Friday, March 27, 2015

Why J.K. Rowling's Response to the Dumbledore Tweet Was Far from "Perfect"

J.K. Rowling has been "trending" for her "perfect" response to a reader who Tweeted:

"I wonder why you said that Dumbledore is a gay because I can't see him in that way."

Rowling responded:

"Maybe because gay people look like....people?"

Perfect? I say it is highly flawed, both logically and in terms or plain-old courtesy. 

I'd like to illustrate my frustration by saying "I don't even know where to start," but I happen to know exactly where to start: the intentional fallacy.

J.K. Rowling "announced," in 2007, that the head wizard, Dumbledore, in the Harry Potter books, is gay. The intentional fallacy, which is widely-accepted by modern literary scholars, and that I came to whole-heartedly accept during graduate school study of literature, would say that knowing what the author had in mind while writing is not the path to "correct" interpretation. In fact, anyone worth his or her salt in the literary world knows that the idea of "correct" interpretation is foolish; worse, it is directly counter to the inherent richness of literary study.

Still, the general public thinks that if one wants to know the "truth" about a work, one has simply to ask the author; therefore, when Rowling "announced" Dumbledore's sexuality, most people accepted it as fact. This is a bad idea, if one (as one should do) buys into the veracity of the intentional fallacy. It is also foolish because of the lack ot textual evidence in support of the idea. (An embarrassingly lame attempt at "clues" to Dumbledore's sexuality, which I hope was supposed to be [but I fear was not] satirical and which, in and of itself, does nothing better than to reinforce stereotypes about gay men, was no help in supporting the "interpretation" of Dumbledore's orientation.)

So, in short, without real textual evidence of Dumbledore's sexuality, that sexuality is, at best, a non-entity, no matter what the author might say, even if she does say, as Rowling did, once: “He is my character. He is what he is and I have the right to say what I say about him." For the record, she does have the right -- it's just not grounds for interpretation. 

(In the interest of full disclosure, I read only the first book and didn't feel inclined to continue. I saw nothing pointing to Dumbledore's sexuality in the first book, which doesn't mean that evidence does not occur in other books; but I have seen no evidence of a case made beyond Rowling's "announcement." Personally, whether he is gay or not is irrelevant to me; the movies were fun to watch. [Saw no evidence there, either.] My only point is that the conclusion should be drawn from evidence in the stories, not the author's afterthought or [at least in terms of craft] her un-realized idea.)

Then, we come to Rowling's "perfect" response to that poor reader.

I can only assume that someone who got millions and millions of kids to start reading voraciously can not possibly be a moron. Her writing is competent, if a bit cliched to someone who has read the best of fantasy (Dunsany, Tolkien, Lewis, Beagle, White...) literature all of his life. She's smart, though, and no doubt, she has done great things for world literacy.

Since I can't conclude that Rowling is stupid, I can only assume she is intentionally pretending not to understand the fan's tweet, which was a sincere statement that the reader doesn't see evidence in the stories to support Rowling's claim that Dumbledore is gay. She couldn't possibly have interpreted the word "see" to mean only visuals; that the writer is saying Dumbledore doesn't "look" gay.

Instead, I have to conclude that Rowling saw an opportunity to endear herself to proponents of gay rights or to promote her beliefs regarding equality for gays -- or both. And it is not the promotion of equal rights for gays I have trouble with; it's the contortion of logic in the response, for the sake of promoting those rights in the 140 character world, that makes me angry.

As evidenced here, there was no bad-blood between Rowling and her reader, but the reader has since taken her account down, probably due nasty responses from those who want to color her as intolerant for having asked an honest question.

The reader's response was:

....amazing answer. Yes, you are absolutely right. Such an inspiration!!!

Well, I wish she had not been swayed. The girls was, unintentionally, bullied by the presence that is Rowling, into not thinking for herself; into believing anyone has a right to tell her what to think about a literary character; into limiting her independent thinking. Her legitimate question was dismissed by Rowling who should be promoting independent interpretation of her work instead of trying to convince audiences to fall in line with her her own philosophies and concepts. (For heaven's sake, even Jesus wanted his apostles to make their own meaning out of his stories.)

It was not an "amazing response." It was a weak response, even if it was a statement with a strong message. The problem is that we, as a society, are starting to be unable (or unwilling) to see the difference. Liking what someone said (and, as an isolated statement, I do like what Rowling said, very much; she's right!) doesn't make it brilliant in every context and it doesn't make it an okay way to respond to another human with a legitimate, literary-theory-supported question. No matter the happy outcome with her reader, I still think Rowling's response was illogical (in context), morally exhibitionistic and discourteous.

Maybe not in real life, but in literature, gay is as gay does. If Dumbledore does nothing in the books to illustrate his sexuality; if Rowling says nothing in the books in reference to it, his sexuality is a non-issue and claiming he is gay is a waste of time. It's like saying that Bilbo Baggins was transgender. It just ain't in there...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Little Buddy Rich: A King Richard Band Adventure

We all know, thanks to Robert Plant and company, that communication can break horribly down. But is it possible that a man, in his sixties, could have really believed, on St. Patrick's Day, that I had invited his two-year-old grandson to sit in with the band?

I was setting my drums up for the evening, and up he came with the boy -- the boy who was clutching a pair of 5A, nylon-tipped sticks in his cute little mitts. I smiled at the two of them.

"He wanted to see the drums," the man said to me. "His grandpop is a drummer. This kid loves drums. He sleeps with these sticks in his hands."

