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Steven Moffat and gender

It's been remarked in the past by some that Steven Moffat has misogynistic undertones in his script writing. There's no doubt that gender stereotypes is something he reveled in when he wrote Coupling, but i think that that's forgivable in some ways because that's kind of what the show was about - amplifying and making humorous the differences between men and women and how that created push and pull in the various relationships in the show.

While i'm a much bigger fan of Moffat's executive decisions regarding Doctor Who over his predecessor Russell T. Davies, I can't deny the fact that his scripts can definitely have sexist undertones in a way that's more disturbing since at heart, Who is still a children's show. Moffat has strongly denied allegations that he's sexist or misogynistic and has essentially tried to pawn it off as people blowing his throwaway lines out of proportion, but i always found it difficult to ignore various throwaway lines that he would put into his scripts that to me definitely sounded misogynistic. In Let's Kill Hitler, it was the line that the Doctor said directly to Amy, "To be fair, she is a woman," followed by an immediate excuse line, "Oh shut up, I'm dying!" In The Time of the Doctor, it was the line of "Now that is a woman!" when Tasha Lem was able to fight back against the Dalek inside of her - which regardless of it being used as more of a compliment in that way still reeks of gender separation to me because it shouldn't have mattered whether or not she was a woman or not - the line would have been better delivered if it were more of a "Now that's an amazing human being!" or something that didn't try to amplify the strengths - or weaknesses - of one gender over another. There are a few other examples that i can't think of right now.

But it wasn't until I watched the most recent episode (Deep Breath) that i had to revise my opinion slightly. Prior to Capaldi's debut, i would have begrudgingly admitted that i thought that Moffat was at least mildly misogynistic. After watching it, i now think he might be merely sexist - not specifically towards women, but towards both genders. What brought this to light was a specific exchange between Jenny and Madame Vastra:

Jenny: "So humans are monkeys now, are they?"
Vastra: "No, my love. Humans are apes. Men are monkeys."

This exchange is the first that i remember Moffat ever wrote that used gender to deliver an insult to a male as opposed to all prior examples that were female, and that's what makes me think that he's merely sexist. He doesn't take a look at someone and think "person" before he thinks "woman" or "man", and that gender separation is something that he can't get out of his head, therefore it creeps into his scripts.

Don't get me wrong, i don't think that that's better. Highlighting the differences between the two in any context like that is a bad idea even as a throwaway line. Go back to the South Park episode "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000" for reasoning on that. It's just interesting, and a little disheartening. Despite Russell T Davies's flaws as a script-writer, very few of his writing ever had gender banter or gender separation. I wish that Moffat would do the same.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

the movie pretty much boiled down to some genuinely great moments surrounded by an absolute mess - clunky plot, clunky dialogue, and clunky transitions. there were too many times that i groaned inwardly at all of the Dramatic! Acting! and too many times when i was annoyed at plot-moving points that made no sense whatsoever.

almost all of the action scenes were boring and predictable, and there was never any real tension in the film with the one exception of the "prison breakout plan", and that tension was built up in an annoyingly superficial way. there is absolutely no reason for a commander to take five plus guys with rocket launchers and say, "let's just fire one at a time for a few volleys and then i'll give the real command to have everyone fire all together just in time for there to be a solution."

and it's frustrating because beneath it all there was potential for something really great there and i bet with a better director it would have been. it wasn't quite Michael Bay, but i could be convinced that it was a distant cousin.

fails the bechdel test. the two named female characters do have some decent dialogue moments, but all of those moemnts were essentially pissing contests about who's the better daughter.

