nubbsgalorephotos by gerry ellis from the david sheldrick wildlife trust, a nursery and orphanage for elephants in kenya’s tsavo east national park. here, fifty five keepers are charged with being around the clock parents to an elephant. the elephants, however, are the ones who chose their caretakers; it is the keepers who must ingratiate themselves to the elephants and earn their trust.

when elephants first arrive at the orphanage they are often traumatized from having witnessed the slaughter of their mothers and family by poachers. grieving can last several months, and they often lose the will to live. but as dame daphne sheldrick, founder of the orphanage, explains, a caretaker is charged with “persuading an elephant to live when it wants to die.”

approximately 35,000 elephants are killed by humans every year. with an estimated 350,000 elephants left in the whole continent of africa, they will be gone in the wild within ten years.

cbc’s the nature of things did a program on the elephants and their caretakers. you can foster an elephant with the david sheldrick wildlife trust online here. for more on the emotional lives of elephants, as well as the david sheldrick wildlife trust and other human efforts to save them, check out these posts

(via zorana)

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It’s a Party at Joss Whedon’s House (and I don’t know that I want to be invited)

A while ago I was at a conference where I was very kindly asked by Julie Hawk to be part of a roundtable discussion on transmedia in Whedon. The idea, as I specifically understood it, was that we were going to compare Whedon’s presence in big budget cinema and film-making with his choices in the small (by Hollywood standards) independent cinema he chose to self fund. In a nutshell, we were comparing and contrasting ideology and approaches from The Avengers (falling within Marvel canon and within the outlines of the MCU) with Whedon’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Both were adaptations that fell within a canon, yet both had a certain Whedon revisioning. Julie’s underlying assumption was that Much Ado functioned as a reaction to The Avengers; the former was what Whedon made when he was allowed total creative control whereas the latter was him restricted by the studio. Did they speak to each other then? I was given free reign to express my opinion in any way I chose - positive, negatives, or just technical nitty gritty. Given the chance, I chose to focus on Whedon’s Much Ado as I’d only recently watched it and wanted to discuss aspects of it that I found rather troubling, if not downright offensive.


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Sami loves Queen


I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to the release of a movie the way I looked forward to Queen. I was hooked on the music pretty much from the first set of promotional releases, and the ad made it look like it would be a ridiculously fun movie. All the movie promotional sequences seemed to show Kangana Ranaut looking like a regaular laid-back person you’d see on the street and not super glammed up. I heard it was about a woman figuring herself out and travelling alone, and about her having fun with it. And I’m so for that, you cannot imagine!

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Lurking Under the Surface of Sleepy Hollow: Diversity Casting versus Use of Stereotypes


Having recently failed out of Scandal because of the rapidly degenerating storyline and my actual inability to deal with the anger Fitz inspires in me, I thought to fill the void in my regular schedule by picking up Sleepy Hollow. Based on my twitter feed over the last couple of months, I knew that there was apparently a lot of chemistry between the two leads (good), that Orlando Jones has a twitter account (apparently excellent? I don’t know, he’s sure retweeted a lot), and that it was going to be horror-drama-comedy. Everyone seemed to be talking about it, and I figured, given the fandom explosion, that it might be worth watching.

Now, given the fact that my experience of watching Supernatural was a train wreck of misogyny, racism and American superiority, I spent a couple of hours checking in with people to see whether Sleepy Hollow was going to repeat history. Supernatural being largely responsible for a majority of my rage headaches, I was eager to void anything that might smack of the same mix of shitty writing and terrible politics. 

But no, people largely assured me that while Sleepy Hollow played INCREDIBLY fast and loose with facts and history, and was steeped in so much Christian doctrine as to eschew pretty much all else - oddly despite showcasing an inability to check basics (it’s the Book of Revelation, not Revelations) - it wasn’t the worst thing on TV. (I do wish they’d introduce at least ONE long term character that isn’t Christian; it would be such a glorious change to actually have the presumptive doctrine of America = only Christianity challenged on screen. But I digress.) As a giant plus, I was told that the show was amazing for race given its diversity casting. Not just token side-characters here or there, but an actual diverse cast in which the majority were non-white! And they weren’t just written to be throw-away characters either! 

And somehow, in all the praise for its diversity casting, I failed to ask the primary question that I should have, which is whether or not the show’s portrayal of ethnicity and culture is actually worthwhile. 

Spoiler: it really isn’t.

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Static, Moving: A Book Review of ‘We See A Different Frontier’ (Part 2)


Continued from Part 1 with spoilers for the next five stories in the anthology.

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Static, Moving: A Book Review of ‘We See A Different Frontier’ (Part 1)


Nearly four months ago, a friend introduced me to Future Fire because she was tired of hearing me complain about how a lot of the fiction I was reading, while interesting, wasn’t precisely what I wanted to consume. I’d read this story, you see, called La muerte y el jardin, and I wanted more along those lines. I was looking for a short story, fantastical, without a disavowal of a historical background, and not set in the sort of nebulous “post-racial” future that people insist is the hallmark of “good” science fiction where differences are shifted to humans versus aliens without any acknowledgement of the fact that even within that dichotomy, there would be layers upon layers of hierarchy that would be based on race, class, language, (forgotten) nationalities - that these would persist. 

