August 18, 2008

Weird Moments in Horror: the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland

I've just been rereading the Monster series of zombie horror novels - Monster Island, Monster Nation, Monster Planet - and I re-encountered one of the most unusual things I've ever found in a horror piece: the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland.

There are several things that make the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland unique. First, the book notes that the places with the most per capita gun possession would best survive a zombie holocaust. This means Somalia, which hasn't had a government in 20 years, would essentially shake off zombies like they never rose from the dead while the First World nations just get eaten.

Second, the plot is put into motion because the leader of the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland, "Mama Halima", needs HIV drugs. Third, Mama Halima's group is an Islamic group formed to protect women from rape, murder and mutilation. One woman comments that she'd wade into post-Apocalyptic New York City - home to 10 million cannibalistic corpses - just to help Mama Halima because the eminent shaikhah protected girls from suffering infibulation like she had.

It's not earthshaking, but I thought that it was unusual for people of colour to surface in horror, never mind non-English-speakers. The main character is a white American male former UN employee whose (half-Kenyan) daughter was taken and protected by Mama Halima and in return has to fetch her HIV meds.

August 14, 2008

Olympic Gymnasts and Age

"It's a bike race. A completely arbitrary set of rules that everyone complies with, for no other reason than that some committee says that they should."

- House, Season 2, Episode 6

I've been thinking a lot about the recent controversy over the ages of the Chinese women's gymnastics team. Gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi has alleged that up to half the team is underage and the New York Times published an article at the end of July alleging that previous Chinese state records showed the ages of several gymnasts to be as young as 13 or 14, under the required minimum age of 16. The NBC commentators have brought up the age controversy during coverage of almost every women's gymnasts event.

I think it's interesting to see the way that people are reacting to the accusations, both online and in NBC's coverage. Here's an example of the a blog discussion on the subject. There are also interesting ethical questions, since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has refused to investigate the situation further, even after the publication of the Times article, and questions raised by journalists, because the Chinese government supplied passports where the girls' ages were all above 16.

Personally, I agree with Cameron from House. That's the point of a sport. It's a set of rules that everyone agrees to follow. The real question is, what can be done about it? Bela Karolyi has said that the only solution is to remove the minimum age requirement, allowing all countries to use younger gymnasts, who many think have an advantage due to their small size and lack of fear. But if the goal of the minimum age rule is to protect young gymnasts from injury or exploitation, then do the IOC and others have a responsibility to look into whether these young women are being exploited?


Also, on a lighter note, what is Michael Phelps listening to on his iPod, and where can I get some of it?