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For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There's no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It's the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other's choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It's the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn't object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O'Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I'd be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It's as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game's Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game's creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity's concept of coolness -- that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness -- entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who's not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don't try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn't, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you're still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it's hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what's shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card -- the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" -- signals that the game's creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity's treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn't really know how to accommodate them -- they're comedy gold! I mean, really -- can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he'd be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can't really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before -- ever! They're just...like... wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity's decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they're not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
modernwizard: (Default)
...Poorly Dressed is racist. Also classist and sexist. It's a site on the Cheezburger network that mocks "seriously questionable style moments." They derive a lot of their mockery from the fantastic things that women of color do with their hair.

In a textbook example, a WOC who sculpted an Easter basket out of her hair + weave got trashed. She [or her hairdresser] demonstrated amazing creativity and ingenuity to create an eye-catching work of art that then got shit on by the Intertubez, where commenters characterized her as a cheap, tacky, "ghetto" person with no sense of style. Basically she was vilified for being a WOC whose hairstyle [e.g., using a weave] is associated with poor and working class women.
modernwizard: (Default)
This Band Aid stinker is the most colonialist, objectifying, racist, condescending piece of shit ever. I mean, seriously. African people experiencing hunger, starvation and food insecurity are even explicitly referred to as "the other ones," thus distanced and separated from the ostensible audience of the song, which is privileged [non-African] listeners from colonizing countries who have enough to eat. I understand that the song is trying to contrast the want of some people with the plenty of others, but the words that the lyricists use make the people in need sound practically subhuman.

I also really love how an entire continent is portrayed as a miserable monolith. No one's ever happy -- "...the only water flowing / Is a bitter sting of tears" -- in part because the weather's rotten ["that burning sun"] all the time. The entire landmass is apparently omitted from the water cycle, as there are no rivers there...or any precipitation, for that matter. Most tragically of all, everyone on the continent has no idea what date it is because they suffer a grievous calendar shortage.

Of course, the song portrays the solution to this dire lack of date tracking as colonialism: "Let them know it's Christmas time and / Feed the world." Yeah, have a sudden attack of white guilt and throw food at those ignorant people down there...or at least throw money. Your donations will magically function as a civilizing process that will turn them into devout Christians who can tell time and appropriately worship Our Lord and Savior the Son of God Capitalism.

Holy shit, that's a wretched song.

modernwizard: (Default)
After I posted about beautiful, but expensive, 54mm minifigs, Elizabeth Jr. clued me into the fact that the original Polly Pockets were less than an inch high and therefore approximately in range for 1:6 scale for 1:6ers. I poked around for them ["vintage polly pocket"] on Ebay, but the prices were too high for my liking, at a few dollars per figure. I decided to seek other sources.

I've had success in the past with Homies, who have the added bonus of being hilariously sculpted. Unfortunately, the price of individual Homies seems to have gone up since I last purchased them to by Ellery's dolls, but I have found some alternatives. Vendstock on Ebay sells the following sets that could be useful as a source for female dolls [Isabel, my latest doll nerd, isn't really into male dolls]: American Girl [no, not that American Girl], So Fly Divas and Tomy/Barbie.

Incidentally, Vendstock also sells the latest Domo series. [That's the fuzzy brown rectangle with big teeth that serves as the Japanese TV station NHK's mascot.] I have actually seen this series in local vending machines, where I was amused by the Domo wearing bling. This set also features mustachioed Domo, luchador Domo, Domo with big blocky glasses, Domo with an inner tube, Domo in diapers, devil Domo and Godzilla Domo, who is, of course, bigger than the other Domos. I think I might have to get the set, since Domo has always amused me. ^_^

EDIT: In my search for fat Homies for Isabel's collection of fat dolls, I discovered that there is a Trailer Park series of Homies [Trailer Parkies? :p ]. A majority of the Trailer Parkies are fat, thus playing into the stereotype that people who live in trailer parks are poor, stupid and disgusting. I'm also disturbed that there's only one woman among the Trailer Parkies. Her name is Moo Moo Ma. [Yes, she's fat.] How's that for sexist, anti-fat objectification?!!

modernwizard: (Default)
Grimm is back for a second season, and it's still incredibly stupid. The latest episode, Bad Moon Rising, follows our protagonist, police detective Nick, as he chases a gang of coyote Wesen [= therianthropes]. The gang leader kidnaps his teenaged niece, Carlie, who, along with her parents, left the pack when she was very young. The gang leader plans to rape Carlie, as is apparently customary for coyote Wesen to increase the numbers of their pack.

Read more... )
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I got about halfway through 50 Shades Darker [book 2 in the 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James] last night. It picks up several days after the end of the first book, when Ana and Christian break up, for reasons that I'm not quite clear on. When Christian proposes that they try again with a non-kinky, completely vanilla relationship [hah hah hah!], they're off and running [or, rather, bonking]. There's something of a plot in there too, involving Ana's new job at Seattle Independent Press, Christian's ex-domme, one of Christian's emotionally labile ex-subs, Christian's secret past, et hoc genus omne.

