant to sustain the charade that things may improve. Instead, it’s time to start talking about how we will die.

“The progress narrative” that has undergirded Western culture for millennia was nice while it lasted, but it’s also responsible for getting us where we are today, as it stoked the fantasy that we were invincibly moving ever forward, and that our rampantly voracious overdevelopment (exploration, imperialism, conquest, growth, “civilizing” nature) had no costs, no limits, no consequences.

As an English professor, I find it exciting to consider the possibilities for a new voice, a new style, a new writerly consciousness that may accompany and chronicle the winding down of our sound and fury.

Other cultures at similar points in their trajectory — past the zenith, clearly waning yet close enough to the glories of the past — have often produced keenly insightful literature and art. Being on the cusp of decline provokes incisive self-reflection — as the Greeks called it, anagnorisis: recognition.

Cervantes achieved this in Don Quixote toward the end of Spain’s Golden Age, as did T. S. Eliot in “The Waste Land,” his report from the front lines of the cultural disintegration that accompanied the collapse of European imperialism and the War to End All Wars: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

On a personal level, we have lately begun to do a better job of dying, and of accepting death — writing “death plans,” forsaking heroic measures of resuscitation. So too as a species we may learn to accept the inescapability of our impending ecological fate. We can celebrate the bright spots from our past human heritage, acknowledge our follies, and finally, deal with it: It is what it is.

There will be a limited future audience for this brave new art, since we’re hovering on the verge of extinction, but it will leave an interesting time capsule for whoever might come to recolonize the planet after we’re gone.’

[Via]

See also: what we talk about when we talk about post-apocalyptic stories.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: B.L.A.’s Twitter Rant About Vulcan’s Representation in American Gods

So BLA recently went on a tangent about how Vulcan is (seemingly going to be) represented in the new American Gods Starz adaptation:

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Books’ Fragile Bodies by John Kaag

“As a philosopher, I was long acquainted with the word ‘corpus,’ a body of work written by a particular author. I knew, at least in theory, that corpora grow slowly in tandem with the lives of writers; that certain ones are more coherent and well-functioning than others; that they deserve to be carefully dissected; that they can be abused or desecrated when they aren’t; and that they constitute the literary remains of a person when he or she is long gone. Most scholars share this vague respect for ‘the body of work,’ but with the advent of e-readers and digital-only publications it is increasingly difficult to fully grasp writing’s corporeal nature…

If they are precious to us it is, at least in part, because their physical forms, so appealing and vulnerable, mirror ours in their inevitable decay. We smell them, run our fingers down their backs, page through them, and share our homes and lives with them. No wonder Borges couldn’t sleep, and Jefferson couldn’t live, without their paper bodies.”

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Where Nothing Can Possibly Go “Worng” By Joanna Radin

‘Instead of fantasizing about ideal technologies, we must learn to recognize what Menkman calls “the inherent fingerprints of imperfections” in those technologies. Rather than seeking to avoid or suppress glitches, we should learn how to conjure them so we can better understand how to break or bend the rules. Whether its entertainment or politics–and there may no longer be any difference–we need to be awake to how sexism, racism, and violence continues to be part of the design. It’s time to start taking our fiction seriously. It may be the best resource we have to create a world that won’t kill us, and avoid the ones that will. After all, The Apprentice was great reality TV until it became reality.’

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “The First Cyborg and the First Singularity” by Annalee Newitz

“Odle was writing at a time when women’s rights were an enormously important issue of the day, and female power loomed as a futuristic threat and promise. Odle lived for many years in the Bloomsbury district of London with his wife Rose, and these issues would have been fused with the dominant literary figures of his generation. Not only was he living in the same neighborhood as writers like Virginia Woolf, but Odle’s older brother was married to the bohemian author Dorothy Richardson. She is often credited with writing the first stream-of-consciousness novel in English (Pointed Roofs), and she dated H.G. Wells for many years before settling down with Alan Odle…Through his family associations, Odle would have been exposed to a world where women dominated the artistic scene.

It’s no surprise, then, that the stuffy doctor Allingham’s horror at the Clockwork man is paralleled only by his horror at the radical ideas about woman’s equality espoused by his fiancee Lillian. Cyborgs and women represent the future, and not just metaphorically. In a fascinating passage toward the end of the novel, Odle explores how Allingham’s conflicts with Lillian, if left unresolved, could result in a gender apocalypse.

As the novel reaches its climax, Lillian is considering calling the marriage off becuase she believes Allingham wants her to be a traditional wife who spends all her time doing housework and managing his affairs. She’s also dismayed by his habit of turning everything into a joke — an issue that ties to Odle’s larger point about humor as a defense against the future. Allingham reluctantly admits that she has a legitimate point of view, but their conflict is never quite resolved.

[The Clockwork man] tells the open-mouthed Arthur that men of the future become so obsessed with war that the makers allied with women — also “real”– and banished men from their world. Men’s destructiveness, and their inability to perceive the realness of women, were their downfall. This is Allingham and Lillian’s conflict over gender roles writ large. The cyborg explains that men left the makers no choice but to “shut us up in the clocks,” and give them “the world we wanted,” absent of emotion but filled with infinite power and resources.

Here it becomes clear that the Clockwork man lives mostly in a virtual world, “the clock,” rather that the real world that is is apparently still inhabited by women and makers. He’s an analog version of an upload, and his world of plenitude is also a prison…”

-From the Introduction to THE CLOCKWORK MAN by E.V. Odle.

You can read the book online or buy it to read the full introduction.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Netflix TV show The OA

The show was released with little promotion, adding to its mystery. The ending might not excite you as much as the buildup, but it is not a let down. It is just as mysterious as the story–open to interpretation.

I also haven’t seen such an organically interesting cast of characters in a long, long time.

Have you seen it? Tell me what you think.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: TV Show Fleabag

Fleabag copes with that loss by breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the camera. “She tries to keep her life humorous and amusing for the benefit of this audience that she has invited in,” Waller-Bridge says. ” … And eventually that relationship starts to break down in itself and she starts to regret bringing the audience in in the first place — because, of course, she has these secrets and these feelings of grief and misery underneath all the comedy.” –NPR.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.