Gapminder videos: pretty darn cool!

March 21, 2009

Now, I am automatically suspicious of anyone who claims that they are “challenging our perspectives” because usually what they’re “challenging” is “rampant Political Correctness” and they’re actually just re-affirming the status quo and spewing a lot of reprehensible garbage on the way. So Hans Rosling’s “What  Stops Population Growth?” video starts with the following intro:

You think you know something about the world? Listen to this man. He’s professor of international health at Karolinska Institute. He challenges our prejudices and view of the world.

I was a little wary, I have to confess, but in this case, I think it’s quite justified. The question he addresses in the following video is “Population growth destroys the environment, so poor children may as well die?” Since he’s coming down on the side of not letting kids die of totally treatable conditions just because they should’ve known better and been rich, I like him! Watch the video:

What stops population growth? from Gapminder Foundation on Vimeo.

I am particularly pleased with the way he makes his argument. He really doesn’t Other the poor at all, not in the obnoxious ways of my peers, “oh, we can’t afford any more people, we shouldn’t help” but also not in the still-obnoxious, patronizing way that I see on the left sometimes, “oh, these poor people, their lives are so tragic, they could never survive without our help.” He talks about it just in terms of, “here’s the data,” and the data shows that although in the 50s there really were “two teams” of countries, the developing and the developed (as they were called), that sort of thinking just isn’t true any more. There isn’t a huge gulf between “us” and “them.” So it’s nice to see that method of Othering debunked.

He also fights the process of Othering by pointing out that the journey that “developing” countries made and are making is the same journey as that of the “developed” countries, and in fact, they’re doing it better than “we” did the first time around. Check out Poor Beat Rich in MDG Race, which is primarily about child mortality rates, which addresses, again, the uselessness of the “industrialized”/”developing” divide, but also really highlights the sameness of the human experience. For an even more direct example, there’s Yes They Can!, which addresses his students’ assertion that “they can never live like us,” and points out how much variation there is in “them” and in “us.”

I also like the way that he draws a direct connection between women having rights and choices, and a country moving in a sustainable, healthy direction (as with the example of Yemen in the embedded video above, and the mention of “having more information about breastfeeding” in the “Poor Beat Rich” video about child mortality.) Throughout his videos, I’ve seen a level of attention paid to women’s experiences that I find really just makes me happy– I think it’s easy, when one is a white, European man talking about statistics and data, to leave out the female-driven factors that may be driving the changes in that data, but in his first video, Health, Money & Sex in Sweden, tracing the history of his country is very much tracing the history of the women in his country, the women giving birth and the midwives assisting them. I appreciate that.

So, I like this guy. I find his videos really eye-opening and convincing, and the graphs are just absolutely fascinating. They’re hosted at, and I strongly suggest you check them out! You might lose an evening, but that’s a small price to pay. 🙂


“Oasis” music video and conversations about abortion

February 11, 2009

Regarding the “Oasis” controversy (explained in full at Shakesville), I wanted to point out something awesome but off-topic that I’ve noticed about the music video.

Pay attention to the abortion scene–

Isn’t that just a huge crowd of people around her? She’s got the nurses and the doctor, and her friend, and her boyfriend, and in the background the guy who raped her, and all the Christians marching around… they barely fit in one shot together!

I thought it was a really telling representation of the current discourse around abortion, which is to say, a ton of people’s opinions are involved in abortions that have nothing to do with them. Our lovely liberal president says, “historically I have been a strong believer in a woman’s right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family” (emphasis mine). People who aren’t (theoretically) pro-choice add a whole host of other decision-makers, including the fetus, God, and the angry protesters themselves. If you tried to put them all in the room when the abortion was taking place, it would be crowded!

So when I saw the video, I thought, “Let the poor woman breathe! It’s her decision– the rest of you are irrelevant!” I’m not sure if the video was trying to make that particular point, but it’s awesome nonetheless. for that not-so-clean feeling.

January 14, 2009

I generally ignore any so-called “funny” videos that are hosted at, but for some reason I started watching this one before I could come to my senses, and then I couldn’t look away.

The March of Shame. (Possible trigger warning in effect!)


I have homework now (and last night it took me six hours) so that’s all I’m going to bother to say, except that you should keep an eye out for the woman’s deadened stare as she “takes a hot shower in an attempt to wash away her sins.” It’s almost like they’re aware that when someone gets extremely drunk and then “has sex,” it’s rape, especially since the implication is that they never would have agreed otherwise. I mean, these women look pretty clearly upset to me. As a college student, I certainly didn’t find it funny.

But I suppose I wasn’t the intended audience. I mean, the “College” half applies, but everyone knows “Humor” is a guy thing.

Muse, and annoying music videos

November 30, 2008

A week or so ago I happened to see bits of a DVD of a band called Muse performing at Wembly Stadium. Last night, I remembered liking the music and decided to YouTube it. The music was still good, but the music videos…ugh.

So that you can decide on the music yourself without the terrible video prejudicing you, here’s the version I saw:

It may not be your kind of music, but hey! Not bad! Here’s a video:

Now, I’m not really sure what’s going on in this video. For example, are we following one man or two? I am unsure. What I AM sure of: this woman, who is being stalked, is being referred to as “it,” as in, “I want it now.”

I don’t get the impression that this is meant to be a romantic song, which is good, because this is possibly the least romantic relationship I’ve seen. I mean, the way he destroyed his room? I was definitely thinking to myself, “no woman should go near this man, ever.”

It’s possible we’re not meant to sympathize him– he doesn’t get the girl, after all, so it’s not like this strategy works for him– but something about the way he was presented to us bothered me. Violence, stalking, and objectification are not good things; in fact, when applied to women, they’re all different faces of the same bad thing.

I decided to try another one. For the record, here’s just the music:

And here’s the shiny music video:

This one is a little less blatantly objectionable, but the previous music video had set the tone for me and so something about this one really rubbed me the wrong way.

I think it’s in how Blonde Woman isn’t characterized as well as Mustache Guy and Blonde Guy. I mean, none of them are characterized well, it’s a music video for goodness’ sake, but they at least make a little sense. Mustache Guy and Blonde Guy don’t like each other! Mustache Guy is good and Blonde Guy is bad! This is honestly all the characterization we need to understand them.

Whereas Blonde Woman…well, we see her making out with Blonde Guy. Then she’s peeking through a window when they fight? Then she’s playing poker with Mustache Guy, and they end up in bed together (and oh god, let’s just ignore that terrible, terrible slapping montage. That’s a post in its own right.), and then, uh, she’s still in bed with him…and then Blonde Guy kidnaps her, and then she apparently escapes or something because she shows up on a unicorn in a bikini, bearing the magical CD Mustache found earlier, and then she’s badass in her armor riding off with him, and then she’s getting hanged in lovely, virginal white and Mustache rescues her, then she has two laser guns all of a sudden, and then they ride off into the sunset!

It’s like they couldn’t make up their minds about her. She’s badass in her spiky armor one moment, then on the gallows in a lovely white gown the next. She doesn’t seem interested in fighting Blonde Guy herself (when she has the guns, she doesn’t even look for him). I can’t figure out what’s up with her and Mustache (that slapping scene!). I just don’t get her. She’s just the Hot Lady, the Object of Desire, played completely straight.

It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, obviously. (Hysteria was worse!) But it was distinctly unimpressive, and it really soured the music for me. I’m not going to be watching any more Muse music videos. But I’m also not sure if I can adore them quite so unreservedly after having seen these two. It’s just disappointing.

Grr. Argh.

Time for a random YouTube video!

October 8, 2008

Ever wish songs just sang what happened in the music video? Well, now they do.