Monday, September 24, 2012

Firefly and Feminism: Reflection

The various articles I wrote about feminism and Firefly in response to Allecto's rants continue to be among the best hit-getters for the Saga. Consequently, I tend to reflect upon the topic when I see that new visitors have come to the blog to see one or more of those articles.

On one of these occasions, I considered one of Allecto's questions.
The women who ‘choose’ to be ‘Companions’ are shown as being intelligent, accomplished, educated, well-respected and presumably from good families. If a woman had all of these qualities and opportunities then why the **** would she ‘choose’ to be a man’s **** toy?
I wondered, why would Inara choose life as a Companion? What other opportunities would she have in Alliance society? Are they so limited that they make high-class prostitution look preferable?

That's when it occurred to me that I've never seen a woman in the Alliance in a position of authority. Not on the core worlds, at least.

Out among the "border moons," there are women like Patience who have taken charge. Patience apparently runs the entire moon, but the Alliance really doesn't care what's happening on the more remote colonies. They certainly seem to have the means to assert their authority if they so desire, but the border colonies have small populations and negligible industrialization. They don't have anything to offer the Alliance, and they would expect a lot more support if the Alliance imposed a lot of restrictions. The Alliance apparently doesn't consider them worth the trouble, choosing to ignore them until they do have something of value.

Among the highly-developed core worlds, there are plenty of wealthy, well-educated women, but I can only think of one who was an authority figure of any kind. Inara entertained a female Councilor in "War Stories," and she's the only female politician, military leader, or business leader I can think of.

We certainly see women in working roles -- there were certainly female doctors and nurses in "Ariel" -- but not so much in leadership roles.

And when you get to the Alliance aristocracy, the only role available to women seems to be "trophy wife." Maybe Inara chose life as a Companion to becoming one man's "kept woman."

I don't know how that should be interpreted in the context of whether Firefly should be considered feminist or misogynist (the Alliance does tend to be villainous most of the time), but I hadn't really noticed it before.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Halloween Celebration Prepared

Halloween-themed video posts have been queued for the entire month of October. Check daily (in October) for a dose of amusement.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bad Movie: Survival of the Dead

Nena and I watched Survival of the Dead this week. This is the latest in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead series of movies. They've always been hit-or-miss in quality, and this one is about as far from the bull's-eye as Romero's zombie films get.

This is nowhere near as bad as Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, of course, but it's nowhere near as good as Land of the Dead, either. The acting is spottier than in most of his movies, the writing isn't nearly as tight, and there are some serious continuity problems with its predecessors. Upon reflection, maybe it's not far above ALvZ, after all.

Most offensive, perhaps, is the tendency of characters who have been dealing with zombies for an extended period of time or have applicable training or both (and who therefore have no excuse) to do incredibly stupid things that get them bitten or completely torn to bits by zombies.

Another offense that occurs with annoying frequency is the sudden appearance of zombies from nowhere. It's not like they're stealthy, and there's usually no place they could have been hiding, but they still manage to end up standing right behind someone without warning in scene after scene. A couple of still-alive guys manage to do the same thing to one of the lead characters at one point, as well... on horseback... in the open... in broad daylight.

Yet another peeve is the FX department obviously straining to find innovative new ways to destroy zombies. We don't need a new effect for every dead zombie, guys, just whacking them in the head is okay.

It has a decent premise, but the execution is sub-par, even for zombie movies. I'd say this is at least a five-beer zombie movie (the number being the number of beers needed to make it tolerable).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2001

I was on my way to work and listening to the news on the radio. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and it was a terrible accident. Then a second plane hit the other tower, and it wasn't an accident anymore.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Spices That Heal

I saw this picture going around on Facebook recently, and it struck me as one of those "don't believe everything you hear" types of claims. Herbs and spices certainly can have health benefits, of course; many modern medicines are derived from such things. On the other hand, it should be possible to find supporting evidence for claims like these pretty easily.

A little web browsing doesn't find much supporting evidence.

Cumin: Unsurprisingly, Organic Facts supports the claim that cumin helps prevent cancer, although it doesn't cite any studies. Sources that I consider less biased, like and WebMD, don't mention cancer prevention as potential benefits.

Ginger: Studies referenced by the University of Maryland Medical Center show that ginger is more effective than a placebo at reducing nausea. It's not as effective as medications, but it also has fewer side effects.

Thyme: There doesn't seem to be any conclusive evidence for thyme helping treat coughing. Some preliminary studies suggest it may be helpful, but there's nothing solid.

Rosemary: I remember Gingko being the big herbal solution to memory problems a few years ago. It turned out to be nothing. Similarly, I don't even find mention of memory benefits being connected to rosemary on the internet. It's best recommendation is for treating hair loss.

Nutmeg: Several sites mention studies showing that nutmeg helps to reduce blood pressure, but I've yet to find one that gives a reference that says who conducted such a study, where it was done, or when it was done.

Basil: My search did not produce any support for claims that basil helps to reduce the severity or duration of colds, although it apparently does contain an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Clove: I don't think Organic Facts is an unbiased source, but even they don't list relief of arthritis pain as a benefit of cloves.

Cinnamon: Studies have been conducted on the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar, but they have not yielded anything conclusive: some show a benefit, others don't.

Tumeric: Tumeric is apparently being studied for possible medicinal value, but there doesn't seem to be anything reliable about reducing inflammation.

Garlic: Studies on the effects of garlic on "bad" cholesterol are, so far, inconclusive.

I use every one of these herbs and spices frequently, but not for any supposed medicinal properties. Some of the claims made in the "RawForBeauty" image have some support, but even that tends to be tenuous. Enjoy herbs and spices for the enjoyment they can add to your meals, but don't get them expecting any particular health benefit unless reliable studies have been done to show that those benefits are real.