I waved and said hello to the little fellow, feeling the usual awkwardness of situations in which little kids think I am some kind of rock star because I am in a club band. (I've even signed a few cocktail napkins, feeling like total ass -- but, how do you say no to a little kid?)

Anyway, I waved at the little fellow and said, "You want to come up and try the drums out?"

The grandfather smiled and nodded at the kid and the kid smiled and I got up to let him come back and sit...and they walked away from me...

Okay, I figured -- the kid got cold feet and they want back to their dinner. No biggie. 

We played through the first set and, for the first time in my playing career, our most energetic audience was an entire extended family, from two to sixty-something, jamming out, right in front of the stage, including Little Buddy Rich and his granddad.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Finally! Ready-Made Posts for Social Media Users!

The way I see it, there are lots of wasted words out here in Internet Land, especially on Facebook and on Twitter. We must fix this. We haven't time to cobble together so many posts -- to say so many similar things in so many different ways. To this end, I have created this handy-dandy list of copy and paste-able posts. Instead of posting what you were thinking of posting, ask yourself: "Am I really just saying one of these things?" If so, simply copy and past from the list below! It will save you time; it will save me time and it will allow you to get quickly back to the truly important pursuits in your life.

I present to you THE GREAT, BIG LIST OF EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA POST EVER MADE. (Please feel free to suggest new ones if I have missed any. Together, we can end unnecessary word-waste!)


1. I look good, here.

2. I have a sandwich and you don’t.

3. I'm watching the game alone. 

4. Look how exciting my life is. (It's always like this, in case you wondered. Every minute.)

5. Aren’t I sweet?

6. Reposting this meme will actually, literally cure disease/save your soul/make you not an ass/prove you are a good friend.

7. If you don’t share this, you are a horrible person.

8. If you don't share this, God will hate you. 

9. I am a great parent, as you can see from this picture/anecdote.

10a. Thanks, Obama.

10b. Thanks, Obama!

11. I am racist and don’t realize it.

12. I am racist and I don’t care.

13. See how socially tolerant I am? You may begin praising me, below. 

14. Please, please, please ask me what’s wrong.

15. Ready, set...ARGUE!

16. I have no respect for my own children/husband/wife/mother/father.

17. Here's something about me no one in their right mind would want to know and that they wouldn't ever have known if someone hadn't invented social media and, consequently, the concept of privacy hadn't reached a state of complete collapse. 

18. Somehow, I have equated patriotism with never questioning anything “American,” even though countless people suffered and died for the right to do so. So, shut up or get out. 

19. My thoughts on this subject are (Fox News).

20. My thoughts on this subject are (The Daily Show).

21. So, what do you love about me? 

22. I have nothing to say, yet I must speak...because...Facebook. 

23. I must horribly argue about complex issues...because...Twitter.

24. Here is a meme that exhibits how misunderstood/quirky/unique/sassy I am.

25. I can't sleep and I want you to know because artsy people and geniuses have insomnia and that's me. 

I mean, if you have something original to say, go ahead and say it, but, really...why bother?

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Mirror (A Parable)

He simply walked past the parked car. His elbow brushed the side mirror...

He really didn't even notice. Somewhere in the back of his mind, it registered, but, he was wrapped up in the tangled twine of daily thoughts. It never occurred to him to go back and readjust the thing.

He'd knocked the mirror forward, two inches.

Later, during the morning rush, she didn't see the car coming up on her right, because her mirror was not set properly. In a held breath or two, her car was pushed off of the road and up a grass bank.

She spent her night in the ER, being tested and checked and frowned at with concern by strangers in scrubs. She'd be out of work for a week.

He spent his night watching basketball on TV and eating take-out wings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Point of View vs. Video Views

Is the world more insane than it ever has been or is the vomit-like dissemination of images, text and information just showing the insanity in more clarity than ever? (Makes me think of Spenser's dragon vomiting paper and books for some reason.)

The chicken-or-egg factor is that it may well be that the world was always insane and that the vomit-like dissemination is showing it more vividly but that this dissemination is simply encouraging more insanity. 

Police, for example. Do I always like them? No -- but do I always like any group in any profession? No. The sad fact is, though, that, when a waiter is unlikable it ruins your meal. When a police officer is unlikable, it could -- conceivably -- ruin your life. Being a police officer is being in a position in which one could easily choose to abuse his power. No doubt. Sadly, it is also a profession in which not using one's power at the right time an lead to injury or death for the officer. Every decision balances on the proverbial blade.

Again, it could lead to an abuse of power. Sure, there a few evil eggs in the law-enforcement fridge, but the majority of people, while certainly not perfect, are not evil. This carries over to the majority of cops. They are, after all, humans. 

Let's face fact: we need law-enforcement. Most of us have, at some point, been glad of the police, too. 

That said, I am a firm believer in the importance of questioning authority. It is essential in a free society. Somehow, though, "questioning authority" has turned into "baiting authority" in the modern do-it-yourself media age. 

One can find copious videos of amateur lawyers acting like three-year-olds during routine traffic stops, just to anger the cops into making them famous. You can watch this one, if you want, but if you don't want to, let me summarize: the "straw man, " clickbait title is "Cops arrest for asking for a pen to sign a ticket." This young man gets pulled over for a missing front license plate. A citation is in the works, but he baits the officer with the obviousness of an attention-seeking grade-schooler: why are you talking to me in that tone of voice; I can read the citation sideways if I want; I told you my licence plate fell off; "I'm pretty sure you guys are supposed to give a warning for something like that;" "You're still holding my citation, so I can't stop talking..."  (!!??) It goes on. And on.