Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Sexism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 16, 2022] In the Jaws of Life

The version pictured here is not the one I read–there’s no pictures of it online!  My copy was translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Michael Henry Heim.

This book is a collection of short stories from throughout Ugrešić’s career.

The book has three (or 8) stories in it.  I discovered Ugrešić through The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar (story #2).  “Lend Me Your Character” was weird and cool and was probably my favorite story in the collection (it’s here as well).

When I read a little about Ugrešić, I found that she was born in Croatia, but left the region when the war in Yugolslavia broke out, saying she was post-national and refusing to acknowledge her Croatian heritage.  She currently resides in Amsterdam.

Her stories are wonderful mash ups of fairy tales, feminist theory, “traditional women’s writing” and a lot of sexuality.

“Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life (a patchwork novel)” (1981) [trans C.H.]
This story has so much going on that it’s easy to overlook that it’s a fairly straightforward story, just with a lot of filigree tacked on.  The story opens with a “Key to the Various Symbols” and includes things like — dotted lines with scissors (cut the text along the line as desired); slashes (pleats: make large thematic stitches on either side of the author’s seam); four equals signs (make a metatextual knot and draw in as desired).  And so on.  And the contents is actually listed as “The Paper Pattern” which lays out each section according to a sewing pattern.  Each section heading is given a parenthetical comment (tacking, padding, hemming, interfacing).

When you start the story you see that the symbols are indeed throughout the story, although honestly after a few pages I gave up trying to figure out what they might mean.

The story starts with the narrator saying that her friends told her to write “a women’s story.”  The author looks at several lonely hearts letters in the paper and picks the fifth one as the basis.  Steffie, aged 25, is a typist by profession.  She’s lonely and sad and lives with her aunt. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE PRETTY BOYS-“Midnight to Six Man,” “Don’t Bring me Down,” “Rosalyn.” (1966, 1964, 1964).

The Pretty Boys are referenced a lot in this novel and I realized I never knew them.

According to Classic Rock History, these are t he band’s top three songs.

I guess as a reference point, I can see what Kent was going for.  The lead singer sounds like a bit of a wild man, with lots of screams.  Each song is a kind of rowdy garage rock. They’ve got a lot of energy, but very mid 60’s energy which really doesn’t appeal to me.

And none of the songs have anything remotely resembling the kind of musical genius that the guitarist in the novel is supposed to have.

So I wasn’t missing anything.

[READ: February 28, 2022] The Unstable Boys

I’m usually a pretty good judge of books when I see them at work.  We get a lot of novels that I would never read, but we occasionally get a gem that I’d never see anywhere else.

I looked at The Unstable Boys and thought I had a gem.  And it started out as one.

The book is about a fictional band from the 60s called The Unstable Boys.

The opening of the book is clippings from various articles about the band.

They were a mix of personalities with two talented members, an array of drummers and a lead singer called The Boy who was a force of nature.  He was, simply, an asshole.  But he was charismatic and unpredictable and people were intrigued by him.  They had a hit, they were poised to do some big stuff and then their second guitarist died.  They were about to go on a major American tour and wanted to postpone.  But the label wouldn’t let them.  The label threw in some new members for the tour and the band imploded.

Guitarist Ral Coombs was a really talented and sensitive musician.  He and The Boy nearly came to blows.  They vowed to never reunite or even speak to each other again.

Then the story begins properly.  We meet Trevor Bourne. He is recently single and, as a freelance writer, not very successful.  He had written a story about The Unstable Boys a while back, but hasn’t had much success lately.

Enter Michael Martindale.  He is a very rich and successful fiction writer.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 1, 2022] The Devil Made Me Do It

As South Africa entered the new millennium, things were progressing very slowly (and sometimes regressing).  And Zapiro was watching.

Homophobia was spreading throughout African nations.  There’s a banner that says Queens against Mugabe.  Zapiro ties it together nicely with a picture of Queen Elizabeth with a paper that says “Mugabe lambasts U.K.”

And an anti-rape ad (starring Charlize Theron) was banned because there was public outcry.  Which leads to a later strip in which children learn the rape message: it’s not bad to rape someone in your own family (A lenient sentence was given to a man who raped his daughter); rape is less offensive than an anti-rape ad that offends men; you can get away with rape if you are famous and hire a hotshot legal team.