I'd like to talk about Ana's "inner goddess." Introduced toward the end of book 1, she appears in pretty much every other paragraph, usually in counterpoint to Ana's "subconscious." Like Ana's "subconscious," the "inner goddess" is personified, apparently as a multi-talented Olympic athlete, given her acrobatic performances of joy whenever Ana thinks about getting kinky. Beyond that, she serves no useful function; she's just a convenient image for James to use in describing Ana's lust. So, if the "subconscious" and the "inner goddess" do nothing to advance Ana's character development or the plot, why does James insert them on every damn page?! Characters in one's head can be interesting, compelling and revelatory if done with care, purpose and depth, but these are just useless, stupid and annoying.

On another note, I'm fascinated by the tensions of class warfare as exhibited by Ana and Christian. Ana seems to have grown up [from what I can tell -- she doesn't have much history] in a middle-class family; as a college student, she had little spare money [hence driving the same beat-up car for three years], and she currently earns an entry-level publishing salary [which, let me tell you, is diddly squat] in her first post-college job. At this point, I'd call her lower middle-class, aspiring to higher, and rather anxious about money.

Meanwhile, Christian has millions, maybe billions. For the first few years of his life, he grew up in poverty, but, since adoption at the age of 4, he has been surrounded by ostentatious, fabulous wealth. He uses money casually and confidently, without anxiety about it at all.

Ana and Christian clash on financial matters. Christian spends exorbitant amounts on gifts for Ana, including a set of first-edition Tess of the d'Urbervilles, a laptop, a Blackberry, an Audi, an iPad, diamond jewelry and a Saab. He doesn't understand that this makes Ana, who earns much less, feel unworthy, subordinate, bought off and kept. He explains that he wants to "give [her] everything," that this is "how [he is]" and that this is "part of [his] world." Nope, he just wants to make her his objectified possession, as evidenced by the fact that he buys the publishing company Ana works for [ostensibly because he's jealous that Ana's boss shows interest in her, which is a great reason for a takeover]. He uses his socioeconomic privilege to control Ana's communication [laptop, Blackberry, iPad], transportation [Audi, Saab] and occupation [Seattle Independent Press]. It's like the 1% overruling the 99%, but with bonus secret childhood trauma!
modernwizard: (Default)
We frequent several grocery stores within walking distance of our apartment: a Whole Foods [for produce], a Trader Joe's [for frozen food], a local co-op [for milk and quick trips and a Shaw's/Star Market [for prepared foods and to recycle bottles and plastic bags]. All of these stores sell reusable cloth shopping bags, which we use about 75% of the time. But only Whole Foods sells the reusable bags that piss me off.

As shown in this online store, the annoying reusable bags are bright yellow with the following message on them: I'M SAVING THE PLANET. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

This conspicuous, confrontational environmentalism pisses me off because its point is not just to "save a tree," but also to "look fashionable while doing it" [quote from organize.com]. I have a problem with pro forma environmentalism where the appearance of environmentalism matters more than actual actions, as is the case with this bag. The text on the bag equates "saving the planet" with using this particular bag or, by extension, making a show of one's environmentalism. 

Furthermore and much more problematically, the implied contrast between the owner who is "saving the planet" and the audience who is being interrogated suggests that the audience is not doing anything to save the planet. The audience may be doing environmentally conscious activities in other areas of life; or the audience may have mitigating factors that prevent them from spending extra money in order to flaunt their environmentalism like white urban bourgeois hipsters. The bag will not admit of these possibilities. In the limited calculus of the bag, bag = saving the planet = cool. No bag = harming Mother Earth = evil. At first this bag seems like a minor irritant, but it's actually an explosive mess of classist [and possibly racist] assumptions.
modernwizard: (Default)
Oh, what a dreadful dilemma the aging hipster parents, in their 40s and expecting kids for the first time, face. They have spent so much time creating exquisite, exorbitant interiors, and they now must change their plans. 

Must their curtains woven from mermaid farts and moonbeams succumb to the slovenly onslaughts of partly formed humans who cannot properly wield spoons? 

Will the throne of imported unicorn horns, garnished in a tastefully pseudo-ethnic pattern with laser-etched bees' knees, be relegated to the garage before a tiny being with the gait of a drunken landlubber trying to set up a folding chair on the deck of a ship in a typhoon careens into its corner and bumps its head?

Who gives a shit?

The New York Times Home & Garden section, with its earnest examination of the heart-wrenching dilemmas faced by 0.0000000000000000003% of the U.S. population, cannot be taken seriously.  Most people make a compromise between their new kids and the fabulously decorated, kid-unfriendly house they lived in before kids. I'm sure there's some wailing and gnashing of teeth as certain beloved objects are discarded or removed, but it's not a tragic turning point of life worthy of some Catholic Sacrament of Banished Knickknacks. By characterizing this compromise as some sort of undefeatable tension in the lives of new hoity-toity parents, the New York Times makes the interviewees come off as self-absorbed idiots who not-so-secretly like their Louis Quatorze chairs more than their kids. 

BITE THE WAX TADPOLE, MORONS!!
modernwizard: (Default)

The Onion launches a barrage of zingers at the radio show This American Life. It is a very funny article. All the zingers find their mark as the piece deflates the bombastic, precious excesses of TAL. Here's my favorite part, a fictional quote from TAL producer Alex Blumberg:

"At first, we were getting a lot of stories from recovered drug addicts and East African refugees living in the States, which had their compelling elements but came off a bit cloying...But then we realized that if we had overeducated people with voices rather unsuitable for radio narrate the stories with clever analogies and accessible morals, the whole thing would come off far less depressing."

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