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Derridean D&D!

Bruce Baugh uses Dungeons & Dragons to illustrate some very basic concepts of deconstructionism. I think I don’t like the term “deconstructionism.” I think deconstruction is a fine critical strategy, but I don’t see that it needs to be elevated to an ism. I mean, it’s a pretty basic and obvious (to me, anyway) concept—meaning is unstable, hierarchies and oppositions in texts are unstable and deconstruct themselves. Actually deconstruction doesn’t destroy stability of meaning, it shifts the site of meaning creation from the text to the reader. Well, meaning is not so concrete… meaning is not objective. Shall we say it is subjective? I say no. After all, there isn’t one Reader of a text, but many, readers who analyze and critique and discuss. Stanley Fish’s idea of interpretive communities. Meaning is a social construct. That is a central concept of postmodernism as I think of it.

Which is not to say I think there’s any problem with Mr. Baugh’s blog post. That’s a great little essay, I hope he writes much more.

Internet Explorer Eats Babies

The MIME type for XHTML is application/xhtml+xml. If you point Internet Explorer at an XHTML document with that MIME type, Internet Explorer will ask you if you want to download it. Why? Because Internet Explorer doesn’t recognize the MIME type! You can trick IE by using the text/html MIME type for XHTML documents, but you’re really not supposed to do that with XHTML 1.1, which is what we use here at Peiratikos. So we have to serve up our blog as XHTML 1.1 for people with good browsers (Mozilla and Opera) and HTML 4.01 for people with bad browsers (Internet Explorer). Bad Internet Explorer! IE also fucks up CSS. Support a browser that supports Web standards: download Mozilla.

Jack Chick

Jack Chick draws alien demon children. They are scary.

Jack Chick is my blasphemous golden calf.

Sez Rose:

I don’t think people who think babies get put inside people know what virgins are. Hadn’t jesus made, like, LOTS of people come back from the dead?

Yes, and yes!

WordPress 1.0

WordPress is the best web-publishing platform I’ve encountered (certainly tons better than Blogger, although Blogger has the advantage of free hosting on blogspot.com). Full compliance with Web standards (so the developers claim, and I believe them), TrackBack, Pingback, no page rebuilds, pretty typography, smart text formatting, etc., etc. and so forth.

WordPress is open source freeware, but you do need your own web server to host it on. We’re paying $80 a year to use WordPress rather than Blogger or something, and it’s more than worth it.

Political metaphors in New X-Men

Sources used in this post: Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions. New York: Viking, 1998.

How common is the idea that the X-Men are a racism/race-relations metaphor? Because I notice people seem to say it a lot (e.g. here), and why do people say it so much? I don’t see it. OK, I see it, but it seems limiting to suppose the X-Men are merely a racial allegory. There’s the gay metaphor too. But there’s more. The most common criticism of the racism and gay metaphors I see is that gay people and Hispanics don’t have superpowers. Oh, but it’s a metaphor! It’s something inside that’s so powerful, so liberating but also uncontrollable, and once you let it out there’s no going back. It’s pride, black pride, gay pride, whatever. The X-Men are a fantasy of political activism. When you’ve been silenced and made invisible for whatever reason, and then you decide to take pride in whatever makes you an invisible and you stand up and make people notice you and your pride, people will, yes, hate and fear you. That’s what the X-Men are about. I don’t see any need to make it about any one kind of pride/activism.

Does this have anything to do with my analysis of New X-Men in terms of “creation of self through narrative?” I think it may. If you’ve read any stories by Jorge Luis Borges or the novel Vurt by Jeff Noon (I’m not quite changing the subject here), you’ll probably know what I’m talking about when I say both these authors (and many other authors, but I’m using these two as an example) write fantastic narratives in which the world is a text. I mean, there is no illusion (or the illusion is exploded) that the world of the stories is “real”—the world of, say, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is no more real than an encyclopedia, and in fact it ends up being superseded by a fantasy world described in a fictional encyclopedia article. (I have some essays on Borges’s and Noon’s work that go into more depth, I should put them on the blog at some point.) Noon especially writes a protagonist who is empowered by the realization that his world is a textual world.

Borges’s stories aren’t just clever but inconsequential metafictional games. They propose a way of looking at our own world:

Then years ago, any symmetry, any system with an appearance of order – dialectical materialism, anti-Semitism, Nazism – could spellbind and hypnotize mankind. How could the world not fall under the sway of Tlön, how could it not yield to the vast and minutely detailed evidence of an ordered planet? It would be futile to reply that reality is also orderly. Perhaps it is, but orderly in accordance with divine laws (read: “inhuman laws”) that we can never quite manage to penetrate. Tlön may well be a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth forged by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men.

Read the rest of this entry »

TrackBack for all

You want to send TrackBack pings to other blogs, but your blogging tool doesn’t have TrackBack support. Right? You need SimpleTracks. It lets you send TrackBack pings even if your tool doesn’t support them (you still won’t be able to receive TrackBack pings, of course).

New X-Men narratives

…well, let’s just say some of us were born to kill and raised to kill and that’s the only damn thing we’re any good for. Everything else is just lies we tell ourselves.

(There are some New X-Men spoilers lurking in here.)

This is the beginnings of what I think will become an actual essay, with footnotes and everything. I am intrigued by Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, but I’ve not seen a lot of discussion on the Internet about the things that intrigue me (maybe I’m looking in the wrong places). What intrigues me is analyzing New X-Men in terms of Rose’s theories about narrative art, specifically creation of self through narrative. We’ve been talking about this a lot lately, and I noted that many (all?) the example narratives we came up with to talk about have as a central conflict the problem of who controls the narrative. I haven’t seen Capturing the Friedmans (which Rose talks about in that post I just linked to), but I gather that control (and ownership) of the narratives of people’s lives is at stake in that story. Paycheck (which Rose also discusses) is hardly about anything coherent, but it’s based on a Philip K. Dick story (Dick’s stories are incoherent in a much more interesting way than Paycheck the movie), and Dick was always writing about characters losing control of their narratives.

Right, I think New X-Men is about characters attempting to create themselves by creating narratives, and it’s about characters losing control of those narratives. Charles Xavier loses control of his political dream to his evil twin. Henry McCoy tells his ex-girlfriend a little lie and tries somewhat unsuccessfully to turn it to his advantage when it spirals out of control. Emma Frost convinces herself she’s a good teacher, a good lover, a nurturer, a strong independent person, only to see her life shatter around her. Quentin Quire, after his life is turned topsy-turvy by the revelation that he’s adopted, constructs a new life for himself out of every possible troubled-teen warning sign and teen-movie cliche (using drugs, bullying, getting in fights, rebelling against authority, turning to radical politics, trying to impress a girl, and much much more) but can’t control his own inventions. Scott Summers is deeply unhappy with his own (non-)personality but can’t manage to do anything but stand still as his life goes to hell. Weapon XV bursts through the dome of the World, transcending what was the whole of its existence, only to bindly acquiesce to the controlling forces he finds beyond. (If there are forces beyond comprehension (a military science team running the World, an omniscient god, anthropological determinism, the writer) that know the narrative better than we, can we have any control?) Wolverine gives up control of his own narrative—decides he’s the killing machine Weapon Plus says he is and can’t be more or other than that. So there are all these stories about loss of control and it’s not just control of power, but control of choice, of selfhood, of the right to be the narrative subject. Loss of control over the narrative of their lives.

There are several things I’ll be thinking and writing about, in addition to setting out arguments to support my thesis:

  • X-books may be read as very political. What are the politics of New X-Men, what do they have to do with creation of self through narrative (or failure to create self through loss of control of the narrative)?
  • New X-Men seems optimistic and hopeful (particularly in terms of the X-Men making progress in their political goals), and a lot of people seem to respond strongly and primarily to this in their readings. What’s the relationship between the surface political optimism and the darker themes of loss of control?
  • The aesthetics, particularly of the art. What does the sequential-art form do for the text in terms of the narrative themes?

New blog!

Right, so we haven’t updated our blog in what, a month? Well, that’s going to change. Here’s the first new update, you’re reading it even now! We’ve switched to the WordPress publishing system, which is much cooler. We’re soon going to roll out a brand new site design. We’re soon going to actually post posts on our blog.

The old blog is still available in archival form, and any permalinks people have linked to will remain working. The new URL for the blog is http://blog.peiratikos.net/, and old links to http://www.peiratikos.net/blog/ will redirect automatically.