Apartheid fallout was still happening.

There’s a an amusing picture of Apartheid Hell and the devil is showing all of the people there a video called No person shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender ethnic or social origin, culture, sexual orientation….”  Although clearly the powerful men aren’t all getting punished as we see Craig Williamson, a constant figure in these battles, telling the Amnesty Committee to sit, lie down and fetch his amnesty. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 20, 2022] Call Mr. Delivery

This is Zapiro’s fourth book and it’s the first time, I think, that he’s put himself into the cartoons.  And it seems like maybe the world is getting to him.

Although his first appearance is in the meta-joke:

“Only one tiny minority welcomes the formation of Louis Luyt’s new political party” : Cartoonists.

But later by March 1999 he is on a therapist’s couch.  The therapist asks “when did you first experience this feeling of uselessness.  Zapiro says “this week suddenly reality seemed weirder than anything I could come up with.” (And the world hasn’t even gotten to trump yet).

It’s the end of the Mandela era and his successors don’t seem to be shaping up very well.

Although Mandela gets one nice shoutout.  He parts the waters for the Lockerbie Breakthrough and Libya asks if anyone ever get blasé about this sort of thing.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report had to have any negative mentions of F.W. DeKlerk removed.  And Desmond Tutu seems under attack from the left, right and centre (PAC, IFP, FF, ANC, NP, TRC). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 14, 2022] End of Part One

I’m not sure what the Part One is that this title refers to.  This book picks up where the last one left off and moves on into 1998.

It’s clear that Zapiro is still bitter about the Olympics, as the first cartoon is “For the first time the I.O.C. has awarded the Olympic Games to an African City” (the toon is dated 3004 A.D.

At some point it was imperative that I learn all of the political abbreviations.  And he has a good cartoon that summarizes them: (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 9, 2022] The Hole Truth

Nothing can make you feel ignorant like reading a book of cartoons.

This is a collection of South Africa-based cartoons that Zapiro wrote in 1996.  Who remembers what was going on twenty-five years ago?

Well, this book has an introduction from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who appears a few times in cartoon form).  Tutu writes that Zapiro is there to skewer hypocrisy but that he has a desire to help the country into realizing their potential–even if it means gently nudging the people he supports when they mess up.

Every country has its share of corruption.  That’s the way of power.  A book like this makes it seem like there was nothing but corruption in South African (and with apartheid, that was likely the case).  Of course, the cartoonist assumes the reader knows what’s going on, so they don’t need to explain their cartoons.  If you don’t know what’s going on, well, you may not get the joke.  And then you feel stupid. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 9, 2022] The Madiba Years

Having read some of the more recent Zapiro books, I was delighted to see that our library had most if not all of his previous books as well–one that cover pretty much from the start of the Mandela years.  Mandela even blurbed this book: “Very exciting ad quite accurate.”

So why is it called the Madiba years?  It doesn’t say in the book, so I had to look it up

The clan or family name represents a person’s ancestry. The meaning is deeper than a surname and is used as a sign of respect and affection. The origin of Madiba comes from a chief who ruled in the 18th century, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.  Madiba would be used in “an intimate context,” said Richard Pithouse, a politics professor at Rhodes University in South Africa. When Mandela entered school, a teacher gave him the name Nelson. It was customary for Africans to also give children English names back then.  But the wider public had also taken to referring to Mandela as Madiba.  “People would not tend to use that name if they didn’t have positive feelings for him,” Pithouse said.

So there you have it.

This collection opens in 1994 with leader Mangope of Bophuthatswana’s declaration that democracy would not be coming to his homeland (he was very wrong).  With the eyes of the world on South Africa, Election Day shows the shining face of Mandela, pictured as the rising sun over the garbage heap that was the un-democratic elections.

June sees the proposal of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission–to find out what really happened during Apartheid.  There’s also talk of Joe Tokyo, a figure who has been mentioned in other books.  I’m fascinated by his name. In this particular cartoons, his housing plan is described as a pie in the sky.

Things that could apply to any leader include a woman scrubbing the floor in the Prime Minister’s Office.  In 1956, the assistant says to the PM: “Delegation of women to see you.” Then in 1994, the same woman (now much older), the same comment.  This time the scrubber says, “And this time it better work.”

