Tag Archives: links

Good News in the Wake of the Riots

We watched coverage of our nation’s capital as it rioted and burned; others, fewer in number but more immediately affected, watched it from their living room windows as businesses that had stood for generations were set alight and looted. The events of the last three nights have been horrifying, with a thousand potential explanations but none of them ringing true.

It would be easy to see this in apocalyptic terms, forces of destruction and anarchy let loose upon the world as financial markets plummet and the corruption of authority figures exposed. But this isn’t armageddom, a cleansing divine flame hasn’t got a grudge against Nandos and Footlocker. Today seems to be the start of the hangover, but also the moment communities were able to regroup and reclaim. So instead of this post being a further rant, I wanted to link to some of the good news that’s emerging; before the recriminations start, notice the range of age, class and ethnicity represented below – if the country’s going to rebuild, we need to hold on to that, not the darker angels of human nature that are sure to arise in the next few days…

Riot Wombles – After the recent hockey riots in Vancouver, affected communities arranged mass clean-up operations to get things back together. Well, the same thing has happened in London, Birmingham and Liverpool, with thousands of people pledging support. And, because this is Britain, the name that’s sticking to these volunteers is ‘Riot Wombles. Somehow this is far more British than rioting.

The Turkish and Kurdish Communities of Hackney – A group of residents stand up for their area by defending Kingsland Road in Hackney.

Restaurant Staff Defend Diners With Rolling Pins – Similar to the link above, kitchen staff at The Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill defended diners with kitchen utensils when it was raided by rioters.

Lady yells at rioters – But in spite of all the above, a new hero has emerged. A lone lady, walking stick in hand, yells at rioters to grow up and fight for a cause, not violence. The clip contains Some Bad Words, but given the circumstances I think we can forgive her…

Welcome Back, Old Friend

My good friend Sudge has finally started blogging again; what my blog has in terms of randomness and a vague grasp on reality can be balanced out by Sudge’s thoughtfulness and writing talent. So check it out!

But please come back as well…

What’s So Bad About Doing Good?

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(Yes, that’s me pretending to steal a stuffed bear’s hat. It illustrates the point of the post. Almost. Sort of.)

Anyway, yesterday was Doctor Who Magazine day; I bought it of course, because I’m a big geek, and along with it I received a free copy of the Times. It was one of those offers WH Smith often does. As I took it, I noticed the banner above the headline: “The Power of Being Good”.

Now I know what you’re thinking: the Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, and therefore is part of an organisation that is currently considered to be… Well, not as evil as Hitler, but at least he’s been dead for sixty-six years. On the day that the phone hacking scandal reached new lows, what could a News International paper tell us about being good?

Well, the article starts off well, describing Norway’s response to the terrible murders over the weekend and the national concept of being good. Soon after it turned into a discussion about immigration (you’re shocked, aren’t you?), but the key phrase had already lodged itself inside my head: doing good.

Somewhere along the line, 1920’s America if my phone’s dictionary app is right, we decided that ‘do-gooder’ would make an effective insult. I’ve always thought that was strange; I get the idea that it refers to ineffectual or patronising or militant approaches to social improvement, but all the ssme, the words we use have power: has doing good become tarnished by the connotations of Do-Gooder?

(I guess it depends on the nature of the good being done – if you agree with it, it’s nice, if you don’t, it’s interfering do-gooding. Moral relativism on toast.)

I think we need to celebrate doing good a lot more than we do. Look at the news over the last week or so: a massacre in Norway, media/police/government corruption in the UK, US politicians determined to drive the world economy under a bus for no apparent good reason. But, as it’s easier to light a candle than curse the darkness…

  • I follow Edward James Olmos on Twitter because he was fantastic in the Battlestar Galactica remake, and discovered he’s a supporter of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to preventing the pollution of our waterways. They work through local chapters, so if this has piqued your interest, check them out! Tell them Admiral Adama sent you.
  • Voices for the Library are a group fighting cuts to library services throughout the UK. I naively thought I’d never see the day when public libraries were considered expendable but it’s here and the Voices team are leading the fight against it.
  • The Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for the East African famine is here;I don’t think anything needs adding to this.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, once said:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

I’m not even going to pretend I try to do this as often as I should, but it’s a lot easier to admire those who do than those who sit on the sidelines, eating popcorn and sneering ironically. When a lot of the institutions we once believed were permanent are revealed as corrupt and possibly transient due to the exposure of their malignant hearts, maybe doing good is the best weapon in our arsenal. And I guess this post is acting as an epiphany, because I don’t light candles as often as I want to; let this be the day I start.

And one day, when I’m gone, hopefully far in the future, I hope some nice person can stand up and say I contributed more than I sneered.

 

 

 

Diversity in Comics: Some thoughts on an article from DC Women Kicking Ass

Very good article about diversity in comic books over at the DC Women Kicking Ass site. Comics do tend to have a problem in representing anyone who isn’t an adult white male; speaking charitably, I think this is often a hangover from the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, eras when the medium was at the height of its popularity but working in a social context that’s not exactly remembered for its commitment to diversity (Superman was created in 1938, the same year that the House Committee on Un-American Activities kicked off; Silver Age icon Barry Allen first appeared in 1956, in which the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended). The big comic characters tend to be white men, and the inherent nostalgia of comic fans keeps it that way, not because of racism, just because people like Hal Jordan.

This doesn’t help, of course, and that conservative attitude towards the casts of comic books takes on a darker edge when someone dares introduce a new character to take on the mantle of a fallen hero, using the opportunity to make the fictitious universes more representative. The new character often fails to catch on and is killed off as a token sacrifice during a big event; the original character returns in a blaze of publicity and we’re back to square one.

(That said, back when I frequented comic message boards, I saw a fair few posts complaining about ‘political correctness’ which had worrying undertones.)

(Which is strange when you consider that Superman was once used to take down the Ku Klux Klan.)

This tends to be more visible when it comes to racial diversity, but it’s not like women get the best deal – writer Gail Simone (one of the best, but most under-rated, writers in comics today) created a website called ‘Women in Refrigerators’, dealing with how often the wives and girlfriends of heroes became victims of violence in order to drive the actions of a male character. In a medium increasingly driven by shock tactics, this is an ongoing issue – witness the fury of Atop the Fourth Wall when a little girl is murdered simply to grim-n-grittyize her father.

All of this assumes that the lack of diversity is an unintended consequence of an industry that’s become insular and cliquish, but as the article points out, there’s a lack of care and will in the industry to effectively tackle the issue, to the extent that the whole thing becomes a sin of omission. That means the medium hits a wall, facing a declining readership ironically at the same time that suprrhero movies are making millions. The article quotes the belief of some readers that, as the majority of comic readers are white males, the majority of characters should be too. But this is a chicken-and-egg situation based, frankly, on a stupid premise: how dumb is it to limit your market to such a ridiculous extent?

There are no easy answers, and that’s partly because the industry doesn’t seem too concerned about looking for them. That’s a shame and doesn’t bode well for the future of the medium. It would be a shame to see comics disappear because of this inward-looking apathy, but it takes a leap of faith on behalf of fandom to support a more representative comic industry. We get the comic books we deserve; in those terms we deserve a vibrant future, and a fossilised past no longer.

Writer’s Block: Stories of old

Who is your favorite mythical creature/character, and why?

Submitted By [info]herasrevenge

Either Superman (who’s becoming something of a modern myth), John Henry (“Gonna run that hammer down!”), or the Pig on the Wall.

But while we’re talking about mythology, I’m going to shamelessly link to some old posts I did on the subject here, here, here, here, here, and here