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i've said this many times and it won't be the last time: the greatest part of the personal and professional relationship that i have with mark is how we complement each other. he has strengths that are my weaknesses, he has weaknesses that are my strengths, and everything in between. and the bottom line has always been one of profound mutual respect and trust, especially in the knowledge that even though we approach our teaching in different ways, ultimately the bottom line is we always have the same goal of creating the best experience for our students as possible.

it was three nights ago that Mark had his last night as a full New Orleanian resident. It still doesn't feel quite real, but tonight (when i was walking to the grocery store to get supplies for cooking of all times), the sadness of it hit me ever so slightly. Of course there's excitement - excitement for his new adventures in portland as well as for the rest of his family, and excitement for myself to take on the new challenge of stepping into his role as the assistant director of bands. But the vacancy of their presence in New Orleans is a jarring one and will continue to be as new things remind me of them.

as it relates to the tulane job, i'm already starting to make adjustments in the way that i approach decision-making and responsibility, and i'm mentally preparing myself for the new stuff as much as i can, as much as i can absorb at once. There's so much for me to learn, and a lot that i'm not good at - and that's the stuff that i need to focus on, force myself and train myself to get better at those things. You don't come out of a percussion performance degree by just playing that one instrument that you excel at, you don't win DDR competitions by just playing Max 300 over and over again, you don't become a better poker player by ignoring your leaks and how that affects your profit.

of all of the challenges that i'm preparing myself to face, there are two that are the big ones. One i can't talk about unless i put this entry behind a friends-cut which i'm not going to do - that may go into a separate entry. The other is that right now we're not planning on hiring a replacement for my job until sometime in the spring, and while i already have in place a person who will take over my duties with the drumline, the administrative aspects of my current job will stay with me on top of all of the administrative duties i absorb from mark's job.

it's daunting. it feels beyond me and makes me nervous in a way that i haven't felt in a very long time. and that's awesome. because it's driving me, making me demand of myself that i rise up to that challenge. i know i won't suck at it. but being merely good at it is not an option. I need to be great. I have to do justice to Mark's legacy and dedicate myself to the student experience and to the program's success.

And somehow write a wind ensemble piece by january in my spare time.

It's a'comin'.

time to see what i'm made of.

Black Dynamite (2009)

When i watched this movie, i couldn't help but compare it to Napolean Dynamite. It has that characteristic, where the universe is over-the-top ridiculous and the characters are over-the-top ridiculous and that creates for some great hilarity and some amazing laugh-out-loud moments.

Napolean Dynamite is a better in its construction in a few ways - plot development, because some of the twists and turns in Black Dynamite don't make much sense even in the context that it's creating for itself. Character development, because there's a pivotal moment in Napolean Dynamite where, even though Napolean himself doesn't change the person that he is, the perception of who and how he is changes drastically to his peers - which is the big payoff moment in the movie that still makes it one of my favorite movies of all time.

That said, Black Dynamite is a fun romp - well-constructed in its own right, top to bottom in its details and the genre of film that it's mimicking/paying tribute to. Its ridiculousness is a craft that is strongest in the beginning of the movie, but still sustains pretty well throughout even after the viewer gets used to it, and it hits the mark much more than it misses in a lot of its individual moments even if the bigger structure doesn't sustain as well as it could.

fails the bechdel test. despite there being a few prominent female characters, no two female characters ever talk to each other, and in fact, almost every instance of a female character talking at all is conversation with Black Dynamite that ultimately is about how awesome Black Dyanmite is. But the whole movie pretty much functions like that anyway - kind of like Jack Reacher, except that in Jack Reacher, you're supposed to take the movie seriously, which is absolutely ludicrous. Tom Cruise at his most serious has nothing on Michael Jai White at his most ridiculous.

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flabbergasting poker hand.

in about 2.5 hours i had already built up my initial $200 stack to $1000 because people were being pretty stupid against me - none of it was me getting lucky or them getting unlucky, it was all things like, "i just flopped the nut straight" or "i flopped the nut flush" and i would somehow get three-way all-in action. I also had AA twice and stacked my opponent both times - one who had about $200 and had KK, another who had about $450 and had QQ.