There’s a lot of pages about Winnie Mandela (full name: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela).  I’d heard of her but never really realized what all the fuss was about–she was Nelson’s wife, right?   Well, apparently after he was imprisoned (citing Wikipedia):

In the mid-1980s Madikizela-Mandela exerted a “reign of terror”, and was “at the centre of an orgy of violence” in Soweto, which led to condemnation by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and a rebuke by the ANC in exile. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established by Nelson Mandela’s government to investigate human rights abuses found Madikizela-Mandela to have been “politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the Mandela United Football Club”, her security detail.  Madikizela-Mandela endorsed the necklacing of alleged police informers and apartheid government collaborators, and her security detail carried out kidnapping, torture, and murder, most notoriously the killing of 14-year-old Stompie Sepei whose kidnapping she was convicted of.

Damn!  And apparently her totally horrific activities weighed on Mandela.

They divorced about two years after he was elected.  But even in 1996 there’s a cartoon of Mandela behind bars with 1962-1990 and then from 1990-1996, he is chained to Winnie.

The big question after the Apartheid government failed was what to do with the men leftover.  Could they just put them in a museum?  Boerassic park?  Apparently F.W. De Klerk had a lot of “amnesia”–couldn’t remember anything that happened before 1990.

And what about the 3,000 former government functionaries that acting president Pik Botha indemnified?  It sounds like the blanket indemnity was ripped off of them–hopefully that will happen to anyone in this country pardoned under our former leader.

I particularly like the one where all of the dominoes fall, knocking down all of the former bad leaders with de Klerk next–again, could be very relevant to our country if they can actually act on it. It’s depressing though that this de Klerk cartoon is in November 1995–so long after the election in April 1994.

But Mandela wasn’t perfect.  When it comes to South African arms sales, apparently he turned a blind eye to backdoor sales.  And his Assembly Chairperson Cyril Rhamaphosa was concerned that when he consulted the public, they seemed to be full of intolerance.  The leaders cut down a hangman’s noose, but there’s a large tree with “pro hanging public opinion.”

There’s also the great unsolved mysteries of the world like The Curse of Tutankhamen, Bigfoot, The Bermuda Triangle and South African foreign policy.

It’s not all politics–there’s some strips about rugby and Springbok, which I’m fascinated by.  And of course much celebration for South Africa in the football (soccer) world.

He also has a strip for National Crime Prevention week. It was suggested that prisons becomes places of education.  But Zapiro says they already are–the criminal leaves with his diploma in drugs, gangs, guns, and knives.  Maybe they just need to change the curriculum.

And the first of many anti pro-life cartoons.  This one has Dr. Claude Newbury saying there shall be no abortion under any circumstance.  Then there’s a lightning bolt with Newbury suddenly pregnant and unwanted babies all round him with god saying “Get real, Claude.”

Evidently the Boer separatists (Volkstaat) were trying to prevent a new South Africa from forming

The concept of a Volkstaat, also called a Boerestaat, is the set of proposals to establish self-determination for Afrikaners (Whites) in South Africa, either on federal principles or as a fully independent Boer/Afrikaner homeland.

Then he shows the trouble with the integration of primary schools as two black students.  The room full of students all look like H.F. Verwoerd (and old man with his nose in the air).  But the glimmer of hope comes when a little white girl takes off her Verwoerd mask and smiles the black students.

Bishop Desmond Tutu as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is shown in a graveyard labelled Apartheid Crimes.  Tutu says, “God help is to remember that the people who did this are also your children.”  God says “lemme get back to you on that one.”

And then in May 1996 De Klerk says the new NP position is “We brought you democracy.”  This compares to the short attention span of the voter:  Western Cape voters oppressed by the Nats for 40 years and happily votes Nat today.

On to Olympics fever! We see that Cape Town is bidding for the Olympics in 2004.  There’s old man Uncle Sam with an Atlanta 1996 shirt tripping over hurdles of security and efficiency and asking Baby South Africa if he really wants to try this.

Then Mandela went to England and it was a big celebration with Nelson’s column having its own Nelson removed and the nearby lion statue saying “tough luck old chap there’s only one Nelson In London this week.

Speaking of London, there’s nothing like the Charles and Diana Royal Side Show to distract the world from real problems.

And remember mad cow disease?

