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 20:38 on 01-03-2012, Sunnyskywalker
The more I hear about that book, the worse it sounds. What's the point of it? I can't see how it's escapist, unless the thing you want to "escape" from is basic human decency. But it also doesn't look like it particularly explores Jorg's sociopathy - stuff just happens - so neither he nor readers get anything else out of it either. It doesn't subtly point out that maybe his viewpoint isn't accurate if the women and poc don't do anything to upset his expectations (like, oh, not forgiving him as he shoots them to get at someone else behind, or telling the other girls later that his skill and stamina aren't nearly as awesome as he thinks, at minimum). So what's the point? I think that review is right, it sounds like a game shoved into novel form.

Jumping further down this thread, that description of Railsea is hilarious, telling us that it's a "take" on Moby Dick and then saying it's super-original at the same time. Not that being derivative is necessarily a bad thing, and replacing whales with moles is certainly original in a way. Just... those sentences don't work well together without more explanation.
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at 20:27 on 01-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Well, it's a step up from "Mahometans", kind of, sort of?
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at 20:03 on 01-03-2012, Arthur B
Googled Jerry Ahern, found his website, noticed he still spells "Muslim" as "Moslem".

Yeeeeeah, that's never a good sign is it?
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at 19:32 on 01-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Soooo... we have a slim volume of science fantasy adventure fiction set in a post-World War III world in which an extremely Mary Sueish hero leads a bunch of manly dudes on the basis of pure charisma, martial prowess and murderous sociopathy, quests to unite the world under his rule or destroy it as being unworthy of existence, and destroys an entire degenerate race whilst doing so - all this whilst the narrative is busy erasing, sidelining or demonising anyone who isn't a straight white dude, and written by an author who based on what he's said elsewhere makes no apologies for doing that when he's called on it.

I am slightly concerned that that synopsis made me immediately think of Jerry Ahern and the Deathlands books. I should not be able to immediately recall the existence of either of those.
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at 17:52 on 01-03-2012, valse de la lune
And all at the age of fourteen! It puts Kvothe to shame, doesn't it? I can't wait for the next book where little Jorg visits Asia. "The Utter East" apparently. Or Nuba maybe.

we're all bloody lucky we don't live in the universe where Mark Lawrence successfully went into politics.


Give him a decade or two; who knows?
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at 17:38 on 01-03-2012, Arthur B
@valse: Just read your friend's Prince of Thorns review.

Soooo... we have a slim volume of science fantasy adventure fiction set in a post-World War III world in which an extremely Mary Sueish hero leads a bunch of manly dudes on the basis of pure charisma, martial prowess and murderous sociopathy, quests to unite the world under his rule or destroy it as being unworthy of existence, and destroys an entire degenerate race whilst doing so - all this whilst the narrative is busy erasing, sidelining or demonising anyone who isn't a straight white dude, and written by an author who based on what he's said elsewhere makes no apologies for doing that when he's called on it.

The inescapable conclusion: Prince of Thorns is The Iron Dream and we're all bloody lucky we don't live in the universe where Mark Lawrence successfully went into politics.
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at 08:24 on 01-03-2012, valse de la lune
Exactly. And running his farm under a Thai nominee's name, of course, let him evade UK taxes without a hitch.

Incidentally, AssCreed 3 may star a Native hero. I'm not even thinking "please don't be racist"; I'm thinking "how bad will the racism be?" Of course, that might just be a white man wielding a tomahawk and we'll be playing The Last of the Mohicans. I'm cringing seven months in advance.
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at 08:17 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
People who travel for the express purpose of exploiting 'foreigners' don't really get to bitch when they get exploited back, IMO.
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at 07:55 on 01-03-2012, valse de la lune
I suspect there are also Thai people who are just determined to act nice and take the white idiots for all that they're worth, and that's totally understandable and even noble in my opinion.


There are! The women who marry them and take all their money, or seize their assets (expats have to use a Thai nominee to circumvent ownership laws; see what I mean about not respecting shit)? Well done ladies, bleed them dry, make them cry, and get them to run back home with tails between their legs and not a penny to their names. Like so! I wish I'd sent her a congratulations basket and a card.
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at 07:39 on 01-03-2012, Adrienne
valse de la lune,

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)


This exactly is what I was trying, poorly, to evoke. It's using natives of another country (and usually a poor one populated by Brown People) as non-speaking extras in the movie you believe you're making out of your life. And it's reprehensible. I get that expats want to hang out with people from their own culture some of the time, because being in another culture can be scary and lonely and alienating -- but there's a big difference between "I'm feeling the need to hear my own language and cultural references for a day or two," or whatever, and "I'm here for a Learning Experience that doesn't actually involve any learning from the folks whose country I've decided to be in."

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.


I can see that. Postcolonialism has a lot of different/mutually-exclusive effects on folks. I suspect there are also Thai people who are just determined to act nice and take the white idiots for all that they're worth, and that's totally understandable and even noble in my opinion.

I'm terrified of visiting any non-western-European countries, frankly, because I have a very deep dislike of making an ass of myself. And I am a middle-class white woman, so I'm pretty clear that I'd fuck up a lot. (Not that I can't fuck up visiting western European countries, too -- I'm sure I can! But there are at least some deeper cultural resonances. Plus I speak a couple of the languages, at least, and don't therefore have to feel like a completely hopeless tourist.)
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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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