But the most flabbergasting hand of the evening was one against a quiet asian guy sitting immediately to my right. He was clearly a green player not just to the casino but to poker in general i think because he kept on doing strange sorts of actions. Some simple stuff like betting $5 into $75 pots or trying to make illegal raises - there was one point when someone had raised to $10 and he tried to raise to $15 (this is on a 1/2), but he did it as a string-raise, and didn't understand and tried to argue with the dealer when the dealer told him that he a) did a string raise and b) it wasn't a legal raise in the first place.

So in the hand in question, he had about $225 in front of him and in early position he raises to $10. I look down and see AhAc, so i raise to $30. Everyone else folds around to him, and he calls.

Board comes AK8 with a club draw. He checks. I bet $40. He calls. Turn comes 5d. He checks. I bet $60. He calls.

River comes 8. The guy immediately FLIPS HIS HAND OVER. He has KK. He looks at the dealer (Brandon) and taps his hand as if to say, "this is the hand that i have." It clearly wasn't a check. He thought that the action was complete.

I'm shell-shocked. Brandon looks at me with laughter behind his eyes. I say to him, "i have no idea what to do here." Because i kind of felt bad. This guy is clearly has no idea what's going on, and the extent of how much that was true was shown in this moment. I stare at Brandon and then at the player for about another ten seconds, not even quite sure if action was actually on me, and what i should even do about it. For a fraction of a second i consider checking, but then i come to my senses because that's fucking stupid. i throw in a green stack that clearly puts him all-in. He gathers his chips up slowly into a single stack and then pushes it over the line. I flip over my AA. Brandon takes his KK and folds it, and the player doesn't object, but is also looking at my hand and at the dealer as if he's unclear about whether or not all of the chips are going to go my way or his. The chips go my way, he stares at the board again and at my hand as if he doesn't quite know what just happened, and then he gets up and leaves.

Brandon left the table soon after. After about five minutes, i went to the table where he was dealing and discovered that he had just finished telling his current table what had happened. They're all "wtf" and ask me to confirm the details, so i do, and we all laugh.

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I'll write about my trip soon, but i wanted to jot this out there while i had the opportunity before i thrust myself back into work.

yesterday i took a peek at a few of the 2014 drum corps shows out there, and this is the impression i had of the ones that i saw:

1. Blue Devils.  Not nearly as good as their 2013 show.  Couldn't watch to the end, appreciated how well they performed.  Moving those platforms from a single platform into "lanes" for the corps to march through is a huge mistake - it's impossible to make that look good without big picture guidance, and it stuck out as a visual eyesore until they moved it to a new form.
2. Cadets.  There have been years where I could get over my personal bias against the Cadets, say, "yeah i don't like them, but their show was pretty great."   This show was kind of the antithesis of that.  I was done after about two minutes, but stuck it out for another two before i had to shut it off.  The hornline clearly had a bad night that night or they're just not that great.  But more than that, the show design was dull dull dull.  It felt like it was trapped in its own brand and didn't know how to get out.  The concept, the horn arranging, the overall show design felt antiquated and didn't feel anything different from the Cadets ten years ago.
3. Crown.  Very compelling show.  That metal drum solo thing was awesome, reminded me a lot of what David Lang would do if he were to write for drums.  Horn line was pretty outstanding, although the mellophone writing was a little show-offy for my taste.  Overall show design both visually and musically was pretty great, except for the closer - the drill was awesome, but the music felt out of character from the rest of the show.
4. Cavaliers. I like the show design overall, although I can't say that it was a superior show design to Devils or Cadets, it was just more to my taste.  The hornline must be super young because it was clear that by the end of the show they were tired as their intonation went to shite.  The marimba solo thing was pretty hokey, but it was unique and effective, so i appreciate it even though it wasn't exactly my sort of thing.

Probably this weekend i'll take the time to watch a bunch of shows in full length, maybe even grudge my way through the Cadets show even though i know i'll just hate it more, but we'll see.   I have a lot of stuff to take care of, and i'm on a huge momentum kick right now, so i want to keep that going while i have a chance.