What I wanted was something that acknowledged that as much as our histories were evolving, part of it was static simply because there was a rupture in the thread, and no amount of returning to it or wending over it could ever quite close the gap. I didn’t want to read endlessly about the rupture (though sometimes I did) and I didn’t want not to read about continued evolution (sometimes I did), but I wanted something that didn’t gloss over these jagged portions for the sake of convenience or an inability to come to terms with it, or because (and I hear this so often, it genuinely enrages me) they “didn’t want to tell a political story.” ALL STORIES ARE POLITICAL STORIES. Do you have characters? Do they speak and interact? Are you writing in a language? Do you have access to technology that makes writing and disseminating your story possible? THEN IT IS POLITICAL ALREADY. There is NO SUCH THING as a non-political or divorced writing. Anyone who says otherwise is deliberately ignoring their own ability to give voice to that opinion. 

And if nothing is produced in a political vaccuum, then everything is inherently political and the stories that we tell are in large part responsible for the ways in which it is propagated. Fact. 

This is why I didn’t want to be reading stories that implied that the issues that we face right now in the aftermath of overt colonisation and with continued neocolonisation, in a world that is largely capitalist (and where capitalism and colonisation are pretty much intertwined) and in which racial, social, linguistic, national, and caste-based systems of hierarchy exist and persist, are no longer concerns. Giving me a story in which that just magically disappears despite the fact that its effects are not just ongoing but deliberately kept up in order to maintain hierarchies… After a while, I couldn’t read it. Or if I did, I couldn’t enjoy or endorse it.  

In short, I wanted something that I didn’t think I could easily find and it meant that I was writing reams of scathing commentary on the stuff I was finding because it simply wasn’t giving me what I felt I needed. I was tearing through novels and TV shows and feeling increasingly disheartened because the few that did choose to engage tended to lack care, subtlety, nuance. They provided a sop and expected kudos and I was increasingly unwilling to consume those products without at least putting down its shortfalls, either here or in journals. 

So coming to We See A Different Frontier, I was excited but somewhat skeptical. The introduction insisted that they were going to take on colonisation, tell stories from a post-colonial perspective, and I sat down and tried to think through how this would work, and whether I would be able to deal with a book that might preach to me about some of my own experiences. (I do not do well with preachy books.) And I didn’t want it to give me perfect resolution because I didn’t see a way in which I could ever believe it. But I opened it up and I sat down to read.

I’m really glad I did.

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Sami is rather disappointed by Thor 2: The Dark World


Heading into a movie like Thor 2, I knew I had to gird myself for a certain basic set of issues. Most notably, there’s the fact that Asgard is largely an imperialist construct. The wealth and prestige presented is strongly linked to colonialism because well, historical associations. Asgardians go out and conquor new worlds and annex these to their realm. There’s the fairly explicit assumption of protection provided because now those borders are ‘their’ borders, and there’s a hierarchy set in place wherein the city of Asgard becomes the head of a kingdom that spans more than their single realm. Marvel’s version of the Thor series does little or nothing to reboot this premise and I knew that going in. 

Hoo boy! Already I had to wrestle with myself because buying the ticket meant accepting this element of the canon. If I went through with watching this movie, I’d have to grit my teeth all through the movie and do my best to ignore the fact that as a citizen of a post-colonial nation, this movie was likely going to push a whole bunch of buttons. Given that the canon Marvel draws on for its Thor-verse has historic roots in this ideology, I figured I could grant the film a certain basic amount of leeway in the hope that it might not abuse my trust.

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"I wish I could quit you": Once Upon A Time and My Unending Rage


I started watching Once Upon A Time about a year ago, after a friend of mine happened to mention that despite being sponsored by Disney, it was actually doing pretty great on the whole strong, feminist characters front. One of the writers was Jane Espenson whose work I had followed on Buffy and Husbands. One of the lead characters was a WOC (Lana Parrilla; still the best thing on that show). The show was only two seasons down and I could easily catch up. 

She sold it like a pro. And I fell for it.

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Imperialist Feminism: A Historical Overview

with Deepa Kumar

Sami gets a little (okay, a lot) drunk and watches Pacific Rim


In a lot of ways social media is great for recommending that I go see movies and read things I might like. On the other hand, social media is largely to blame for why this post might be a bit more vehement than it otherwise would have been. Because without being subject to any spoilers for plot, I was informed that Pacific Rim was everything that I’d ever felt was missing from the big screen - racially diverse, intelligent, and feminist. And as the giant candy on top, it used soul-bonding to justify fighting huge alien monsters with giant robots while being directed by Del Toro, whose work I love. You could not imagine my glee!

So with expectations like that, I think it was pretty obvious from the get-go that this movie wasn’t going to work for me, simply because I was expecting it to be more than it actually was. Pacific Rim can’t help being what it is: a Hollywood movie that’s a genre homage. It does some wonderful things and I’m going to talk about those, but it also does some terrible, terrible shit and that’s something I’m going to spend some time unpacking as well. But let’s be clear: Pacific Rim has its own charm, largely drawn from the fact that it is the spawn of an unlikely threesome between Top GunTransformers and Godzilla; utterly captivating and awful at about the same time.  


Between the incredibly predictable plot and my utter disdain for Rayleigh, the insipid lead, I had to pause everything twenty minutes in, go get myself a bottle of wine and my lunch to make this more palatable. And there began the wondrous drinking game of Pacfic Rim where I drank every time Rayleigh intimated man pain or the movie referenced Top Gun (death of a co-pilot,the  ”You’re insubordinate and probably not a good person to do this” speech, the “you’re out of control” speech, the “you’re actually a good guy” speech from your rival, and finally coming through at the end). In short, I got very, very tipsy. Then very, very belligerent. Then I started to think about the movie…

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