Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 07:31 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
Okay, yeah, then I'm never watching it either. :) I am pretty horrifyingly affected by certain portrayals of violence in literature and film (to the point of recurring obsessive thoughts for months afterward), so I try to take care of my poor broken brain. Especially when it comes to movies where the main theme is War Is Awful, they being some of the worst for what precisely triggers my oversensitive psyche.
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at 06:06 on 01-03-2012, valse de la lune
Out of interest: do you think there is a *right* way to be an expat in a country where you cart around a lot of colonial privilege, or will that privilege inevitably mean that you will end up with a detached, tourist-y relation to the place?


The first question to ask is: why are you even here?

For most expats it's the cheapness, it's the tax evasion, it's the "easy women who aren't like those feminazi bitches in the west." For the gap-year student scum it's to get "rounded out as a person" (exotic Thirdworldia is an accessory to one's soul-searching or whatever insipid twaddle it is that western gap-year student scum do) and to earn enough to cover travel expenses teaching English (which is exploitative, and you get paid double or triple what a local teacher does). Consider this thing:

Two months until I return to [North America]. I am definitely doing a third year in South Korea with how crap the economy has tanked in the West. In the East I can live as a queen of a small fiefdom, in the West I work as a slave. Do the math, where is the pride in a job and in the self? I go where the money is, enough said.

Look at that endless vortex of exploitative selfishness. Look at that racism.

I'd tell you what qualifies as "good" motivations to be an expat in Thailand. But you know what? I can't think of a single one. Out of all the white expats I've encountered I can name one who's a good and decent person. The majority are neo-colonialist parasites and freeloaders with no respect for our laws, authorities, cultures, or even simple manners. Maybe if you want to come work as a rural doctor (though even that is quite fraught; I think the point came up on the playpen ages ago)? Maybe if westerners came to do unskilled labor here? That's about the only context in which they may be of some use.

Adrienne: I am definitely not comfortable saying that white people in Thailand are somehow morally obligated to suffer through some incredible amount of exclusion and hostility in order to have "meaningful" interactions with locals

I guess I didn't mention that many Thai people have an amazing case of worship-the-honky. I only wish my countrypeople were hostile and exclusive and hosed whites on sight. It's the easiest thing for a white expat to integrate, but of course none of them wants to do that. They just want to sit around in a bar with other expats, and whine how persecuted and excluded and how everything is crap and not as "progressive" as the west and wah wah wahhhhhh.
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at 06:03 on 01-03-2012, Michal
Oh, I certainly think it's required viewing for anyone with any sort of interest in what the Second World War means in Eastern Europe. It's the most visceral film experience I've had; the first time I saw it was for a screening in a Holocaust film class, and I was pale and visibly trembling by the end (as were a good many other students. I don't think anyone there was left unaffected).
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at 05:58 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
Michal - what do you tell people/what is it about the film's description that makes them have the "will never, ever watch that" response?
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at 05:38 on 01-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I have not seen that movie. But I think I should. (How I will get ahold of it is, of course, another question.)

Incidentally, you've inadvertently reminded me to add a point to something that's been sitting in the queue that's...tangentially related to this movie.

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at 05:06 on 01-03-2012, Michal
Quick question for y'all: Has anyone else here watched Come and See (Иди и смотри)?

I don't know how many times I've recommended this film, and almost always received an "I will never, ever watch that" response.
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at 04:53 on 01-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
China Miéville's hopping back into YA again, and his upcoming book has me mildly curious, mostly due to my love of trains.

Hmm...this one appears in May, and K. J. Parker's new book and Ian Tregillis' long-delayed sequel to Bitter Seeds are appearing in June. Throw in Spec Ops: The Line and Prototype 2, and I've got a pretty busy month. Pricey too.
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at 01:26 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
Oh, by the way, I highly recommend skipping this book: http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Patrick-OLeary/dp/0312864035 The titular Gift, as far as I can tell, is the incredible gift the main characters all have for blithely disregarding the idea of women as people.
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at 01:21 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
Andy G, I don't actually know -- I do, myself, "cart around a lot of colonial privilege", and I've never been out of my own country except to western Europe. (I have never been to either of the USA's neighbors, even, oddly.)

And your point is well taken, about locals excluding the noob/expat, and I don't know what the answer to that issue is, either, because I am sure that happens in countries with colonial legacies as much as or more than it happens in Germany and the UK. I am definitely not comfortable saying that white people in Thailand are somehow morally obligated to suffer through some incredible amount of exclusion and hostility in order to have "meaningful" interactions with locals, but I'm also not okay with the idea of expats enclosing themselves in bubbles because they don't think of the locals as real people. I don't know what the answer is. :\
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at 01:14 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
We were going for charmingly retro... :P


You have definitely succeeded!
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at 19:56 on 29-02-2012, Wardog
.the Playpen interface reminds me a great deal of my days on local BBSes, some ~twenty years ago. It's fascinatingly nostalgia-inducing.


