Starlight

Starlight

Starlight
May 12, 1998 — July 14, 2013

Snapshot: Yankee Stadium

IMG_20130412_192507My 26th birthday was celebrated in the rain at Yankee Stadium. I got to see a triple play and Mariano Rivera close a game.

But is the chicken soup people?

Note: I wrote this before I finished watching the first season, so these aren’t exactly my current opinions.

hannibal

I knew NBC’s Hannibal had finally won me over when the titular character was preparing dinner and, even as I squirmed and reached for a pillow to hide behind, I felt a sudden urge to raid the refrigerator. It’s those contradictory feelings that make this the most delightful television program I’ve watched in a long time. It’s disturbing and enticing, and disturbing because it’s enticing. I’m not a big fan of the horror genre usually, but Hannibal appeals to my specific tastes for atmospheric, psychological horror, the kind that relies more on what it doesn’t show and uses gore and violence in a restrained way.

It could easily be a police procedural of sorts, and I would still enjoy it. It has all the trappings: law enforcement officials solving crimes, quirky forensics specialists, progressively more shocking crimes to solve, that weird genius agent that no one understands. It could be a perfectly formulaic prime time drama, the sort of thing I expect from NBC and other networks, and I’d be fine with that because my standards for network television are through the floor.  Instead, this show asks us to walk down a darker path with it. I don’t know if it’s necessarily innovative, but it’s damn interesting to watch. I’m still not over my sense of “how the fuck did this end up on network TV?” wonder.

Hannibal Lecter as played by Mads Mikkelsen isn’t a sympathetic character, but he is intriguing and magnetic; there’s something about him that draws in the audience, convincing us to view him as the other characters do, even though unlike them we know the ugly truth about him. The first time Hannibal is shown attacking someone it’s genuinely shocking. It should be predictable — and still is on some levels — because we know what his deal is. We’ve squirmed through his dinner parties and giggled nervously at his little in-jokes, but it still manages to be shocking. Hannibal is able to lull us into a sort of complacent denial where we have to consciously remind ourselves that, yes, he does kill and eat people. Something in us is so desperate to reject that reality, because Hannibal Lecter is by all evidence a lucid, intelligent, cultured, and, yes, attractive man. This is not supposed to be the face of evil.

The show doesn’t let us off the hook, so to speak. There is no justification for what Hannibal or any of the other killers do, no “he only kills those who deserve it” bullshit, no presenting him as mentally ill. The other characters may use that sort of reasoning, but the show never allows the audience the luxury of wrapping up evil in mental illness terminology. Hannibal at one point states to a patient that psychopaths are not crazy, but rather fully lucid and aware of the consequences of their actions. This very notion is more stomach-turning than any lingering shot of Hannibal preparing human organs in his kitchen. We don’t like to accept that evil can be perfectly sane, but this show forces us to. Like Will Graham, we have to look.

Ender’s Game and putting away childish things

I don’t often quote the Bible, because I don’t enjoy explaining my complicated relationship with it. However, a particular verse from Corinthians has been bouncing around my head in light of all the controversy surrounding the upcoming Ender’s Game movie (two can play at the Bible appropriation game, Mr. Card):

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

See, I adored Ender’s Game when I was a kid, and I know I’m not alone in that. It was a seminal book for so many outcast nerdy kids who longed to be accepted, because, well, it’s about an outcast genius kid who literally saves the world. For me it was also the catalyst for many of my core friendships in middle school and high school. A copy loaned to me by a boy was how I found “my people”.

So I’ll freely admit that I watched the trailer for the movie and felt all that childhood nerd glee well up in my chest at those all too brief glimpses of the Zero G battle room. I mean, the Zero G battle room is the thing we all remember, right?

But all that is tainted by the author himself.

I guess it would be less difficult to “excuse” Orson Scott Card if he was just all talk. But the problem here is that Card isn’t just a bigoted old dinosaur, easily waved away as an outdated idiot; no, he actively campaigns for and gives money to organizations that seek to perpetuate institutionalized homophobia. He is an agent of continued oppression that directly affects my community. Clinging to childhood nostalgia is never worth supporting that in any fashion.

I know some passionate nerd and geek types will feel the need to hold on tight and justify why Ender’s Game is still worthy of their love, but sometimes childhood things aren’t worth revisiting. Some hold up and some need to be put away. This is the latter.

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Snapshot: New York Public Library

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Southern Accents

Note: This was supposed to a post about how in love I am with Karl Urban’s portrayal of Bones in the new Star Trek movies, but then I went off on a tangent about Southern accents and Southern culture. Maybe y’all will find that interesting.

Despite being a native Metro Atlantan, my ear isn’t fine tuned enough to tell you how genuine-sounding Karl Urban’s affected Southern accent is when he plays Bones. However, I do appreciate how muted it is and that it only truly comes out on the vowels. That’s a marker of an “educated” Southern accent.

Atlanta and the greater metro area are filled with so many transplants that there is no one distinguishable “Atlanta” accent. You’re more likely to hear New York, Pittsburgh, and Detroit accents here among the English-speaking population. On top of that there is the fact that well-educated Southerners are both explicitly and implicitly taught from an early age to excise as much of our accent as possible, because a pronounced Southern accent is regarded as ignorant-sounding, even among Southerners.

I generally speak with a neutral accent, unless I’m exhausted or drunk or around my family. Even within my family the Southern accents vary. My grandmother is from the “hills” and speaks with in a mountain dialect. My father is from Texas and despite living in Georgia for 30+ years, still has a pronounced Texas accent on certain words. My mother’s accent is generally neutral like mine because hers was the first generation to be explicitly taught to not speak “that way”. She had her Southern accent literally beaten out of her by teachers. I’m thankful all I got was yelled at for saying “y’all” in elementary school.

I often joke that if an actor wants to affect a genuine Atlanta accent they should study a Michigan accent. It’s not that far from the truth. And an interesting thing I discovered recently is that an inner city Atlanta accent and an inner city Detroit accent are identical because of a long history of worker migration between the two places.

My own accent is so muted that I’m usually mistaken for being from out of town. It wasn’t until I started traveling regularly and had people comment, that I realized I even had a Southern accent beyond my obstinate use of the word “y’all.” I’m perpetually bemused when people in other cities comment that my Southern accent is “pleasing” and “charming”. My knee-jerk response is still to apologize for sounding ignorant, and it’s a habit I’m working to break.

The perception of Southern accents as ignorant is tied to the most painful and infuriating parts of Southern culture. Because there is so much ignorance entrenched in the dominant culture here, everything all the way down to how we talk is perceived as ignorant. I can’t exactly say that’s an unjust accusation.

Oppression, racism, and sexism are intrinsic to the dominant Southern culture. However, like all things, the South is not a monolith and there are so many of us on the fringes of that dominate culture who are digging our heels in and fighting. There are so many voices here screaming and shouting until we are accepted into the narrative of what it means to be Southern.

Snapshot: A Friend’s Kitty

IMG_20130326_203228Lilith, a friend’s cat, lounging under the coffee table.