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MGM Grand Detroit poker room

to get to the poker room, you have to go past a bouncer and up an elevator where both the poker room and one of the night clubs exist side by side.  There's enough separation between the two that it's not a big deal, when i was playing i never really noticed any outside noise.

The room itself holds 9 tables.  The tables are laid out pretty spaciously - they could have fit a few more tables in there, but i'm not sure what sort of demand there is at that room since out of the nine tables there were only five games running on a holiday thursday evening.  It took me about 25-30 minutes to get an actual seat.  I should have called ahead.  For some reason even though they used the Bravo system, their information didn't show up on my Bravo app.  I'm not sure why.

The dealers were competent at their job but they were generally pretty quiet.  not unfriendly, but not very talkative or social.  There was one exception, but he pretty much talked to just one person who he knew outside of work, and he was a pretty bad dealer in his unprofessionalism.  He was only half-focused on his job as dealer, the rest of it was focused on watching the baseball game.  Dealers at Harrah's New Orleans will glance at the tvs sometime, but they only ever glance.  This guy was blatantly watching, with his eyes glued to the tv while he was shuffling and while action was going on.  He also didn't have great customer service skills.  He asked me when i first sat down (he was the first dealer) if i wanted to post my blind to come in right away, and when i said no, he said, "um, okay" in a way that felt judgmental.  He made similar sorts of commentary to other people every now and again when they would do things that felt strange to him.  nothing big and not for too long, but it was clear that he didn't really like the job or was in a super bad mood and couldn't "keep it off the field" (in band/drum corps terms).

All of the tables were 1/2 (there was an interest list for 2/5, but that game never started) and on my table all of the players were horrible.  There were four players that were super tight nitty - if they ever invested money in the pot, you fold, period.  There were three player who were more aggressive and better players, but they were generally pretty easy to read - strong means weak and weak means strong.  there was one person in particular who always overbet the pot when he was on a draw, every time without fail.  he busted before i got a chance to exploit that knowledge on one particularly stupid hand where he flat-called when he flopped trips and then tried to bluff-bet the river when the board paired again (Q66, 3, Q) when it was clear the other player had a Q.

a lot of the hands i was getting were trash, so my image was fairly tight.  in the span of 1.5 hours, i played maybe 4-5 hands, and in all situations i never had to show my cards to anyone.  only one of them was a semibluff, where preflop i reraised a $15 bet to $65 with KK intending to ship the flop if it was heads up because the guy who initially raised had a super wide raising range.  Board had an A, and i shipped the turn and villain folded.  all of the other hands i had strong enough and monopolized on my image and my understanding of the players.  One guy bet on a K board when i had KQ which to me meant he likely had air or he had a weak kicker, so i raised his turn bet so that if he called he'd likely check the turn and i could check behind (in the offchance that he had a monster which was less likely but still possible), and he mucked when i raised.

All in all it wasn't a bad experience and i wish i could have stayed longer, but i have a prediction that the casino across the street, Motor City, would have been a better room.  if i go back to the detroit area any time soon i'll give it a try and see what happens.

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Edge of Tomorow (2014)

I wanted to go see the X-Men movie, but Megan had already seen it, so we watched this instead.  The only thing i knew about the movie was that Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt were the headliners, the former of which i generally dislike and the latter of which i like quite a bit.  In that, my expectations were met.  Tom Cruise was very Tom Cruise and i internally rolled my eyes a lot at how Tom Cruise he was.  Emily Blunt was very Emily Blunt, which translated in my mind as being generally pretty bad-ass.

The cinematic style of the movie made me have to close my eyes some of the time because the beach action scenes and a few other action scenes were shaky camera which makes me feel nauseous.  For the beach scenes this didn't bother me because i found those action scenes in general to be pretty annoying even with the cleverness of some of the variants involved.  i know that that's a personal preference of mine; those scenes were all about flash and fast-paced and chaos of battle, and i've always been much more about focus, subtlety, and "less is more", which clearly reflects in my own creative work.

As far as the movie itself, i'm pretty sure i liked it.  It had a decent mix of serious vs light-hearted moments, the pacing was very solid, and despite the fact that it had some nagging issues both small and big, that didn't detract from me being captivated by the movie.  In general, i measure how much i like or dislike a film or television show/episode based on how much the issues i recognize are a) things i recognize right away versus things i recognize more after the fact and/or b) whether or not those things end up distracting me from the movie itself as i'm watching it.  There were only a few moments in this movie where i felt like a poorly scripted line or a poorly executed idea truly distracted me, so i think i walk away from it thinking it was a success.

As far as some of the nagging issues that surfaced after watching it and thinking about it:

spoilersCollapse )
All that said, i still think the movie was pretty entertaining and all of those quibbles are minor.  I probably would have liked it better if the main protag would have been, say, Nathan Fillion or something, but you take what you can get.

Pretty sure it fails the bechdel test, but i'm still getting used to looking for that specifically when i watch movies (which isn't often).  There's one other female character that i can recall had a speaking part other than Emily Blunt, but the two of them never interacted.

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quick update (and ties).

Things have been stupid busy since i've been all motivated and stuff with my LEAP Motion project, things are ramping up at Tulane, and the first leg of my summer travel starts tomorrow.  It's actually been making my sleep schedule habits all weird because i work best at night, so my habit has been to get home from work, crash and take a 3-6 hour nap, and then get up and do a bunch of work until 3-5am until i take another nap before having to get up for work.

It's made it so that i've fallen off of the map on here again in some ways, both backed up as a friends feed lurker and as a writer, but i guess only by maybe 3-5 days.  There are a couple of backlogged entries that are still in draft form somewhat inspired by belenen that maybe while i'm at home i'll take the time to write or at least get more complete, but i actually anticipate that a lot of my spare time is going to go towards programming and music-writing more than anything else.

The one anecdote that i'll relate at present is one concerning ties.  I have a weird relationship with ties.  I used to hate ties as a concept because i felt like it got in the way of my preferred formal neck ornaments which was usually one of my pendants/necklaces.  Now i kind of like them, but i'm incredibly picky about the color and the style.

Two weekends from now i'm going to be officiating a wedding.  The official colors of the wedding are a sort-of aqua blue and various forms of peach.  I decided that for the officiating i wanted to try to find some sort of white tie with a peach tint to it, and it's amazing how many hours i went around various local shops (because i don't trust online shopping as it relates to exact color all of the time) and found nothing even remotely close to what i wanted.

I'm going to try again when i'm home to find one, and if i can't find one that i really like after a few hours of searching, i think i'm just going to go with a white tie.  I think that for the future, i may try to find an online store in which i can be assured of the quality of the tie itself and i can basically create my own design being very specific about the colors down to the hexadecmial values and how one value could pattern or gradient to another.

For a frickin' tie.

Because i'm absolutely ridiculous sometimes.

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great talk about violence against women.

a lot of this talk has always been fairly obvious to me (which is one of the big reasons why although i have no issues with curse words, i very consciously try to avoid using the word "pussy" to imply weakness or "balls" to imply strong because those are gender biased), but it's nice for the issue and its potential long-range solution to be articulated so well.  Here's one of my favorite quotes that happens in the last couple of minutes:

"we know so much about how to prevent domestic and sexual violence.  There's no excuse for a college or university to not have domestic and sexual violence training mandated for all student athletes, coaches, and administrators as a part of their educational process.  We know enough that we can easily do that, but you know what's missing?  The leadership.  But not the leadership of student athletes, it's the leadership of the athletic director, the president of the university, the people in charge who make decisions about resources."

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August 2014