By now, anyone connected to the internet has heard about the protest against SOPA (and PIPA).  I’ve refrained from joining the chorus because I have not had a chance to really formulate a well reasoned post about how very bad this bill is.  I try, but then I get pissed, my blood pressure rises and I have to walk away.  I still can’t write anything well reasoned, but time is ticking so I might as well rant.

Short version of why it’s bad?  Both SOPA and PIPA are written so that they will be easy to abuse.  Very easy.  They’re written so that a shit-ton of stuff falls into the category of bad, and with no real check in the process, websites can be taken down in a flash.

You never want a law that’s written with this kind of broad brush stroke.  Even if your site is taken down for the wrong reasons and you have the best, cleanest defense ever in the history of ever…you still have to argue it.  That’s the bitch of the law.  Sure you’re innocent until proven guilty and all that shit, but in the end, the cost of a trial (mentally and financially) is a kind of punishment itself.  And the time involved?  If someone wants to damage you, well, for some people, having their website down for the time it takes to work through the damn system and get it cleared up is enough to spell ruin.

The thing about these bills is…it’s already begun.  SOPA and PIPAarejust two more in a line of crap-tastic legislation that impinge on our freedoms of speech and expression in the interest of protecting an obsolete business model.  It started with copyright extensions (every time we get close to Mickey joining the public domain…), then we had the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which put us on the road to PIPA/SOPA….

I  feel like I’ve been a Ranger, watching this coming darkness on the edges of the world, and now it’s finally out in the open so everyone sees what I’ve been watching for years now.  It’s kind of a relief, actually, despite the fact that what’s ahead of us is the equivalent of a Pelennor Fields full of Orc, Southrons and assorted other badies of a Mordor-esque variety.

If these become law, we all become a little less free and, with the exception of a tiny minority of business asshats in the entertainment industry, we don’t get a damn thing out of this.

I guess I don’t need to tell you we’ll be going dark tomorrow, do I?

Defending Medievalists (Possibly on horseback… with a spear…)

I’m currently taking my last official university course ever (!), which happens to be Old English.  I’m kind of psyched about it—I always wanted to learn Old English and I finally have an excuse.  I learned years ago that Middle English has the power to mesmerize fifteen year olds, so imagine how much more powerful Old English must be!

The same week I started this course I happened to read an article on the internet (font of all that is accurate and truthful) which made an off-handed remark about suspecting that interest in the Middle Ages was rooted in a yearning for the days when the world was dominated by white men.  With an emphasis on the WHITE part and the MEN part.  All I could think reading it was… this person doesn’t know many medievalists, do they?

Going on the basis of my academic experience, medievalists are a surprisingly diverse group (as related graduate programs go.)  Okay, so there might be slightly higher representation of men in medieval literature classes than in other graduate literature classes.  My Old English class is still predominately female, but the men aren’t as overwhelmed as they would be in say a Victorian Literature class.  (I have yet to meet a male Victorianist; legend has it they exist, but I remain unconvinced.) But even at my super white university there’s a respectable degree of ethnic diversity in the class.  And that’s been the case for most of my medieval studies type classes.

Yes, some of the stereotypes you might have about medievalists are probably true.  I am more convinced than ever that most people who study Old English secretly want to be Rohirrim.  (I include myself in that group).  This actual conversation took place in my class:  Me:  I thought Tolkein didn’t leave a complete Rohan language.  Didn’t they use Old English as the language of Rohan in the movie?  Dude behind me:  Yes.  Forth Eorlingas!

Which brings me to my most important point about medievalists:  If you’re planning a party, and you have to invite mostly literature scholars, you want to invite as many medievalists as possible.  Trust me:  they’re the fun ones.  Creative writers can drink and get high better than anyone else, but sooner or later they’ll wind up sprawled on the couches intermittently making out and talking about negative capability.  People who study contemporary literature don’t enjoy anything.  And Victorianists… well, it might depend on what kind of party.  If you’re going to be watching costume dramas and eating cake, by all means invite them, but still include the medievalists.  (Please note: Yes, I realize I just made unfair generalizations, just like the person I’m complaining about.  But they are based on first hand research.)

Because medievalists know how to have fun.  As a rule they don’t take their subject too seriously.  They’ll be the first to make jokes about what they study.  And they tend to study delightfully insane stuff—my friend S for example studies pacts with the devil and cross dressing saints.  How fun is that?  This is probably what the blogger I’m venting about failed to realize:  just because they study and are fascinated by an era dominated by white men, and I’ll take that further and say rich, white, Christian men, doesn’t mean they think it was any better than it was.  Probably more than anyone else they know how screwed up the era was.  Half their work is pointing that out.  They just have a lot of fun doing it.

And if some mead gets drunk and some Tolkein gets quoted, it’s just an occupational hazard.

On the other hand… Forth Eorlingas!

Sassy Gay Time Vampire

I strongly suspect that many of our readers are already familiar with this week’s time vampire.  It’s even been linked in our comments once.  But I discovered a few days ago to my great horror that friend of the blog Mary had not been introduced.  I felt like I had failed as a friend.  So lest we fail any of our other readers here’s a delightful little Time Vampire:

The Sassy Gay Friend

In a nutshell it’s a series of videos focusing on moments in literature and history when characters make really bad decisions and hypothesizing how things might have ended different if said character had a sassy gay friend.  (spoiler:  Sassy Gay Friend always makes things better).  Yes, recent videos are sponsored by Mio (I haven’t tried Mio, but it contains sucralose and is therefore evil), but they are still amusing.  I love them because not only do they bring the funny, they bring the smart funny.  They poke fun at absurd moments in literature which people never talk about (SGF to Juliet:  You took a rufee from a priest!).  Also they are full of allusions to other literary works (I don’t want to remember that night I spent with Bob Marley).  They’re the kind of videos that simultaneously amuse you and make you feel smart because you actually did your English homework.

The nice thing about this Time Vampire is that it’s not going to suck away too much of your time.  There aren’t that many videos and (sadly) new ones aren’t released that often and none of them are more than a few minutes long.  But warning:  watching one will probably result in you needing to watch them all.  And even once you’ve watched them all they may become a minor addiction.  Not so much an addiction as that thing you turn to when you get down.  “Man, I’m sad.  I’m going to have to watch some Sassy Gay Friend.”

A final warning to our readers:  There are a lot of imitators out there.  And to some extent, who can blame them?  I mean, just yesterday Mary and I were speculating on how Eowyn might have benefited from the help of a Sassy Gay Friend.  (Though just now we have decided that Boromir would have benefitted from one even more)  The difference between us and them is we respect the SGF enough not to make a poorly done and not all that funny Sassy Gay Friend:  Lord of the Rings on our own.  So we strongly recommend that you not watch any Sassy Gay Friends that do not work for Second City.

What, what, what are you doing?

Suspending Our Regular Program

Alright, if you’ve been paying attention to the rhythm of this blog, you know that when Friday is my day to post, I usually post a BSG list.  But this week there’s a wee problem.  We only have one list left and I seem to have misplaced it.  So until I find it or we reconstruct it and/or write more (though it might be time to stop beating that dead horse for a while) the BSG lists are on hiatus.

Instead we’re going to talk about a little issue I have.  Suspending disbelief.

Clearly I don’t have an overall problem with suspending disbelief.  I mean, I love Sci-Fi, fantasy and musicals.  And soap operas.  In general, I’m all over suspending disbelief.  I’m an incredibly uncritical viewer.  But there are moments that break me.  And not the ones you’d think.

For example, Stargate SG-1.  Magic portal that transports people to the other side of the universe?  This I will accept without blinking.  And anthropologist that looks like Daniel Jackson?  Okay, seriously?  I’m not sure I can buy that.  (And I’m not alone on this one.  When I pointed to the character and explained to faithful reader Mary that he was an anthropologist, she snorted and said, “No, he’s not.”)

Another example:  Lord of the Rings (the movie trilogy, I think the moment in question happened in The Two Towers)—the moment where Sam and Frodo fall down the hill outside the gates of Mordor and Sam gets stuck in the gravel.  Frodo throws his cloak over them and the soldier that comes over to investigate mistakes them for a rock.  There’s something about the camera work in this sequence that makes it impossible for me to believe the guard doesn’t see them.  Again, the whole “magic ring has the power to cover the earth in darkness” is totally believable in my brain.  But this moment?  Pulls me out of it, every time.

Sometimes my reactions aren’t even on base.  Take my soap opera of choice, One Life to Live.  We’re talking about a show where people come back from the dead with a fair amount of regularity.  Where the “good” characters go through a dozen marriages or so.  But when the show revealed that Jessica and Natalie Buchanan were twins but had different fathers I went, “Okay, OLTL, you’re really reaching here.”  Thing is?  It turns out it’s actually possible (the real world kind of possible) for twins to have different fathers.  My mother’s even seen it happen.

So anyway, long and the short of it is I don’t really understand why these moments jump out at me.  And yoink me out of my happy fictional world.  (Okay, I really do think in my second example camera work has something to do with it)  But I feel like it needs to be said.  For the children (so long as they aren’t hot anthropologists or half-sister twins).  I don’t think I’m the only one this happens to, but it seems to be different for everyone.  One of my old roommates always said the part about Lord of the Rings she couldn’t believe was the whole Frodo being willing to give up his life for the good of the world thing.  Clearly she and I are different.