Zapiro sets his sights on Mugabe.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was a Zimbabwean revolutionary and politician who served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017.

Obviously Mugabe was a bad dude.  Zapiro shows Mugabe putting targets on the back of gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe, while wearing a button that says bigot and proud of it

There’s only one mention of Clinton in this book.  He looks like Tintin as he is in The Adventures of Clintin in Bosnia.  He waltzes in with a peace but there’s Snowy the dog “I’d feel a lot better if that piece of paper has a disarmament clause.”

Zapiro also introduces Netanyahu who will have Isareal aiming for peace (by firing missilesat the peace dove)–he sure nailed that one.

You can see more of his cartoons at https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/zapiro and at www.zapiro.com.

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 26, 2022] Fixer

I saw this book at work and was attracted by the cover (obviously San Francisco) and that it was about a tech startup company (sort of).

The book is set up with each chapter being about one of the five main characters.

Meghan is a single woman whose life has been one of upheaval.  As we meet her, she has just gotten laid off (with about one third of the firm) of a tech company that has had to resize itself.  She’s not even sure why she works in marketing–she has no real sense of self and would love to be an artist.  But she doesn’t dare risk things for that.  She has also just had a very good date with Diego Garcia.

Diego (Digs) is techie guy with great ideas.  He has been working in the tech field for many years and has brought some of his good college friends to work with his at Del Oro, a startup tech firm with one of the hottest apps out right now.

Kari (he is Norwegian) is Diego’s college friend.  They have been close as anything for many years.  Kari (and his father especially) have very high expectations for Kari. Kari is the more business minded side of Diego–he knows about money and how to get it.  He is passionate about very few things.  One is success.  The other is Kari.

Kira (the similar names are cute, rather than cloying, I think) is his girlfriend of many years.  She is possibly more driven than he is.  She is very successful and expects the best from everyone.  She has known Kari and Diego since college.  She likes Diego but gets a little tired of him.  When Diego starts dating Meghan, she finds her unbearably boring.

The last of their college friends is Ravi.  Ravi is gay, but he has not (and could never) come out to his strict Indian parents (who are back in India).  They would love for him to come home, but he has made a life for himself here. He is actually just about to get married to a woman.  She is his best friend (they’ve known each other forever) and she is a lesbian.  She also needs help with her visa to stay in the country. It solves everything.  Even their serious significant others are on board.  Ravi is very close to Kari as well.  His boyfriend is serious and they imagine settling down someday is gay marriage is ever legalized. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 9, 2022] It Only Comes in Orange, Mr Zuma

This is the second collection of editorial cartoons from South Africa’s Daily Maverick newspaper.  Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro) has been making editorial cartoons and caricatures since the early 1990s and has 25 books of cartoons published.  Turns out I have access to most of them so I may need to d a deep dive–maybe I’ll understand some of the politics more.

I really don’t know very much about the South Africa, and I feel like news about the country is not covered very much here.  I don’t understand all of the jokes in here, but I do feel like I have a vague grasp on the country now. However, it’s when Zapiro turns his pen abroad–especially against trump, that I can see how good of a satirist he is.  I posted this picture when talking about the previous book, but this cartoon appears in this one:

When he publishes the cartoons in the newspaper, they speak for themselves.  But in these collections, he adds a caption since most of the details are no longer fresh.  For the above he wrote:

Hell-bent on overturning the election result, trump supporters storm the Capitol building in Washington. The riot leaves five people dead.

How is it that there is any question about this still in our country.  Why is our justice system so slow?

Well, given the justice system in South Africa, our looks like a quick resolution. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: Right-wing lies about the Insurrection (2021).

[READ: November 2021] Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitarianisms: Volume Two

Two years into the previous administration, McSweeney’s published two small books which railed against everything the Criminal in Chief stood for and had done.

Reading these books in 2021 after he had been soundly trounced in the election and with the possibility of jail time (for any of multitude of the illegal things that he did) is somewhat calming.   I think if I had read this in 2018 it would have been thoroughly dispiriting.  Because even though these essays provide hope, they are just full of recounting of the horrors that that [fill in the blank] and his crew of reprobates did.

It has been a year since the brainwashed masses tries to overthrow our government.  And still nothing has happened.  Our country is broken.  These essays don’t really fix it, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone in thinking this way. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »