Tina K. Russell

September 22, 2009

New art!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 4:38 pm

I drew something today! I think it’s cool. Click for full size and full majesty.

Frolic

Find it here on Flickr. As usual, it’s Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0. So, if you want to use this for your Creative Commons project, credit me (Tina Russell) and place a link back here or to the Flickr page. Thank you!

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September 20, 2009

I Wanna Start a Fight

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Tina Russell @ 12:40 pm

How ought we to respond to fulminations against videogames by people who don’t play them? A great many, of course, may be safely ignored. But when an interesting writer decides to take a passing kick at games, it can be worth digging for the grain of truth in the stereotypical criticism. A case in point: recently, I was reading an article by the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, published in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza last spring, which after a meditative beginning about language and exile suddenly targets videogames, along with TV and cinema – they all purvey, he argues, a kind of Manichean pornography. I quote at length to give the flavour of Bauman’s rhetoric:

‘Surely, compared with the refined artistry of cinema, television, Nintendo or PlayStation, the everyday life in the barracks of the concentration camps or the communist bloc must seem like some abortive creations produced by provincial amateurs and manufacturers of cheap kitsch. These lucky beasts [the kids of today] have known almost from the day they were born that monstrous things are the creation of monsters and sordid things are created by scoundrels, and that monsters and scoundrels therefore have to be exterminated before they get a chance to exterminate us, and that, since those who are being exterminated are the spawn of the devil it must follow that those who subdue them are nothing but angels? So as they sit at their computers with their faces ablush, trying to defeat the electronic monsters at their own wicked game, to respond to their trickery with their own, even more refined, tricks and mow them down in their multitudes before they start mowing down ours, it does not in the least offend their own high opinion of themselves. After all, these electronic monsters ambushed them out of pure cruelty whereas they, on their part, were only trying to save themselves, and while they were at it the rest of the world, from the brutes. Humanity is divided into executioners and their victims, and once the latter finally exterminate the last of the former, we can safely store brutality in one of the deposits of memory (or forgetting) and slam the door behind it’.

via Survival Horror Syndrome | Edge Online.

It’s hard for me to admit, but much of my craving to play videogames is often a desire to pick up a controller and start beating up enemies. It’s so cathartic to flip from your normal life and play a fantasy where you’re a spry young warrior mashing through monster after monster, with no real consequence other than the gratitude and prestige brought by your heroics. “Enemies” (in the videogame sense of endless minion baddies) are such a useful trope that it’s hard to cast them off, even when you know that too many games use them as a crutch.

Of course, what I like most about Bauman’s argument is his reminder that good people can do bad things. Part of why videogames have mined World War II so relentlessly is that it seems like a time when good was good and evil was evil; in the same comforting vein of Pong’s famed instruction “avoid missing ball for high score,” a certain wartime nostalgia creeps into the implied instruction of “point gun at Nazi, shoot.” What do we do when our big enemies these days are decentralized and omnipresent, from Internet-enabled terrorists to flu seasons to killer-bee scares to online predators to Wall Street wheeler-dealers? In the real world, we’re slowly pulling out of Iraq and slowly pulling into Afghanistan, a war we entered with strong public consensus in favor but that now sparks a debate on whether or not we should stay, on whether or not doing good for Afghanistan by staying is even possible. It’s a long way from “if he’s a Nazi, shoot him.”

See also Raph Koster’s “The Evil We Pretend to Do.”

September 14, 2009

You First. No, You First.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:28 am

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Land First, Then Peace – NYTimes.com.

This is a very strange argument when Israel’s excuse for holding up the peace process is that they’re saving diplomatic negotiation as a sort of reward for good behavior, even when their citizens are dying in rocket attacks. Israel and the United States will not engage with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognize Israel, while Hamas is only willing to give Israel a grudging acceptance, and then only if they return the Occupied Territories. If Saudi Arabia joins in this game, it will ensure a kind of reverse Mexican standoff that will ensure nothing gets done, and that Israelis and Palestinians will keep dying in endless conflict merely for dreaming of a homeland of their own.

September 8, 2009

Transsexuality and sex work

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 6:09 pm

Like many transsexuals in Malaysia, a conservative and mostly Muslim country, the clash between ID card and appearance means Tasha is shunned by employers, and forced to make her living as a sex worker.

“It’s a hard life, people don’t like us, they’re always making fun of us,” she says as she prepares for another night in the grimy alleyways of Chow Kit, the red light district of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Tasha endures drunken clients, violent pimps, and aggressive competition from other transsexual prostitutes, but what really frightens her are the raids mounted by police and religious authorities.

via AFP: Twilight life of Malaysia’s Muslim transsexuals.

The stereotype of the transsexual prostitute is difficult because it is part true. Transsexuals in large numbers, all over the world, are forced into prostitution because of two factors: the sheer expense of physical transition, and the difficulty of finding regular work. The stereotype then becomes self-perpetuating, as people being to associate transsexuality with sex work and employers presume they are no good for anything else. (This is what makes words like “tranny” so hurtful and problematic: a word so tightly associated with prostitution cements an impression in people that makes it hard for trans women to find work as anything else.)

However, the problem of people’s overly close mental association of transsexuality and prostitution should never be a reason to cover up the original problem. This article does a good job of highlighting the original problem. Remember that transsexuals actually make much less in sex work than cissexuals; the reason we’re so prominent in the trade is that we lack the healthcare and the official and cultural respect that is due anybody in a civilized society. (And, the article averts transsexual profile cliché number one by not showing a picture of her putting on makeup—hooray!)

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