We were going for charmingly retro... :P
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at 19:27 on 29-02-2012, Andy G
The danger, of course, is of using similar-sounding arguments against immigrants to countries like the UK or Germany - moaning about how they keep themselves to themselves and refuse to integrate. Nothing to do, of course, with local people making it hard for them to integrate.

I remember a Chinese friend from my halls said that when she tried to make friends with UK students on her course, she always ended up being edged out of conversations if she misunderstood just one thing or failed to pick on some cultural reference, and so in the end she mostly hung around with international students.
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at 19:12 on 29-02-2012, Andy G
With those qualifications, I can't argue with that, except to add that I guess you don't have to live in a hermetically sealed expat ghetto to fall into that trap: a certain kind of expat might get a thrill out of interacting with local people and culture in quite a superficial, spectatorial way.

Out of interest: do you think there is a *right* way to be an expat in a country where you cart around a lot of colonial privilege, or will that privilege inevitably mean that you will end up with a detached, tourist-y relation to the place?
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at 18:58 on 29-02-2012, valse de la lune
Just that there's a whole thing, it seems like, where (white) people go to other countries and then ... treat the natives like part of the scenery. The sense is that they think the other expats are the only "real people" in the country, and everyone else isn't so much human as a charming (or not charming) travel event, something for the scrapbook or the blog but not actually worth knowing. They don't actually learn to interact with anyone, you know? They just have their prejudices confirmed.


That is also what I was referring to. It's very nice and privilege-affirming, and encourages rampant casual racism.
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at 18:19 on 29-02-2012, Adrienne
...the Playpen interface reminds me a great deal of my days on local BBSes, some ~twenty years ago. It's fascinatingly nostalgia-inducing.
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at 17:20 on 29-02-2012, Adrienne
I was in no way implying that one shouldn't spend ANY time with other expats -- or even that one is forbidden from spending a significant amount of time with them. Just that there's a whole thing, it seems like, where (white) people go to other countries and then ... treat the natives like part of the scenery. The sense is that they think the other expats are the only "real people" in the country, and everyone else isn't so much human as a charming (or not charming) travel event, something for the scrapbook or the blog but not actually worth knowing. They don't actually learn to interact with anyone, you know? They just have their prejudices confirmed.

I've met people who have this approach to foreign travel, as well as encountering a zillion of them on the internets, and it always strikes me as really bizarre. That's all I was trying to get at, with my original statement.
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at 16:13 on 29-02-2012, Ibmiller
In other news, the insanely over-scrutinized potential pilot for the potential series which CBS is potentially putting together to rip off the BBC Sherlock (called Elementary) has caused much handwringing by idiots and much glee for me:

Lucy Liu has been cast as Watson.

Win!
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at 10:26 on 29-02-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Rome and Britain. That's pretty impressive. By extension, perhaps Trojans were actually Celts, which means they settled most of Europe after Troy fell.
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at 10:22 on 29-02-2012, Arthur B
@Michal: I can't stand that sort of historical revisionism. It doesn't even stand up to the facts anyway, because as we all know Britain was first settled by Brutus of Troy immediately after Troy fell. (/geoffreyofmonmouth)
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at 09:48 on 29-02-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Plus, when in a new place, other people who are also outsiders will share that feeling of outsiderliness at least and perhaps have more free time, whereas people who have established lives there have their friends and family already set up and becoming part of such circles might take time if you don't know anyone beforehand. I've only ever lived in Britain as a foreigner, but despite the similar cultural background and the open atmosphere of a university, it still took me several months before I became accustomed to my surroundings. During that time other foreign students were a great source of company. Although it might be that I was just shy or something.

To this day, the fact that this idea exists (and that some actually take it seriously) offends me.

Ha! That is excellent. I love how he is so very certain of his theory. If there is one sure sign to be suspicious of a weird paradigm shifting theory, unfounded certainty is a good contender.
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at 09:24 on 29-02-2012, valse de la lune
Is rampaging racism kind of a thing for white expats living anywhere, though? It seems to be the case for the ones in Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and China, just to name a few.
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at 06:39 on 29-02-2012, Melissa G.
Yeah, when I lived in Japan, I ended up spending a lot of time with other expats. It's just refreshing to have familiarity and similar experiences to fall back on when you're surrounded by another culture/language all day. Seems to be a fairly similar phenomenon actually.
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at 02:36 on 29-02-2012, Adrienne
@Andy I concede the point, my implication that NO ONE should do that was hyperbolic. But as a theoretically-adventurous college student on a gap year or other similar sort of venture (which is what valse's commenter seems to indicate he is)? If one spends all one's time in the company of other expats I think it's safe to say one is Missing The Point.
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